A TRIBUTE TO BEVERLY STROHMEYER (1944-2023)
Saturday, September 2, we woke to the news on Facebook that our friend and colleague Beverly Strohmeyer had suffered and survived a major cardiac event. Over the next two weeks, we followed the stories of her progress, her resilience, her setbacks, and her tenaciousness. Saturday, September 16, we woke to the news on Caring Bridge that Bev had died the previous evening.
These last two weeks have been filled with posts on Facebook and Caring Bridge from her family and close friends, sharing memories, prayers, and photos. Here, we hope to share a bit about how special Bev Strohmeyer has been to the Missouri Folk Arts Program and staff during her tenure at the Missouri Arts Council (MAC).
When Missouri Folk Arts Director Lisa Higgins came on board in the late summer of 1999, Bev had been working at MAC for two years as the Community Arts Program Specialist, a position she was uniquely qualified for due to her fourteen years as Director of the The Arts Council of Southeast Missouri in Cape Girardeau.
For those who don’t know, since its inception, Missouri’s Folk & Traditional Arts program has been housed at the University of Missouri’s flagship campus with substantive funding from the Missouri Arts Council. In 1993, Missouri Folk Arts moved under the auspices of the University’s Museum of Art & Archaeology in a more formal arts partnership with MAC. Over the years, we worked closely with Bev in all her MAC roles. As early as 1992, though, Folk Arts staff and consultants (including Deb Bailey) were in contact with Bev, then local arts council director, while they pursued a two-year survey of traditional arts in the Missouri Bootheel region.
During her MAC tenure, Bev moved from Community Arts to Assistant Director. She then served as Interim Director and spent her last nine years at MAC as Executive Director–the agency’s longest serving ED since 1965. In each of those positions, Bev supported Missouri Folk Arts Program and staff. In fact, Bev–a champion of local arts and of funding in all the state’s “crannies”–recognized and embraced the folk and traditional arts as key to MAC’s mission. With Bev’s leadership, Folk Arts grants gained momentum, allocations, and permanence in the annual funding cycle. Additionally, with Bev’s encouragement, Missouri Folk Arts partnered with ExhibitsUSA to curate a turn-key traveling exhibition featuring six Missouri luthiers with a National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces grant. Work is Art and Art is Work traveled to nine rural locations in Missouri, and each host complemented the content by incorporating local traditional music and instruments into their exhibition.
In the 2014 Missouri Arts Council Annual Report, Bev articulated what she believed to be the “primary accomplishments under [her] leadership.” Readers can follow the embedded link to that report in the previous sentence. We note two things: survival and expansion. We also note that in the paragraphs about her leadership, she uses the pronoun “we,” attributing those accomplishments to the MAC team. For that leadership, Bev accepted a Special Recognition Missouri Arts Award in 2015.
It has been a joy to watch via Facebook as Bev enjoyed her retirement hand-in-hand with Don, her husband of sixty years. We were thrilled to have them join the audience in April 2017, when we coordinated a special program featuring storyteller Gladys Caines Coggswell during the St. Louis Storytelling Festival. Seeing photos of Bev’s holiday dinners made us reminisce about the dishes and baked goods she always provided at the office’s holiday meals (which we were more than happy to drive two hours to attend).
We join others who miss her homemade cookies, her laughter, her stories, and her wisdom. We send our heartfelt condolences to Don, their expansive family, friends, and colleagues.
Bev’s obituary is available here: https://kutisfuneralhomes.com/strohmeyer-beverly-bev-gale/