St. Joseph, Missouri

In St. Joseph, history and art are intrinsically intertwined.

We’re lucky to live in a world where arts and culture aren’t mutually exclusive. Those fortunate enough to live in St. Joseph enjoy both on a daily basis. In terms of population, it may be on the smaller side. But when it comes to human talent, this historic city hugging the banks of the Mighty Mo’ knows how to “Wow.” From larger-than-life murals to award-winning live musicals, here are a few fun ways to experience the arts and culture in little ole’ St. Jo.    

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The Pony Express Mural
Native American Mural
Music-Inspired Mural at Coleman Hawkins Park

Brick building?
You mean blank canvas

Rather than catching a mural on your way to your chosen activity, imagine making a day out of exploring a variety of outdoor art on a Mural Walk! Make your way into the St. Joseph Convention & Visitors Bureau for any reason, and be prepared to find yourself admiring the “Welcome to St. Joseph” mural. The work of Virginia-based artist Sam Welty is a historically accurate depiction of what Joseph Robidoux IV saw when he first arrived in the area. The mural shares a room with a 1,200-lb. bronze sculpture of St. Joseph’s favorite fur trader turned founding father.

Meanwhile, the city’s most celebrated musicians are immortalized in a music-inspired mural at Coleman Hawkins Park. Ranging from pop to blues, different genres are represented by local legends, including Kansas lead singer Steve Walsh, jazz tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and blues bassist Bugsy Maugh. If you’re a history buff, check “Days of Civil War,” “Gateway to the West,” and a transportation-themed mural illustrating how pioneers got around pre-automobile. Be sure to also check out The Pony Express mural nearby, featuring a young man on the horse. That’s Johnny Fry – the first rider for the Pony Express!

From their hands to our hearts

Finding sculptures in St. Jo is easy. There are 34 of them in less than a square mile, right in the heart of downtown. The hard part is voting for your favorite. Every year, St. Joseph’s Allied Arts Council sponsors the St. Joseph Sculpture Walk, which includes the coveted “People’s Choice Award.” It’s given to the artist whose work stands out most in a roster of nothing but standouts. 

Each year, as many as two dozen local and out-of-state artists loan their masterpieces to the city for 12 months so the public can enjoy them. After casting their ballot, those still obsessed with a particular sculpture can even buy it. These one-of-a-kind labors of love can be a great investment on display in your home or business.

365 days of walkable art

Year-round, the city is home to 13 eye-catching outdoor sculptures permanently on display. Some, like “The Professor,” can be taken quite literally. Others, like “Heritage,” “River Queen,” and “Peaceful Ruler” – a magnificent horse somehow fashioned from wire – are more open to interpretation. 

Whether made of bronze, steel, glass, wood, or even lights, all of the city’s sculptures are worth going out of your way to find. That said, don’t expect to have to take a big detour. Most of the sculptures – both permanent and temporary –  are concentrated in the city’s Arts and Entertainment District. Perhaps the best part about St. Joe art is that it’s almost all within walking distance.

‘When Pigs Fly, Amelia's Jet Pack’ Sculpture
“My Moai” Sculpture and artist, Dale Lewis
Showtime at the Missouri Theater

Where every seat is a good seat

These days it’s rare to find theaters that are destinations in themselves. The landmark Missouri Theater is one of them. Between the unique architecture (think Art Deco meets Moorish) and the ornate interior (the crystal chandelier weighs 1,800 pounds), it’s easy to see why this 95-year-old theater warrants a spot on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places. Thanks to well over $2 million in renovations, the former “movie palace” (which already had amazing acoustics) now boasts modern sound and lighting systems. While it’s perfectly acceptable to come for the structure alone, why not stay for the show?

As the home of the Saint Joseph Symphony, the Missouri Theater hosts several musical performances throughout the year. It’s where you can listen to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” one night and catch Kansas in concert the next. Of course, the theater’s calendar always includes classic theatrical productions like “The Wizard of Oz,” “Sister Act,” and “The Little Mermaid.” You can’t expect to pay 1927 prices;  admission was only $.25 when the theater first opened. But you can expect world-class entertainment in a world-class venue.

Small stage, big talent

For a fun community theater experience, get tickets to a beloved Robidoux Resident Theater production. Now in its 42nd year, it’s one of the country’s longest-running community theater programs. While the gifted group of local thespians performs Main Stage productions like “Guys & Dolls,” “The 39 Steps,” and “Elf: The Musical” at the Missouri Theater, they also put on several performances throughout the year at their new Ruby Theater. 

This more intimate setting, perfect for Robidoux’s usually sold-out dinner theater, is located in a former synagogue that was recently converted into the theater company’s headquarters. Would it have been easier to bring in a wrecking ball and build a new space? Possibly. But this is St. Jo. Here, history and art are intrinsically intertwined.

Robidoux Resident Theater

No event is too big

Because some cultural events are best experienced by thousands of people at the same time, St. Jo has the Civic Arena. This enormous event space, soon to undergo an interior aesthetic renovation, hosts everything from conventions to concerts and banquets to ball games. Many travelers even plan a full weekend around experiencing a traveling performance at Civic Arena! Cheer on traveling acts like the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters and the Pro Bull Riding Tour. Or come to hunt for treasures at The Antique Show and Vintage Market. Just don’t come expecting to see the Harlem Globetrotters hawking Tiffany lamps. Now those two things are definitely mutually exclusive. 

Music Abounds at the Civic Arena
The Saint Joseph Symphony
A Standing Ovation for the Saint Joseph Symphony