“Rocker art” from Staenberg collection now on display, for sale


Ellen Futterman, Editor-in-Chief

If you need some cheer and color to brighten up a dreary winter day, look no further than the Gallery at the District in Chesterfield. The 6,000-square-foot space, which used to house a J. Crew outlet store, has been transformed into a wonderland of whimsy with roughly 300 pieces of art, nearly all from businessman and philanthropist Michael Staenberg’s personal collection.

“I had all this art and didn’t have anywhere to display it, which meant no one was enjoying it,” said Staenberg, president of the Staenberg Group, the developer behind the multi-entertainment complex, the District. “My goal is for people to enjoy it.

“People ask if I like every piece of art I buy. No, I don’t like everything but what I do like are the emotions the art evokes. I like to see how people react to it – how they enjoy it. That to me that is the best part of collecting.”

To that end, one of the coolest features of the gallery, besides the sheer volume of pieces, is the variety. Nearly all genres are represented, including painting, sculpture, pottery, glass, woodwork, mixed media, photography and more. And while some works sell for upwards of $30,000, there is plenty that’s affordable to the casual collector.

Maneta Siegel, director of the Gallery, said that when the Factory concert venue opened at the District last year, she reached out to Staenberg – the two have known each other for years – to suggest that he open a gallery nearby that combines “rocker art” with pieces he had in storage that no one was seeing.

“I probably bought 5,000 pieces of art over the years and I’ve given away about 1,500 pieces to nonprofits – JCCs, camps, synagogues, schools,” said Staenberg. “There was still a lot that wasn’t being displayed, which made no sense.”

Siegel said she chose many “uplifting,” vibrant works to keep the Gallery’s vibe fanciful, fun and user-friendly. About a third of the artists are local while others like Stan Solomon, Jef Bretschneider and Judy Haas have international reputations.

In the spring, Siegel is planning to launch gallery shows featuring the work of musicians performing at the Factory who also are visual artists. She notes that rockers such as drummer Rick Allen of Def Leppard; KISS frontman Paul Stanley and Michael Cartellone of Lynyrd Skynyrd are each accomplished artists in addition to being talented musicians.

“What happens is when they are on tour, they have a lot of downtime waiting for concerts to start,” said Siegel. “Alice Cooper became a fabulous golfer because that’s what he would do with his downtime. Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones studied at the Ealing Art College in London. He would play guitar to fund his art.”

Staenberg adds that acts at the Factory will often donate autographed instruments or other memorabilia to help area nonprofits.

“Old Dominion donated a signed guitar to be auctioned off for KidSmart,” he said. “Every month we pick a different charity and try to help them with an auction online, or if they have an event. We collect the memorabilia from the band and (the charity) gets to keep the money.”