Visiting the Vaughn Cultural Center

GRAND CENTER– The Vaughn Cultural Center (VCC) has been a hidden jewel in the Grand Center community for years. The VCC is devoted to the display of African American artistic, cultural and historical materials.

From the beginning, the goal of the center has been to promote awareness of African American history and culture through art history exhibits, storytelling and special programs.  The center supports regional and national artists and has provided a venue for local poets and musicians. Local author Areva Martin had her book signing event there this past spring.

The VCC was established in 1977 through a gift from Ermalene Vaughn in honor of her husband, St. Louis physician Arthur N. Vaughn. In 1978, Vaughn named the Urban League as the chief beneficiary of her assets with the commitment that the funds would be used for cultural and scholarship projects that will benefit the black community of St. Louis. 

Today, the VCC remains in Grand Center and proudly displays a portrait of Vaughn painted by St. Louis Artist, Vernon Smith. 

The Center recently partnered with the Missouri History Museum to feature an exhibit detailing important figures in the civil rights movement. The exhibit tells the story of the history of civil rights in St. Louis. The semi-permanent exhibit highlights efforts in advancing the cause of racial justice in chronological order, beginning with the story of early educators and activists John Berry and Mary Meechum and proceeding through the foundation of the Urban League in 1910, important court cases and other significant moments in the Civil Rights Movement.  

Each year, the Urban League partners with school districts to bring students and faculty to the VCC  as part of their diversity initiative. The visits provide a backdrop for conversations on social injustices in our community. The Urban League’s exposition at the America Center last August saw more than 25,000 visitors over three days. 

Barbara Bowman, Vice President of the local chapter of the Urban League, says future plans for the VCC include increased programming, expanded collaborations with other arts and cultural organizations and galleries in the Grand Center District. 

On Oct. 18, there will be an honorary street dedication at the VCC at 1:30 p.m. to mark the renaming of Grandell Square as Urban League Square. 

For more information about the Vaughn Cultural Center, visit http://www.ulstl.com/vaughn-cultural-center or call 314-615-3600.

Ashley Winters

Ashley Winters is a staff reporter at The NorthSider. She's a north St. Louis native and a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. In the near future she plans to write and publish children's books. She can be reached at ashley.winters@thenorthsider.com

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