Explore Cherokee: Celebrate Cinco de Mayo and see some art (May 3)

April 30, 2008

Ever since we moved to St. Louis seven years ago, Cherokee Street has fascinated me. There’s the eastern half, with the antique shops and modern art galleries and a handful of eateries, separated by the great Jefferson Avenue divide from the western half, where the flavor becomes more deliciously Mexican and Central American. Then there’s the far-western fringe with interesting ideas for art galleries, shops and theaters percolating.

What’s great about all the sections of Cherokee, even the dicier ones, is the pervasive sense that soon things will improve, that some unknown tipping point has almost been reached, that everyone is finally working together. You’ll get a good sense of that this Saturday (May 3) at the Cinco de Mayo street festival between Nebraska and Iowa (west of Jefferson). In past years it’s had ups and downs — one year was freezing cold, another there was internal wrangling that scrapped the whole thing — but for the past two years both Mother Nature and the organizers have been on the same page, and some good ideas have blossomed. My hopes are high for this year’s festival, which combines the best from 2006 (lots of mariachi music) with the best from 2007 (getting rid of the ridiculous fenced-off area for the bands and alcohol sales).

The music lineup runs the entire day, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and alternates between authentic Mexican and rock-funk-jazz groups (see the schedule here). We’re having trouble deciding when to go; Javier Mendoza is one of my favorite local artists; Boogie Chyld is one of my husband’s, and the mariachis are just plain fun — they get the whole crowd salsa dancing (and if you’re up for it, you’ll have no shortage of partners, because this is the kind of festival where strangers embrace each other in the best sense of the term). My enthusiasm for the food — authentic seafood ceviche, corn on the cob with mayo and shredded cheese, open-face savory tacos and smooth, cool horchata — runs a close second to my enthusiasm for the music.

The festival is a great introduction to Cherokee, and while you’re in the neighborhood you should definitely explore a little further to the east. My pick for this weekend (and yes, I’m a bit biased about it, because it involves my kids!) is an art show, Only Connect, at Boots Contemporary Art Space, 2307 Cherokee, featuring the work of students from the Soulard School. M.’s preschool class will have a display, a “found object” sculpture based on the work of Sarah Tse, but the bulk of the exhibit is work by older students, some of whom were mentored over the winter by local artist Cbabi Bayoc. The exhibit runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday (May 3).

After visiting those two events, you’ll have your bearings — and you might just be lured back the following weekend for two more new gallery exhibits. One is across from Boots, at PDH Gallery, where there’s a fun-looking show involving Hello Kitty! and miniature copies of masterpiece paintings by Leslie Holt. It opens next Saturday (May 10) in the evening. The other is on the western fringe, at the Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, 3151 Cherokee. That new exhibit — described as a peaceful yet powerful montage featuring sculpture by Wesley Fordyce and paintings by Jenna Bauer — opens Friday evening (May 9).

Then you’ll be hooked! And you’ll be hauling your friends along to Cherokee later this spring, when The Stable, one of Missouri’s newest distilleries, opens its restaurant/bar on the site of the old Lemp Brewery stables, near the very eastern end of Cherokee.


One Response to “Explore Cherokee: Celebrate Cinco de Mayo and see some art (May 3)”

  1. Rubi Says:

    Yes, fiestas will take place in many cities across the country for the Cinco De Mayo. Detroit, too, will have her share of artisits and musician gracing the event.

    Detroit is blessed with many fine Mexican Folkloric Ballet groups with fine youth performers!

    Enjoy the festivies in your corner of the world and I’ll be sure to do the same in mine!

    Feliz Cinco de Mayo, Mi Hermana Blogista!

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