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The Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis and Open Highway Music Festival are thrilled to announce the lineup for 2023! Open Highway Music Festival, taking place Friday, June 16 and Saturday, June 17, will feature Americana heavyweights Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Blackberry Smoke, S.G. Goodman, the Heavy Heavy, and many more.


Open Highway Music Festival continues to provide St. Louis with its own homegrown, world-class roots-music festival. The 2023 edition will return to Chesterfield Amphitheater for two stellar summer nights of music and revelry.

Open Highway founder John Henry says the festival is reaching new heights as it turns 12 years old.“We are excited to keep growing sustainably, while putting the experience of our audience and the artists playing the festival first,” Henry says.

The 2023 festival’s opening night, Friday, June 16, will feature headliner Blackberry Smoke, the acclaimed Atlanta-bred seven-piece standard bearers of a crowd-pleasing hybrid of classic rock, blues, and country packed with swaggering guitars and killer songs. UK sensation the Heavy Heavy will bring their groovy, psych-tinged sunshine pop to Open Highway highlighted by shimmering co-ed harmonies and timeless danceability.

Open Highway also continues its commitment to showcasing the best in St. Louis-area bands, as Beth Bombara will showcase her warm, literate singer-songwriter rock stylings. Mattie Schell, one-half of folkgrass duo and OHMF alums River Kittens, will bring her mandolin to the side stage for three unique sets spaced throughout the evening.


The great Jason Isbell will make Open Highway history on Saturday, June 17, with a headlining set that will feature his award-winning band the 400 Unit, and a career-spanning set that demonstrates what has made Isbell a roots-rock giant and one of the greatest songwriters of our time.

Spellbinding Americana star S.G. Goodman will make her OHMF debut with her raw, distinctive voice and intelligent songs on the heels of her fantastic sophomore album Teeth Marks for one of the weekend’s can’t-miss moments.

This year’s fest will also present a very special reunion set from the Sleepy Rubies, as sisters Emily Wallace and Ali Ruby, both vocal dynamos and songwriting aces, fill the amphitheater with their ambrosial harmonies and melodies.

St. Louis’s favorite musical party-starters, the Funky Butt Brass Band, are also back at Open Highway. The deeply talented ensemble will bring the horn-drenched hootenanny that have made them local legends.
Over on the side stage, the pride of Columbia, MO, the Burney Sisters, will show off their immaculate three-part harmonies and prodigious multi-instrumental virtuosity. Rising star Matt Jordan’s heartland country-rock will be an afternoon highlight. And Hillary Fitz will get things going with her gorgeous sophisticated folkicana for two special sets.

It all takes place in Chesterfield Amphitheater’s beautiful setting offering sunshine, shade, the area’s favorite food trucks (presented by Sauce Magazine), delicious libations, and, of course, musical magic under the stars.

Ticket prices for Open Highway 2023 are $35 for general admission seating on Friday and $75 for GA on Saturday. Weekend passes (Fri/Sat) are available for $100 (GA) and $120 (includes lower-level seating). Children 12 and under are free for Friday and Saturday. All tickets go on sale March 24 at 10 a.m.


Once again, Open Highway remains committed to supporting local charities. This year, a portion of all ticket sales will benefit St. Patrick Center, an organization that combats homelessness in the St. Louis area.
Open Highway Music Festival is made possible in part by the generous support of the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis and U.S. Soy.

Each year, the State of Missouri and the Missouri Arts Council celebrate our state’s arts heroes– the artists, educators, leaders, philanthropists, organizations, and communities that transform people’s lives through the arts. On Feb. 8, two RAC grant recipients were honored in Jefferson City during a special ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.

Stray Dog Theatre (pictured above) received the Arts Education Award. In addition to producing six plays every year, the 20-year-old company concentrates on arts education with a variety of programs – each bringing its own unique touch to the needs of St. Louis.

Artists First received the Arts Organization Award. Artists First prides itself on creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for the community it serves. Although it serves as a studio for artists of all abilities, it is especially dedicated to people who have been underserved and disenfranchised.

Photo: (left to right) Sharon Beshore, Missouri Arts Council, Sheila Suderwalla, Artists First, and Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe. 

“We are immensely proud of Stray Dog Theatre and Artists First,” said Nichole Belford, Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis external relations manager. “Both organizations truly exhibit the power and impact the arts can have in a community.”

The awards coincided with Missouri Arts Advocacy Week. Organized by the non-partisan Missouri Citizens for the Arts, the week brings people together from across the state to advocate for secure, stable financial support for the arts to benefit Missouri and its citizens.

Photo: Arts advocates from St. Louis during Arts Advocacy Week

Other award winners include St. Louis artist Kenneth Calvert and St. Louis arts philanthropist Mary Strauss.

Established in 1983 as the state’s highest honor in the arts the Missouri Arts Awards have acclaimed 242 people, organizations and communities.

Cinema St. Louis is thrilled to announce plans to acquire the Hi-Pointe Theatre as their new base of operations and programming beginning in January 2023. Opening in 1922, the Hi-Pointe Theatre has been a cherished landmark for multiple generations of film lovers, and Cinema St. Louis plans to continue that tradition for years to come.

“For nearly 30 years, Cinema St. Louis has engaged the St. Louis region through educational programs, cultural connectivity and curated film exhibitions,” said Vanessa Cooksey, Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis president and CEO. “This is a major step not only for the organization, but for the arts and culture sector as a whole in St. Louis.”

Hi-Pointe Theatre is the oldest locally owned and continuously-operating arthouse theater in St. Louis. In 1977, the James family acquired the theater, and under their stewardship, the theater has become an iconic St. Louis landmark. The James family shared: “After 45 years of owning the beloved Hi-Pointe Theatre, we have decided that it is time to end our run. We have been blessed to share this theater with three generations of our family and have had the privilege of helping it reach the magical age of 100 years. We know that Cinema St. Louis is the perfect sequel to our story. They share the same passion and vision, and we are confident that they will be able to carry on our family’s legacy for the next 100 years.”

By purchasing Hi-Pointe Theatre, Cinema St. Louis will foster in a generational-changing shift in filmmaking and film education in the region. The new era will allow Cinema St. Louis to expand its capabilities to:

  • Use film festivals and special events to establish the Hi-Pointe as a unique regional destination to draw visitors to St. Louis.
  • Increase access to film and filmmaking for underrepresented audiences.
  • Facilitate empathy, cultural connection, and community interaction through the experience of film.
  • Showcase local talent and bring global well-recognized films to St. Louis.
  • Expand free educational and enrichment opportunities to K-12 students through filmmaking camps and screenings throughout the year.
  • Support the local economy by inspiring national and global filmmakers to attend offerings throughout the year.

The Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis is a proud supporter of Cinema St. Louis through its General Operating Support Grant Program. 


Participants of the Gyo Obata Fellowship program concluded their immersive 10-week learning opportunity in arts administration on Wednesday, August 10 at St. Louis ArtWorks, one of 10 local art nonprofits that served as job training sites for the class of 2022. Fellows celebrated the milestone by giving presentations on their work experiences, offering insight into how the unique, hands-on program provides meaningful education and creative inspiration to students pursuing careers in the arts.

The inclusive Gyo Obata Fellowship, which is administered by the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) and funded by the Gateway Foundation, offers paid internships to diverse groups of undergraduate students while supporting equity in the arts and culture sector. After being paused for two years because of the pandemic, the successful completion of the program marked another positive step for the St. Louis region’s vibrant arts scene and its potential future leaders.

The Gyo Obata Fellowship benefits students by broadening their view of how art and creativity can intersect with other passions. Tre Davis, who was selected and placed at St. Louis ArtWorks, has goals to complete a master’s program in clinical mental health and become a licensed professional counselor. “I am passionate about mental health, art of all mediums, and community engagement,” he said, adding that he aims to establish an incubator around art, healthy lifestyle, community engagement, fashion, home goods, and more.

Marissa Camp, who was hosted by Central Print, recognized how the differing missions and activities of area arts organizations meet various needs in the St. Louis area. “Providing education, studio space, preservation of techniques and equipment, youth engagement opportunities, and supportive spaces are just some of the things I’ve noticed being in this environment,” Camp explained.

Orquidea Campbell-Espinoza, whose host location was the Center of Creative Arts (COCA), saw firsthand the importance of collaboration in balancing administrative tasks with managing everyday challenges. “It really takes a village!”, she said about her experience working with COCA’s education team. “Knowing how much care goes into the work and being able to directly see the community members benefit from that is so rewarding. It truly has been an eye-opening experience.”

The fellowship program also offers ample opportunity for students to hone a variety of hard and soft skills necessary to sustaining an arts organization. From fundraising to marketing to board engagement, Camp emphasized the effort and creative solutions needed to keep operations running smoothly.

Davis expressed a similar perspective. “I have learned that consistent effort makes a huge impact,” he remarked. “Even when you are not at your best, trying to give what you can is very meaningful.”

Applications for the next Gyo Obata Fellowship open this Fall 2022. Visit the program webpage for more information and to learn about eligibility guidelines.

Congratulations to the fellows on their outstanding accomplishments and deepest thanks to the arts organizations that served as hosts for the 2022 program!

  • Springboard – Zipporah Cunningham
  • Central Print – Marissa Camp
  • St. Louis Artworks – Tremont Davis
  • Cinema St. Louis – Janice Sutton
  • Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis – Nadir Malovic
  • National Blues Museum – Kimberly Murphy
  • COCA – Orquidea Campbell-Epinoza
  • Intersect – Virginia GiGi Florek
  • Consuming Kinetics Dance Company – Amyah Myah Thompson
  • Perennial – Kayla Fields

Lia Upchurch joined the RAC AEP6 Research Team in September 2022 as a research assistant. While new to the St. Louis area, Lia has been moved by the openness, earnestness, and charm of the residents of this city. Lia looks forward to working with RAC and being involved in the local art community.

Lia is an illustrator with a background in Art Education; teaching at various art studios, and directing community outreach for various companies. She loves everything watercolor and gouache painting, wet/needle felting, and basket weaving, but their latest obsession has been making paper mâché vessels. She’s passionate about teaching new techniques, skills, and experiences to anyone who’s interested in experiencing the endless possibilities of creating art. A core piece of their teaching philosophy is that they find the more involved in the local community the better educator, mentor, and artist one becomes. Outside of the art studio, you can always find her walking her trusty old dog, Millie, fly fishing, or reading as many graphic novels as possible.