Cover Stories

Art for All: COCA

Adaptation and innovation have been major themes for everyone the last two years, but nowhere has the pandemic’s need for creativity been more evident than in, well, the creative arts. “The arts have been disproportionately impacted with more than 30% of organizations unable to survive,” says Kelly Pollock, executive director of COCA. “The ones left standing are a testament to the community—COVID-19 taught us about our own adaptability and resilience, but we wouldn’t be here without support.” The creative arts organization is excited to celebrate with the community at its annual COCAcabana fundraiser.

This year’s event will be held April 29 at COCA, and the lead sponsor is Anheuser-Busch. In celebration of the equitable and universal nature of art, the theme will be Make It Pop! “It’s a play on pop art,” Pollock explains. “We love that the genre speaks to the idea that art is everyday and accessible to everyone—it doesn’t have to be elitist.” Along with popping champagne, the theme will be evident in a pop art-inspired community project, a selfie room and several pop-ups from local artists, such as fashion designers and florists. To ensure the event can be inclusive of all, there also will be an after hours party with a lower ticket price.

For the first time since the nonprofit’s campus renovation and expansion was completed in 2020, COCAcabana’s student performances and auction will be held in the Catherine B. Berges Theatre. “The last two years, we’ve had to adapt, but we’re thrilled to be able to celebrate a full-fledged COCAcabana with the community,” says Virginia Howell, director of individual and corporate engagement. “It will be an incredible way to see all that COCA has to offer.” Presented by Bayer, the live auction will include items like a trip to Hawaii and a bourbon and bonfire meet and greet in Beaver Creek, Colorado, with Cole Hauser, who plays Rip Wheeler on Yellowstone.

COCAcabana is the nonprofit’s only annual fundraiser. “It offers critical support for all of our programs, including financial assistance for students,” Pollock says. “It’s a lynchpin, raising 20% of our contributed revenue and forming new connections in the community.” The success of COCA’s mission is evident in this year’s alumna chair Joye Forrest, the reigning Miss Missouri USA. “She’s the embodiment of what we hope for students and a wonderful representative for the entire state,” Howell says. “COCAcabana will be her last official night with the crown, so we’re thrilled to be able to honor her.”

Along with celebrating COCA, creativity and community, this year’s COCAcabana will serve as somewhat of a last hurrah for Pollock. After 25 years with the organization, she will be exiting later this summer. “It’s been the most incredible, fulfilling journey,” she says. “This has been my dream job, serving with a group of creative, supportive and community-minded people. I’m so proud of the accomplishments we have collectively achieved, and I feel it’s the right time to turn it over to the next leader. We’re in a position of tremendous strength, growth and impact. Our supporters are engaged and ready to help COCA begin this next chapter.”

COCA’s mission is to enrich lives and build community through the arts. Its COCAcabana 2022: Make It Pop! fundraiser will be April 29. Pictured on the cover: Joye Forrest, Marsha and Al Mitchell, Kelly Pollock, Laurie Garland and Michael Weisman, Stephanie Gold and Josh Boekesch. For tickets and more information, visit or email Virginia Howell at or Kayla DeForest at

Cover courtesy of Cannonball
Cover styling by Dry Bar – St. Louis and Neiman Marcus

Pictured at top: COCAcabana alumni chair Joye Forrest and executive director Kelly Pollock
Photo courtesy of COCA


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