Town Talk Features

Get to Know: Karin Hagaman

The Grand Center Arts District in Midtown is all about celebrating St. Louis as a city rich in culture. The district entices visitors from far and wide to enjoy world-class music, captivating performances, a thriving art scene, memorable food and more. So it makes sense that it would serve as a holiday mecca, a glittering gathering place where festivity takes on new meaning during the winter months. Karin Hagaman, president and CEO of Grand Center, is uniquely poised to offer advice on how—and where—to make holiday memories in the heart of St. Louis.

karin hagaman | president and ceo, grand center arts district

about me … I’m a New Jersey native but have called St. Louis home since 1995. I have a bachelor’s degree in English and American literature and language from Harvard, and master’s degrees in business and social work from Washington University.

where I was before … I formerly served as director of project development for the Cortex Innovation Community. I oversaw public realm improvements in the district and coordinated communication and inclusion efforts. Before that, I was a consultant with Development Strategies, a St. Louis economic, real estate and community development firm. I’m also a former member of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus.

what’s new this holiday season … A wonderful place to create holiday cheer is The Grandel Theatre, newly reopened this year after a major renovation by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation. Metro Theater Company’s Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates is there this month. There’s also a new breakfast and lunch place called Squatters Cafe in the KDHX Building. It’s operated by Rob Connoley, a James Beard Award semifinalist.

what’s great about grand center … I think the most wonderful thing about it is the diversity of the entertainment offerings. More than 60 arts groups call this area home. Not all of them are performance organizations, but they contribute to a burgeoning scene with artists of all kinds. Even when it’s not the holiday season, there’s so much life here. It’s always busy and exciting.

where to eat and drink … I love Like Home, a French bakery with pastries and coffee. I go to Miss M’s Candy Boutique for chocolate, and Sophie’s Artist Lounge in the .ZACK building for cocktails. The Dark Room at The Grandel is also a cozy spot to stop in for a drink, and Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. is hosting its WinterMarkt on Saturdays this month. It has local vendors, food, drinks and music.

good spots for holiday ‘photo ops’… There’s a new park, the Arts Academy Plaza, across the street from Powell Hall. It’s the home of Nijinski Hare, the Barry Flanagan sculpture that used to be at Scottrade Center. The Christmas tree is up in Strauss Park, and Powell Hall and The Fox are decorated beautifully for the holidays.

favorite holiday activities in grand center … I love going to The Fabulous Fox Theatre for a December show. They’ve all been so wonderful, it would be difficult to pick a favorite. From Dec. 14 to 17 this year, A Christmas Carol will be there, and the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker is Dec. 23.

favorite holiday musical traditions … The St. Louis Symphony at Powell Hall tops my list. This year, Grammy Award-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves is performing a gospel Christmas show with the orchestra Dec. 14, and the Mercy Holiday Celebration runs from Dec. 15 to 17. It includes the orchestra and Holiday Festival Chorus performing favorites from the season. I love the Bach Society of Saint Louis, too. Its Christmas Candlelight Concert at Powell Hall includes the St. Louis Children’s Choirs. And Jazz St. Louis always has great shows on its calendar.

find out what’s new … We’ve just launched a new event calendar on our website, It’s searchable and interactive, and it’s the first comprehensive list of everything that’s available here, including restaurants. You can use it to plan a whole day’s outing with your family. There is so much holiday spirit going on here—it’s an exciting time for Grand Center!