The Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center (LNAC) was conceived in 1994 by a group of young artists, activists and director, Mark Sarich, in response to a lack of resources for young and beginning artists. It was housed in Sarich’s grandfather’s restored drugstore. The aim was to provide an alternative to the often restrictive environment of commercialized artistic expression, especially of the music industry.

Drawing inspiration from the Art Ensemble of Chicago, LNAC was organized as a volunteer effort in which artists would assist each other in the production of performances, exhibits and workshops. The founders sought to draw young people into music performance, venue management and communications, thereby ensuring the future of small venues in St. Louis. Another goal was to replace passive entertainment with active engagement. The founders of LNAC also wished to make world class music accessible to young people in an environment free of alcohol and drugs.

Innovative programs were developed to transform the social and artistic environment of our area. Among them were classes in Cybernetics, a workshop for neighborhood children on instrument making from found objects including trash, and a workshop on strategies for Neighborhoods Gaining their Autonomy. In 1997, Sarich proposed bringing a comprehensive orchestral music education program to the youth of the City of St. Louis. This idea eventually brought about Orchestrating Diversity. For three summers LNAC hosted a month-long workshop focused on poverty, racism, and classism called the Lemp Social Arts Project.

In 2000, the focus of the venue expanded to include punk rock, hardcore and other youth musics. The result quickly became a thriving DIY* venue that many independent musicians hailed claiming that LNAC “makes St Louis a destination for national touring acts.” Over the years, LNAC has attracted well over a thousand international performers to St. Louis including Peter Brötzmann, Ian Svenonius, Bhob Rainey, Tatsuje Naketani, Sarah Hennies, Animal Collective, Xiu Xiu, the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, Native, Piglet, Modern Life is War, Jack Wright, Khanate, and Mt. Erie. Performers came from all around the US as well as Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.  Some of the best home-grown musicians such as Eric Hall, Grandpa’s Ghost, Yowie, the Conformists, Ghost Ice, Texas Chainsaw Mass Choir, Family Might (Tom Pini), Angel Olsen, Dave Stone, and Brain Transplant have been featured at LNAC..

LNAC continues to offer quality performances for all-ages in a DIY format, free from the distractions of alcohol and drugs.