St. Louis Arts Awards
St. Louis Arts Awards honoree spotlight: Brent Benjamin
15 January, 2019
Each January, the Arts and Education Council presents the St. Louis Arts Awards where we gather to celebrate the individuals and organizations whose contributions to our artistic community make the bi-state region more vibrant.
Proceeds from the St. Louis Arts Awards help A&E invest in the people and organizations that create diverse performances, exhibitions, workshops, art education programs and so much more for 1.6 million adults and children in our community each year.
At the 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards, we’ll celebrate seven honorees, including Excellence in the Arts honoree Brent Benjamin, who encourage our kids to be more creative thinkers, build bridges among cultures, energize our communities, foster our economy and enrich lives.
When Benjamin arrived in St. Louis for a job interview on a snowy day nearly 20 years ago, he was happily surprised to see such a stunning collection of work at the Saint Louis Art Museum.
“When I saw the collection here, I thought, this is incredible in its breadth and depth,” Benjamin remembered. “And, I thought, well that could be an interesting opportunity.”
Since then, Benjamin has committed himself as the Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum to shepherding the St. Louis landmark’s collection and facilitating opportunities for more St. Louisans to experience the work.
Part of encouraging more experiences has been literally putting more of the work on the walls, which was one of the primary goals for the new east wing.
Expanding the museum with the new wing designed by famed architect David Chipperfield required raising $160 million, the largest capital campaign for a cultural institution in St. Louis. A capital campaign of that size is no easy feat, particularly during an economic recession, but Benjamin rose to the challenge and the new wing opened to the public in 2013.
Benjamin has overseen the museum’s purchase of numerous works of art and secured important gifts of major works of art and entire collections like Ronald and Monique Ollie’s collection of 81 works of abstract paintings, sculpture, drawings and prints by African-American artists. Under his leadership, the Saint Louis Art Museum has launched art education and community programs like Art in Bloom, Family Sundays, the Art on the Hill film series and SLAM Underground that have drawn more audiences to the museum and protected the legacy of one of St. Louis’s and the country’s oldest cultural institutions.
Benjamin, a classically trained pianist, holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College and a graduate degree in the history of art from Williams College, where he was named a Robert Sterling Clark Fellow. He attended the Qualifying Graduate Program in Architecture at Rice University and the Harvard University program for art museum directors.
The Excellence in the Arts Award is sponsored by Andrew & Barbara Taylor.
Tickets for the 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards start at $300 and are on sale through Saturday, January 19 at 6:00 p.m. Learn more about the event here.