Nancy Kranzberg was one of the first non-work-related St. Louisans I met after I moved to St. Louis.
The Missouri Historical Society was looking for ways to promote its first Holiday Book Fair. My boss, Lee Sandweiss, suggested we get on Nancy's arts show on community radio station KDHX.
I would be the spokesperson.
I had never done radio before. Or TV. Or even a newspaper interview. Needless to say, I was nervous.
That ended as soon as I stepped into the studio with Nancy.
I don't remember exactly what she said, but I imagine it went something like this:
"Now you just sit in that chair, baby doll, and I'll ask you about why you're here, and you tell me, and I'll ask you something else, and you tell me about that, and we'll just talk, OK? And don't worry if you screw up, because it's all on tape and we have people who can fix that. They do it all the time. And believe me, if they can fix me, they can fix anyone!"
Then she laughed. Of that, I am sure.
It was 1994. Over the next 20-plus years, there would be lunches with Nancy, St. Louis Art Museum shindigs (as she would say) with Nancy, even a baby shower for Maggie at Nancy's house, with all my historical society colleagues and my family.
For the shower, she brought in an a cappella group. It was the happiest I've ever seen my mom, and my mom always looked happy.
Nancy and I sat down for lunch in the art museum's restaurant last week.
"Oh, honey child, we've got a lot of catching up to do, so tell me what you want to know!" she said.
Nancy still does her show on KDHX, but she has added a monthly radio show on St. Louis Public Radio station KWMU. It allows her to do what she does best–tell stories that connect St. Louis to the national and international arts scene.
No one is better qualified than Nancy. She and her husband, Ken, are the biggest "cheerleaders for the arts" St. Louis has.
There's the Kranzberg Arts Center in Grand Center. The Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library at Washington University (she is a Washington University alumna, Class of '66). The Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Studio for the Illustrated Book, also at Washington University. Even Nancy's Jazz Lounge in Jazz at the Bistro.
Then come the boards she has served, more than half a dozen of them, from the art museum to Laumeier Sculpture Park to the Sheldon Arts Foundation. Oh, and the awards! The St. Louis Visionary Award, 2015 Woman of Achievement for Cultural Enrichment, the Distinguished Alumnae Award at Washington University . . .
"Just Google me to find all that stuff," she said.
Recently, the couple announced that their Kranzberg Arts Foundation will develop Grand Center's 1919-era Cadillac Building on Locust Street as a performing arts center. The move is in line not only with their love of historic architecture, but also with their newest passion: live theater.
"There must be about 25 professional theater companies in St. Louis, plus all the wonderful community theater programs," Nancy told me. "St. Louis is culturally the richest city per capita in the country."
Several local theaters now bear the names of the Kranzbergs' grandchildren. One of them, the Marcelle, is home to New Line Theatre. Through June 25, New Line is presenting Atomic, a rock musical about the Manhattan Project.
"The play gets into the moral issues of developing the atomic bomb," she said. "You wouldn't think that would work as a musical, but it does. Tell you what–would you and Ellen like to go? I'll get you on the guest list. Which works best, Friday night or Saturday night?"
Walking back to my car, I had an overwhelming feeling–for the first time in the week since Orlando–that anything is possible, that people are fundamentally good, and that everything will one day be OK.
I can't think of a better reason to support the arts than that.