Our History

As a project of Jobs With Justice (JWJ), Bread and Roses united community activists and union members with an art exhibit in 2003 that spurred dialogue around social justice themes.

Sixty artists submitted work for the first art exhibit, many of them union members and community activists that had not shared their artistic talents so publicly before. One of the most exciting parts of developing the exhibit was the participation of many non-traditional artists – a house painter who takes photos, a postal worker who writes music, single mothers who were facing Medicaid cuts, victims of police violence, factory workers who had lost their jobs overseas.

As a leader in Missouri JWJ, Joan Suarez helped to form the Bread and Roses project and lead its establishment as an independent non-profit in 2015. Under her leadership, and on this foundation of arts and activism, Bread and Roses Missouri has built strong momentum. We are making a significant, positive impact in our communities today.

Youth Initiative

Our artist-led programs expose young people to economic and social justice through multi-disciplinary art forms.

The Youth Initiative was initially conceived by Dail Chambers, Joan Suarez and Brett Williams who partnered while they were enrolled in the Regional Arts Commission’s Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute in 2010. The program was piloted at Riverview Gardens High School for the first two years and re-fitted for youth seven to 12 years of age. The curriculum was formalized by Dail, an award-winning artist and activist who exhibits and lectures nationally, and Lyla Goushey, a curriculum specialist who teaches at the Saint Louis Forest Park Community College. Teaching staff have been recruited primarily through CAT. The curriculum for the program has been documented, tested, evaluated and organized for continued expansion.

The program has reached 250-300 youths each summer, primarily in the City of St. Louis, including immigrant and refugee children.

Workers’ Theater

Launched in 2015, the Workers’ Theater company evolved from the successful effort of Bread and Roses Missouri to present an original spoken word and musical theater production co-directed by the late theater director, writer and actor Agnes Wilcox, along with St. Louis poet and SLAM Champion, Freeman Word.

Our Workers’ Theater has expanded in recent years. At venues across the state, thousands of people experience the Workers’ OperaJailbird and Mrs. Palmer’s Honey as our growing company of “workers turned actors” share their stories in word, song and historical reenactments.

Growth and Impact

Our work has contributed to positive change in Missouri as we entertain, educate and motivate people to act on workers’ rights and clean government initiatives. We are actively expanding our base of support and capacity for positive impact in our community.

Through expert-facilitated training sessions and mentorship resources will continue to strengthen our artistic and financial planning, fundraising, governance, board engagement and marketing practices. This includes:

Regional Arts Commission’s Capacity Building: St. Louis program

Network for Strong Communities’ Capacity Building Scholarship

Please contact us to become involved or  learn how to bring our programs to your organization. We also invite you to support us with a recurring donation, one-time gift, program ad or sponsorship. Visit our Support page

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