Eight years ago, long before you and everyone you know inhaled the smash-hit Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, the multihyphenate creative force Susan Barrett was making chess cool in her hometown of St. Louis.
Barrett, an architect and painter by training, was at the time the founding executive director of the World Chess Hall of Fame; a non–chess player herself, she dreamed up an exhibition, “A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes,” that melded fashion and chess.
Barrett has always been a rule breaker with a sixth sense for trends. “A Queen Within” was so successful that it nudged her to venture out on her own, founding Barrett Barrera Projects, a gallery that has blossomed into a hybrid of arts activity in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis. Barrett Barrera now comprises four distinct but holistic spaces: projects+gallery, where she invites artists to show their work; projects+exhibitions, where she debuts multidisciplinary shows; Barrett Barrera Projects, the headquarters for her staff and programming; and, since the fall of 2019, Guest House, an 8,000-square-foot arts club where visiting artists can stay and Barrett Barrera can host events.