By LINDA JARRETT
Emily Kohring, the new executive director of Bread & Roses Missouri, is looking forward to expanding activities that took a back seat during the pandemic.
Started in 2015 by Joan Suarez under the umbrella of Jobs with Justice, Bread & Roses uses the arts to celebrate the lives of workers and their families and supports Labor unions and workers. Under Suarez’s leadership, Bread & Roses built strong momentum and made a significant, positive impact on union communities.
“We want to celebrate workers because they’re often overlooked in the arts,” Kohring said. “We offer opportunities for workers who don’t see themselves as creative and allow them to participate in that creative process.”
Kohring has more than 20 years of experience in arts and leadership positions. She came to St. Louis in 2002 to work for Metro Theater Company and taught for two years at the Grand Center Arts Academy.
A Montana native, she moved back home to be the director of arts education for the Montana Arts Council. She returned to St. Louis in 2015 to take the position as executive director of Artscape, a youth arts organization in Tower Grove Park.
She knew about Bread and Roses, and when the executive director position opened, she made her move.
ARTS ARE AN IMPORTANT METHOD TO COMMUNICATE
“I was attracted to Bread and Roses because they work at the juncture of arts and social justice, which is important to me,” she said. “I have a background in theater with a master’s degree, and I think the arts are an important method to communicate messages about social justice and underrepresented people.”
Suarez, who serves as Bread & Roses founder emeritus, will continue to help with Kohring’s transition.
“I’ve sat at her dining room table for many hours getting her advice and learning about the Labor Movement because she is living breathing Labor history,” Kohring said. “She’s been a great resource for me.”
Kohring has two important goals for Bread & Roses Missouri moving forward – one of which is the relaunch of the Youth Initiative programs teaching art projects to youth that will be held at 12 sites in the city and county this summer.
“We want to expand to grow that program and partner with other organizations to bring our visual arts program to youth between seven and 12,” she said. “We’ll hit about 600 kids this summer.”
The program is for youth enrolled in free summer day camp programs at community organizations or parks and recreation centers.
THE WORKERS’ OPERA
Her second goal is the Workers’ Opera. They will recruit union members and working people who are not necessarily actors or performers but want to be involved in the creative process.
“We hire a professional director and writer to work with the playwrights to create a piece about important issues to working people,” she said. “We have a couple of people who have been involved in the Workers’ Opera before who want to come back, plus we’re recruiting cast members now and will start rehearsals.”
The opera will be held at the Gaslight Theater in the Central West End Sept. 23-25. Kohring plans to have the cast assembled by the end of June to start rehearsals around Aug. 1.
Kohring has another project that started before she assumed her duties.
A play about St. Louis’s Labor history, “Mrs. Parker’s Honey,” was commissioned before she became executive director but was shelved because of the Pandemic.
“We want to record it as a radio play, then see what other ways we might bring it to life for workers and their families,” she said.
Kohring loves live theater, and while she likes movies, she said, “There is nothing like live theater, and we are commissioning more plays to showcase our talent.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For additional information on the Youth Initiative program or the Workers’ Opera, email Kohring at email@example.com or call her at 314-380-0174.