Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Visit with the Kranzbergs

What a thrill to be among a tight knit group of docents and friends of Laumeier Sculpture Park at the home of Ken and Nancy Kranzberg on a beautiful Spring day (April 28, 2016).
In the living room, Ken suggests his wife Nancy start the docent tour of their home in front of a giant photographic portrait of the Kranzbergs by Tina Barney. The tandem described the photo shoot and interaction with the artist. Photographer Tina Barney was born in 1945 in New York and she has been producing large-scale photographs of family, friends and famous since 1975. She has a way of making meticulous chronicles of the complexity of interpersonal relationships. This piece is no exception. Ken suggests, with a smile, that historians will one day assume that he is emblematic of the man of the house with a demure and dutiful wife in the background. It is a self effacing and respectful nod to his wife. The photograph is a wonderful celebration of our hosts in the front hallway of their home. We know Nancy is more likely to front the duo but they are both emphatic champions for artists everywhere. Nancy is especially fond of St. Louis - a place she says is the most culturally rich place in the whole country (per capita).

It is clear every piece of art in the Kranzberg personal collection has a story. We were treated to a wonderful tour that included first piece they ever bought together. They recall fondly how a price tag of $90 seemed excessive at the time. They have since become much more comfortable in their purchases. It is the love of art and artists that drives them more than the investment however.

Every room is a treat of museum quality works of art. The dining room includes a falling man by Ernest Trova, a limited edition serigraph by Andy Warhol and works by self taught St. Louis native Craig Norton, an emerging artist the art critic Roberta Smith of the New York Times described as having an almost freakishly developed skill set. Her recent review summed up with the statement  - It’s hard to know exactly where Mr. Norton will end up, but he is definitely on the way to somewhere. Therein may be a clue as to what motivates patrons of the arts.  

The Kransbergs invited David Kirkland to treat our group to a culinary masterpiece. Over lunch the side bar conversation consisted of a collage of topics – some art, some family, some food and (of course) insights into what it means to support the arts. If artists inspire, the Kranzbergs are inspired and their energy and enthusiasm is highly contagious. We all left that day with a mega dose.  

Recently Ken and Nancy Kranzberg were honored for Excellence in Philanthropy at the St. Louis Arts Awards. Their generosity to more than 500 civic, social and arts organizations and their leadership has created things such as the Kranzberg Arts Center in Grand Center, and through the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, the Northside Workshop. They are noted for not only donating to larger organizations, but a number of smaller organizations as well.

We are inspired and infinitely grateful. Thank you Ken and Nancy Kranzberg!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Fish out of Water

At the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference

Perhaps it is appropriate to situate this progressive gathering of digital savvy business leaders and individuals interested in staying ahead of the wave of disruption at an historic landmark, the St. Louis Union Station (built in 1894). History is being made. Just four years in the making, the University of Missouri, St. Louis College of Business has seized the leadership position in presenting this discussion at the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference 2016. And they mean business. Held on April 21, 2016 Experts in the marketing communications industry address the cutting edge of digital, social, tech and innovation.

It is an information overload, packed into six unique tracks and dozens of sessions and breakouts. Travis Sheridan, Director of Venture Café reminds us that with innovation comes disruption in his opening remarks but UMSL’s Professor Perry Drake has been feeding this frenzy since he launched this series of conferences in April 2013. The interest and attendance has grown steadily each year. This year’s event promises to propel the discussion further into the mainstream for not only those in their comfort zone but also for all of those fish out of water who can no longer be in denial. Change is here and it is profound. (The MDMC2016 graphics and TV commercial were developed by a crew lead by Evan Miguel, a graduate student at UMSL who was recognized this year with an ADDY award for excellence from the American Advertising Federation. Nice work.)

The truth is in the details and this is a place where you can to start (or continue) your discovery of impact of digital marketing from hundreds of vantage points. The formal presentations include using LinkedIn, Pinterest, 3D printing, digital/social media, media measurement, mobile, marketing automation, data mining and so on. But maybe the real information is woven into the fabric of learning from each other.

Congratulations to the organizers of this wonderful event from a boomer who wonders if anyone remembers Marketing Myopia by Theodore Levitt --- and understands why a 19th Century railroad station might be a perfect place to ponder the future of marketing.   

Saturday, January 30, 2016


I attended a funeral Mass today for George S. Graff.  I was there in support his daughter Maureen Jennings (and because attendance at church is overdue for this former alter boy).
This celebration of a man’s life at the Church of the Annunziata in Ladue was remarkable. I will not do it justice, but I do want to share some thoughts.    

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,
for they will be filled.

The homily, by Monsignor John Leykam, wove together the Beatitudes (Matthew 1-12) gospel with a favorite poem and the lifetime of George S. Graff. The Rudyard Kipling poem IF was juxtaposed artfully with the gospel and the man’s life.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you….

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch….

Yours is the Earth and everything in it,
And – which is more - you’ll be a man, my son!

I consider myself something of a spiritual person, albeit something short of a devout practicing Catholic. This event touched me – not only for the brief moment in which I was able to whisper to Maureen “Daddy’s little girl” which I knew had to be the truth --- And it was verified in her smile in the aisle as she greeted me before the Mass. The love of the family filled that place of worship. George S. Graff was truly blessed and leaves a legacy for generations to come. The live cello rendition by Great Grandchild Lorenzo DeMichelle was a bonus. The sweet somber sounds of the string instrument filled the sacristy, the alter, and the pews.

The priest more than hinted that many of the details of this funeral service were prescribed by the deceased himself. Clearly, he was a man who could lead a company and yet keep a humbleness about him. In my view, funerals are for the living and an inspiration to carry out our own lives as best we can with the time we have. Thanks George.


Graff, George S. fortified with the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church on Sunday, January 24, 2016. Beloved husband of the late Mary Rita Graff and Marjory Kassabaum Graff; dear father of Mary Ann (Robert) Gorlin, George S. (Rosalie) Graff, Jr., James R. (Laurie) Graff, Maureen (Rick) Jennings and the late Thomas G. (Mary Jo) Graff, Sr.; dear grandfather of 12, and great grandfather of 13; our dear step-father, uncle, cousin and friend to many. George was born on March 16, 1917 in New York City. While in college studying Aeronautical Engineering at The University of Detroit he met his wife Mary Rita Shaughnessy. They married and moved to St. Louis where he worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft. For the next 40 years he developed military aircraft such as the XFD-1 Phantom, the F15 Eagle, and the F18-A Hornet and eventually served as president of McDonnell Aircraft Company from 1971 until his retirement in 1982. When he wasn't shooting for the stars, he could be found on the golf course shooting for par. Services: The Funeral Mass was held at the Church of the Annunziata on Saturday, January 30, 2016. En tombment was in Resurrection Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, Memorials to a charity of one's choice appreciated. Published in St. Louis Post-Dispatch from Jan. 27 to Jan. 31, 2016 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Roger Prince Reflects

Roger talks about the Studio and My Dad

Morgan Studio was very much a product of my father’s view of how things ought to be. Of course, I have carried many lessons with me all my life. What a pleasure it was to chat with a Roger Prince on December 22, 2015. We were on the phone for 90 joyful minutes. It is the anecdotal stuff of legends that I feel compelled to record here. Roger is 80 and my father passed just over two years ago and yet the memories of the familiar nuances remain.  The following notes are presented to share. As always, I take some poetic license but welcome further discussion of detail and larger implications.

On being hired
Roger reported that he interviewed with a production manager when a client meeting made it not possible to meet with my father. He left his portfolio. A telegram from my father summoned him back downtown “Can you meet me today?” The result was being offered a job. It’s telling that this young man in his early 20’s was so thrilled that salary was not even a part of the discussion.
Basic Training
My father liked military precision and likened his indoctrination as a sort of basic training. Roger, was not alone in finding this distasteful. Jim Morgan had ideas about how things should be done and he was the boss. Roger clearly remembers, in hindsight however, the value of swallowing his pride. So much of what Jim Morgan was asking for made sense.
Competitive Leverage
Wyse Advertising was a sort of cross town rival but with a big agency orientation. (Morgan Studio and Wyse were both founded in 1951 and this was 1955). Roger managed to get an offer that included the title of Art Director. Jim Morgan was able to match that offer and keep Roger. Roger settled in at the Studio for the balance of the decade leading up to 1960.
Roger was able to mimic my father so well that I could recognize the cadence of his voice calling for Mary Evers when the Art Director was a few minutes late to work one day. “Mary, Mary, Mary…Roger here apparently wants to change our hours. Roger --- What time do you think we ought to start around here? 9:05? 9:11? Or perhaps it would be more to your liking if we started at 9:15?” Great stuff (and a wonderful illustration of how important being on time was to the Morgan Studio model.
Mary Mary
Mary Evers was chief administrator at Morgan Studio and Mary Morgan was my mom. Both Marys figured in the success formula and support network of Mr. Morgan. Not surprisingly, Roger and the employees liked to speculate and imagine a more salacious bond between the Mary and Jim at work. Roger was more than a bit amused to learn that mom would sometimes refer to the studio’s Mary as “twinkletoes.” The dynamics of women in my father’s life is the subject of a much longer discussion. Suffice it to say both Marys were incredible and indispensible.
A Big Car and a Boatride
Roger reported an incidence that began one day at work with Jim Morgan waving to Roger with his thumb gesturing to follow him and waving others in the shop to follow him. The employees did not know where they were going as they followed the leader. They found themselves in front of the Caxton Building where my mom’s White Lincoln Continental was waiting for them. At dad’s urging they piled into the car and he drove them to the 9th street pier where dad’s boat, The Leprechaun, was waiting. Roger described a quick round trip to the five mile crib on Lake Erie and a return to work. According to Roger, “Jim said --- I just wanted you to see the boat you helped me buy.” 
Layouts and Humility
Roger described a Jim Morgan that could be both cruel and supportive. He offered an example of reviewing some layouts that he critiqued with a devastating rejection. “These are Nnnnothing,” Jim Morgan said.  This was near the end of his run at Morgan Studio --- Roger was at the end of his rope. He admitted to being angry and needing an hour or so to cool down. He threw and broke a small radio. Roger gathered the layouts and peeked in on my father at his drawing table to discover him smiling and offering . “You finally got mad about something.” It was as if the object of the game was not about design but passion. 

Roger, Thanks for sharing these stories. The best thing about our conversation (for me) is your comment at the end of the ninety minutes. You said, “I learned a lot from your father and the reason I am telling you these things is that I built my business based on the Morgan Studio model and I wanted to thank your father. Talking to his son is the next best thing.”


Sunday, November 22, 2015


I used to be a big deal;
Never had to pay for a meal;
Business prevailed almost on a whim;
Around the clock, fit and trim;
Looking good --- like it will last;
The future is bright with no regard for the past.

History repeats, but what do we learn?
Times change --- you continue to earn.
Myopia hits a blind spot and ka-boom.
Now who’s the smartest in the room?
Family, friends, and friends of friends everywhere;
You know who you are and you know that I care.

No frills, cheap thrills and all in retrospect;
The sun sets on a day and your own self respect;
The best of times were those with nothing at stake;
Philosophers dream but dreams do not make.
A wise man looks and is one who sees;
Blue skies and splashes of color in the trees.

Clarity of vision, simple, clean and crisp;
Proceed with caution but never without risk.
When there is a will of a way with some time to chill;
On this day I thank you, love you and admire you still.
The best is yet to come --- The best and then some; 
For now, cherish the moment for your day will come.
Fast forward if you must.
In G-d we trust.
Remember quality is in the journey --- In how we proceed.
Be calm and confident and you will always lead.
Generation gaps quickly merge as time slips away.
But please smell the flowers along the way.

It's not how you arrive;
It is great to be alive.
It is not what you have, but what you do;
Make a difference --- it doesn’t matter who.
Let it be --- Roll the dice.
Together now --- isn’t that so nice?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Exploring Art in Iowa

A weekend road trip of 800+ miles on October 10-11, 2015 from St. Louis to Des Moines and Davenport (IA) and back with six passionate art fans looking to put their association with the Laumeier Sculpture Park into a kind of perspective is sure to be an eclectic collection of people. So we were: Shown above (l. to r).at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park flanking Paul Kasal – our expert and awesome docent wearing a t-shirt with the apt advertising claim“Entirely Unexpected” are Maureen Jennings, Melissa Loraine Stone, Ann Baur and Wes Morgan, Liz Murphy and Hank Baur .

The weekend included three wonderful art experiences hosted by expert docents in Des Moines and a first rate academic from the University of Iowa at the Figge in Davenport. We filled gaps in our itinerary with meal occasions,lost car keys,smart phone misdirections and periodic absent-mindedness but overall we feel like we enjoyed a huge dose of unexpected excellence, representative art and a few smiles.     
JOHN & MARY PAPPAJOHN SCULPTURE PARK - Located within a major crossroads of the urban grid in downtown Des Moines the park is in an accessible setting with a skilled landscape design. It is unlike any other sculpture park in the United States. Paul, our docent introduced us to more than two dozen stunning examples of world class public art.
DES MOINES ART CENTER - Recognized by international art critics as a world-class museum has a noteworthy art collection and boasts an outstanding collection of architecture too. Three architects collaborated in the design of the museum, Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei and Richard Meier. We were treated to a wonderful stroll from gallery space to gallery space and delighted by the unexpected excellence of significant works that felt as leisurely as leafing through a folio that might accompany a brilliantly planned overview of the history of modern and contemporary art.  

FIGGE ART MUSEUM University of Iowa Museum of Art curator Kimberly Datchuck assured us of a tight presentation of a special exhibition entitled Exploring the Demimonde: Sin and Temptation at the fin-de-siècle. She smoothly walked us through the special exhibition leaving time for our crew to also take in the permanent collection. A bonus: The Figge landmark glass building in Davenport, IA on the banks of the Mississippi was designed by British architect David Chipperfield.


Keith Harring at Sculpture Park, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) at Des Moines Art Center, Nomade by Jaume Plensa at the Sculpture Park, Liz Murphy in front of a Mark Rothko at the Des Moines Art Center and Sol LeWitt at the Figge Art Museum

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Meditation of Presence

Carts & Cocktails 2015

Tree Dancers, Tree Bands, Music and the Fine Art Center at Laumeier Sculpture Park

Executive Director, Marilu Knode knew, in the mix of so much activity around the capital campaign, the renovation of the estate house and the building of the brand new Fine Art Center --- that to pull off another ambitious blockbuster fundraiser evening event would be a gamble. And yet September 26, 2015 was a glorious evening at the Sunset Hills living laboratory where artists and audiences explore the relationship between contemporary art and the natural environment.

Special Events Committee Co-Chairs Susan Werrenmeyer and Sam Foxman planned a progressive evening in three stations that would unfold during the course of the night. A natural place to start is just off the back porch of the place Henry and Matilda Laumeier once called home. Under paper lanterns, the guests gathered, enjoying the first round of appetizers, wine and signature beverages. Only a hint of a soft breeze of Fall was in the air when museum curator Dana Turkovic announced a dance performance by Holly and David Marchant. The cocktail conversation died down as the attention drifted skyward as the Zen-like movements in a treetop. David moved lightly through the branches and returned to earth as a natural creature helped direct the focus to his partner closer to the base of another nearby tree. It was mesmerizing.

30 captivating minutes closed with a calmness that yielded to applause as the shuttle carts arrived on cue for transport through the park and into the woods where music by the Bottoms Up Blues Gang performed inside the Beverly Pepper earthwork, Cromlech Glen, under a still black sky. Another ephemeral experience diffused as the progressive evening moved to a finale at the Adam Aronson Fine Arts Center.