Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cheapskates' Paradise, part deux!

You might recall a few weeks ago I wrote about how Kiplinger's website named my own St. Louis #1 in their list of the 10 best cities for cheapskates.

At the time I waxed on about how awesome it was growing up in St Louis, where you don't have to have a lot of money to enjoy culture, science and the arts.  But due to my perhaps overzealous enthusiasm for the subject, I only managed to give details on the fabulous, free St Louis Zoo before my post got out of hand.  So I thought maybe it would be worth revisiting the issue to tell you all about other great things you can do in St. Louis on the cheap.  So since I started with the Zoo, there's no point going farther than right up the hill, still in Forest Park.  Folks, I give you the St. Louis Art Museum:

Picture courtesy of ArtKnowledgeNews.com
As you can read in the caption included in the above picture, we are once again in 1904 World's Fair territory with this building.  An altered photo, but a better view of the architecture, by Bill Haack at flickrhivemind.net:

See Saint Louis (Louis IX of France) on his trusty steed guarding the entrance there?  Good man!
A new addition to the museum, designed by David Chipperfield, is almost finished (on the outside.  Interior work is still to come), and is scheduled to open next year:

Artistic rendering courtesy of  e-architect.co.uk.

This new addition will allow the museum to keep more of its well over 30,000 works of art on display.  That figure includes everything from ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Byzantine pieces to  precolumbian Native American art to the Americana of George Caleb Bingham to the best collection of 20th century German artist Max Beckmann's work anywhere, to brilliant contemporary artists, photography, design and decorative arts.  I believe I shared with you here about one of my favorite pieces already, 17th century Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbar├ín's St Francis Contemplating a Skull:

A few other of my favorites on display at the St. Louis Art Museum:

Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion, John Martin, 1812

One of Degas' "Little Dancer" bronzes

Van Gogh's beautiful "Stairway at Auvers".
 I love Van Gogh.  Partially because of the color and texture and intense life of his work, partially because of the heartbreaking story of his life and art and death, partly because of his self portraits with his gentle, sad eyes and partly, I fully admit, because of Richard Curtis, Tony Curran and Bill Nighy and the beautifully touching job that Doctor Who did with him in "Vincent and the Doctor".  
The above painting dates to July, 1890.  His tragic, still debated death came that same month, which makes it extra poignant.

You can see all of this and so, so much more at the St. Louis Art Museum, and you can see it for free!  That's right, like the St. Louis Zoo, the Art Museum is part of the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District, a tax district which provides subsidies to help keep certain cultural institutions available to all, regardless of their financial status.  In fact, above the entrance is the inscription "Dedicated to Art, and Free to All", a motto that was emblazoned on a t-shirt I got my senior year in high school when I got a museum membership as a gift.  I stopped wearing it in college after meeting a guy named Art I wasn't particularly fond of.  Not sure what happened to it after that!

Anyway, with the World's Fair-built building being nearly as beautiful as it's varied contents, the warren of galleries can be fun to wander without direction, allowing for a surprise around every corner.  That in and of itself can provide hours of completely free fun (donations accepted), but wait, there's more!  The museum is situated in Forest Park, atop what's known as "Art Hill", a fairly steep hill leading from the museum down to a reflecting pool with fountains, providing gorgeous views and plenty of lawn for your picnic.  If you feel like spending a little money, rowboats and paddle boats can be rented at the nearby Boat House, where there is also a lovely restaurant alternative to your picnic.  In the winter, bring your own sled and more hours of free entertainment can be had.  Sledding on Art Hill is as much an institution as the museum itself, and most of the population of the city can tell you stories of fun times had speeding down that hill.


  1. There's tons of free fun to be had in St. Louis and the prices for everything else are really reasonable as well. I'm glad to be a cheapskate living in the cheapskate capital of the USA.