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RASA Easels: created at MADE, available at St. Louis Art Supply

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Shop News  St. Louis Art Supply RASA easel MADE Joshua Falconer Jacob Lewis Carson Monetti

Earlier this year while touring MADE, 5197 Delmar, at a Central West End Association Happy Hour, I met Joshua Falconer, above, who along with his business partner and co-inventor Jacob Lewis, was in the process of rolling out a limited edition of RASA Easels—”the nomadic artist’s best friend.”

Falconer, an artist and PhD Candidate in Semitic Languages at Catholic University, and Lewis, an art teacher, have conceived of many ideas individually and as a team, but the RASA easel is the first invention for which they have developed a working prototype and submitted a provisional patent application.

The idea was born of frustration when Lewis realized his drawings were skewed and out of proportion as he drew on a flat surface using a traditional sketchpad. He came up with the notion of combining a tabletop easel with a sketchpad, and Falconer helped engineer, test, and refine the prototype. Falconer said the biggest design challenge was how to make the easel refillable.

They named their invention RASA, alluding to the Latin phrase “tabula rasa” or “blank slate.” Falconer said that the name is “a tribute to the way that every blank page presents new possibilities for artists to explore.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Shop News  St. Louis Art Supply RASA easel MADE Joshua Falconer Jacob Lewis Carson Monetti

After approximately 2 years developing the rough-working prototype and refining the design, the inventors produced a small batch of their maple RASA easels and took the finished product about 10 blocks east to St. Louis Art Supply, where they are being sold on consignment. The CWE’s art shop is the exclusive retailer of this pre-release version.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Shop News  St. Louis Art Supply RASA easel MADE Joshua Falconer Jacob Lewis Carson Monetti

A RASA easel starter set with mixed-media pad is $55, an easel with a drawing paper pad is $49. Refill pads are $16.

Recently Falconer emailed that they have come up with a less expensive RASA easel made of tempered hardboard, a sustainable and durable material that resists warping. This new version can be primed and painted so an artist can customize the cover. It is also refillable. The price has not yet been determined, but they’ll be available at St. Louis Art Supply in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, Falconer and Lewis are planning a crowdfunding campaign to help scale up production and bring down the price point to make the RASA easel even more accessible, so all sorts of creative types—illustrators, comic book artists, tattoo artists, etc.—can take their studio with them wherever they go.

St. Louis Art Supply’s Carson Monetti keeps a supply of watercolor pencils by the display, so you can play with the RASA easel.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Shop News  St. Louis Art Supply RASA easel MADE Joshua Falconer Jacob Lewis Carson Monetti

When I stopped in the store recently, I asked Monetti whose lovely drawing graced the sample easel. “I don’t have a clue,” he said. “I always find anonymous drawings around here.”

Finding an outlet for a locally-made item in the same neighborhood as it was invented is pretty special. So are the local artists who test products at St. Louis Art Supply and leave their art behind for the rest of us to enjoy.

RASA Easels at St. Louis Art Supply, 4532 Olive Street, Tues-Fri. 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed Monday.

A repost: Young parents mobilize to create Kennedy Park and CWE Families & Friends

Since there are so many new residents in the neighborhood, I thought it would be of interest to republish this 2011 post describing the origins of Samuel Kennedy Park (east of Euclid, where Olive and Washington merge), which in turn led to the formation of CWE Families & Friends.

In 2006 a group of CWE parents saw the need for a toddler playground in the neighborhood, identified a site, and figured out a way to make it happen. There are many people to credit with the charm of Kennedy Park (they are mentioned below), but the initial idea, the determination and grit that it took to get it done belongs to those young residents who lived on neighboring streets. 

While that initial group of toddlers has long since grown up, their parents’ efforts will continue to delight CWE families for years to come. 

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids  Samuel Kennedy Park Regional Arts Commission Lewisites David Tillinghast CWE Families & Friends   For those of you who have visited Kennedy Park or pass by it on your way to Bowood Farms, you may have forgotten that it was ever anything but a children’s playground. Years ago an abandoned, derelict gas station occupied the triangle where Olive and Washington intersect. After the site was acquired and properly cleaned up (there are strict EPA guidelines for remediating the ground under gas station properties), it was turned into a grass covered baseball-themed art park with a batter’s box at the apex of the triangle, and a bleacher section painted by artists Bill Kreplin and Charlie Blood on the wall at the east end. This initial round of improvements was spearheaded by the Central West End Association under the able direction of Jack Byrne, with critical assistance from then Alderman Dan McGuire and funding provided by two local banks and a Federal grant.

In early 2006 a group of committed young parents, new to the neighborhood, approached my husband with the idea of converting the park into a full-fledged playground. This determined group, which eventually organized as CWE Families & Friends, succeeded in obtaining generous grants from Gateway Foundation and 18th Ward Alderman Samuel Kennedy which was the catalyst to obtaining funding from the City of St. Louis Parks Department through the Metro Park Tax Fund. The group was then able to hire local landscape architect Anne Lewis to assist in turning the concept into reality. During the design process the original triangle was extended 60 feet to the west, which allowed room for the addition of an art component.

With financial and administrative assistance from the Regional Arts Commission, a national competition was conducted, resulting in selection of a proposal by North Carolina artist David Tillinghast to install his dome shaped concrete sculpture in the expanded area (see mound below). The addition of a clever hardscape design, extensive landscaping (designed by Lewisites and installed by Bowood Farms), playground equipment, whimsical iron fencing and, in November of 2007, a water feature (see first photo above), have turned Kennedy Park into the “go to” spot for neighborhood parents and their young children.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids  Samuel Kennedy Park Regional Arts Commission Lewisites David Tillinghast CWE Families & Friends   Ten days ago the water feature was turned on for the summer season. That’s when I found a young family who had just moved back to St. Louis from Cape Cod (which seems like the wrong direction at this time of year). The young mother told me her husband got a job here, and they are living with her parents while they look for a house, which they hope will be in the Central West End. In the meantime, they have discovered the park, and have met several other young families while playing there.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids  Samuel Kennedy Park Regional Arts Commission Lewisites David Tillinghast CWE Families & Friends   David Tillinghast’s sculpture, which I will tell you about another time, is shown above, just beyond the fountain. Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids  Samuel Kennedy Park Regional Arts Commission Lewisites David Tillinghast CWE Families & Friends   Only one sister at a time can fit on the concrete balls that are placed around the playground.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids  Samuel Kennedy Park Regional Arts Commission Lewisites David Tillinghast CWE Families & Friends   Barefoot in the park, which is just about perfect for a lazy summer afternoon in the CWE.

A visit to Fresh & Co. Studio and Fresh Art Photography in The Grove

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Services Shop News  The Grove St. Louis Jodie Allen Fresh&Co.Studio Fresh Art Photography Elizabeth Freshour

There are plenty of event spaces in St. Louis, some of which are located here in the CWE—Mahler Ballroom and The McPherson come to mind. But what Elizabeth Freshour and Jodie Allen have created with the opening of Fresh & Co. Studio and Fresh Art Photography, at 4366 Manchester in The Grove, takes a slightly different approach.

When Freshour and Allen stumbled upon the dark and dreary 1200 s.f. space across from Urban Chestnut, it had been vacant for a couple of years. They saw the potential for what they envisioned as a “spin on a co-working space,” two businesses sharing one storefront, not as partners but as “studio mates.”  Since opening last April, they have accomplished what they hoped for. The eye-catching storefront and type of business fits right into the increasing vitality of The Grove, and they have been booking events in the space ever since.

Elizabeth Freshour’s Fresh & Co. Studio can be leased for bridal or baby showers, craft workshops, pop-ups, small meetings, etc.  While I was interviewing Freshour,  I kept picturing an all-white dinner party that’s been on my mind for years.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Services Shop News  The Grove St. Louis Jodie Allen Fresh&Co.Studio Fresh Art Photography Elizabeth Freshour

Photo courtesy of Untamed Heart Photography

Studio-mate Jodie Allen, above, uses the space for her business, Fresh Art Photography, and in addition, the white canvas of a space is available for other photographers to lease for shoots as well.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Services Shop News  The Grove St. Louis Jodie Allen Fresh&Co.Studio Fresh Art Photography Elizabeth Freshour

Photo courtesy of Fresh Art Photography

Elizabeth Freshour, above, her husband and their toddler moved to St. Louis from the Bay Area 7 years ago. Now there are two kids, ages 6 & 9. Freshour hired Jodie Allen to take their family portrait each year, and they became friends.  As the friendship blossomed, they decided to blend their business ideas together in The Grove.

In the past Freshour has worked in data storage and in sales operations for a natural food company. Now she not only manages the event space—and repaints the studio’s white floor several times a month (which she says she has down to a science),  she also finds time to work for a non-profit and to work in elder care.

“I feel very excited and lucky to have started this business with Jodie,” she said, “Creating a place for people to succeed while making their art or hosting a workshop is a joy to watch.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Services Shop News  The Grove St. Louis Jodie Allen Fresh&Co.Studio Fresh Art Photography Elizabeth Freshour

Fresh & Co. Studio is used for rehearsals too. An indie rock band practices there, and because why not. theater co. has been rehearsing for a performance of Fair Youth which will be presented, April 18, 19 & 20Crafters and yoga instructors also rent the space, you can find out about these events on the website too.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Services Shop News  The Grove St. Louis Jodie Allen Fresh&Co.Studio Fresh Art Photography Elizabeth Freshour

To see the types of events that have been held at Fresh & Co. Studio, click Tour on the website. The studio is open by appointment between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., 7 days a week. There is a kitchenette, free wi-fi, an outdoor area, and tables, chairs (for 40), and linens for rent. Freshour maintains a list of party stylists and caterers on the website, or you can provide your own. Entry to the space is concierge-style, so after you key in the entry code, you are completely on your own.

When Freshour moved to St. Louis, she had no professional contacts. Now, with the creation of Fresh & Co. Studio, she says she has built incredible relationships with many entrepreneurs, which has added to the reasons why she is so happy they moved to St. Louis.

Fresh & Co. Studio and Fresh Art Photography, 4366 Manchester in The Grove. For photography studio/event pricing information contact Elizabeth at info@freshandcostudio.com, (314) 722-8812.