Art Access For All: COCA

Spring is an exciting season at COCA. Along with a full slate of upcoming performances and classes, the arts organization recently welcomed Indigo K. Sams as its new CEO and president. Sams actually began her professional career at COCA, rising to become the director of community services. She left to continue serving St. Louis through other opportunities but is thrilled to be back and is excited to celebrate with the community during the annual COCAcabana fundraiser.

This year’s event will be held April 28 at COCA. The presenting sponsor is Stifel, and Anheuser-Busch is the bar sponsor. In celebration of the vibrant and creative community the organization fosters, the theme of the event is Electric Oasis. “Our students are always growing and glowing,” explains Viriginia Howell, director of individual and corporate engagement. “We hope that is true not only for them, but everyone who visits COCA. Our doors are always open, and we want people to take the opportunity to explore the arts and spread them throughout the community.” COCA’s campus will transform into an oasis of plants, neon colors and bright lights. Guests will enjoy an electrifying meal from Butler’s Pantry, and the evening will end with a silent disco, featuring DJ Alexis Tucci.

The Catherine B. Berges Theatre will host student performances and the auction. “It’s a beautiful, state-of-the art space, and we’re excited to share it with the community,” Sams says. The event also will welcome back West African dance company Afriky Lolo for a performance. The live auction will include items like an Aurora Borealis viewing trip, tickets to Taylor Swift and a bourbon and bonfire meet and greet with Cole Hauser, who plays Rip Wheeler on Yellowstone. Guests at the VIP Champagne bar will have the opportunity to participate in a raffle for bracelets designed by Elleard Heffern Fine Jewelers exclusively for COCA.

COCAcabana is the nonprofit’s largest annual fundraiser. It plays a crucial role in ensuring the arts in St. Louis remain accessible to everyone. “I’m looking forward to improving both the equity and impact across COCA’s programming,” Sams notes. “Our goal is to meet St. Louisans where they are so that COCA can become a hub for the community. We never turn anyone away because of the inability to pay.” The funds raised by the event will go toward providing financial support for students, including those who will be attending the upcoming summer camp session.

The success of COCA’s mission is evident in this year’s alumni chair, Rodney Hamilton. A St. Louis native, he began dance training at COCA when he was 10 years old and, at the age 14, started his professional career by performing at The Muny. After attending Julliard, he served as a principal dancer at Ballet Hispánico of New York for 10 years and is now dedicated to training the next generation of dancers. “I’m looking forward to seeing Rodney shine on the stage again,” Sams says. “One of the most beautiful things about COCAcabana is the support that the community gives to providing opportunities for young people, so that they can begin their artistic journey.”

COCA’s mission is to enrich lives and build community through the arts. Its COCAcabana 2023: Electric Oasis fundraiser will be April 28. Pictured on the cover (in seated and standing pairs): Lydia and Josh Bledsoe, Betsy and Colin Toney, Tiffany and Bill Bradley, Elizabeth and Tyler Cain. For tickets and more information, visit or
email Virginia Howell at

Cover courtesy of Cannonball
Cover styling by Dry Bar – St. Louis and Neiman Marcus
Set design by Planthaven Farms Garden Center

Pictured at top: COCAcabana Alumni Chair Rodney Hamilton
Photo courtesy of COCA

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