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Eric Hamblett

Former CWEnder Eric Hamblett checks in from Colombia, South America

Nicki's Central West End Guide travel  TechArtista CoWorking Environment Eric Hamblett Dreamer Palomino Dreamer Hostel

With coronavirus affecting almost every corner of the globe, I thought it would be interesting to check in with Eric Hamblett, who moved from the Central West End to join a new venture in Colombia, South America in 2017.  It was an opportunity for me to see what my friend has been up to, find out how the government there is handling the pandemic and, via this post, take you along for the ride.

It doesn’t require much of an imagination to see how Hamblett is handling being quarantined, after he sent a photo (above) of the view of the Caribbean taken from his apartment in Santa Marta, where he’s been on stay-at-home orders since the end of March.

Nicki's Central West End Guide travel  TechArtista CoWorking Environment Eric Hamblett Dreamer Palomino Dreamer Hostel

After graduating from Washington University in 2013, Hamblett, above right, and several other graduates including Christopher Holt and SLU grad Max Rava, founded the CWE’s TechArtista Co-working Environment at 4818 Washington Ave.

Four years later, when a respected friend and fellow W.U. grad, Aaron Belkin, above left, asked him to join a hostel business as an owner and oversee a bit of everything from guest experience to staff management and new property development, he jumped at the chance. “I saw this move as an opportunity to gain international management experience and explore a new part of the world.”

It wasn’t a total surprise that Hamblett would choose to leave his St. Louis friends and the co-working space he started to move to a new country. His parents served in the diplomatic corps and over the years they were in Europe he and his siblings lived in 7 different countries. Those experiences “wired him to accept change as a positive force.”

How is the Colombian government handling the coronavirus pandemic?

The government has done a serious job of monitoring the population. People can only leave their homes once a week to do their shopping, otherwise they’re likely to be fined. In the city of Bogota, men and women must alternate days to run errands. I don’t expect the country to be ravaged by the disease if it maintains these strict controls. There are 300 COVID-19 cases in Santa Marta, a total of 12,000 in Colombia, though that’s not entirely accurate as testing is a luxury and many people fear to visit hospitals.

To some uneducated people, it’s a ‘white-man’ virus that was brought into the country, so the locals in some of those communities don’t want any gringos walking around. The communities have closed access to their land and mountains to prevent any tourist or worker from bringing the virus in.

From the photograph it doesn’t look as if working from home while in quarantine could be all bad?

For the time being, I am quarantined with my business partner Jonah, who loves to cook, and there is a grocery store down the street. Luckily we help each other stay focused and productive. Right now I’m working on hotel-related soft projects. The situation could be a lot worse, considering we have a safe building and beautiful ocean views. By far the most exciting event these days is waking up to the flying dolphin shows provided by our local aquarium.

How does what you thought you would be doing when you moved to Colombia match the reality? 

On a professional front, the reality is very close to what I imagined. I’ve had many ‘pinch-me’ moments as we’ve worked on our existing properties and the new ones to come. From a personal side, though I moved to Colombia with my partner Aaron, he tragically passed away about a year into our adventure. This left a hole in my heart, but it is a relationship that still makes me smile each day. Belkin’s brother Noah has stepped in and is now a partner in the venture.

Describe the two projects you’re involved in now

Our two operating properties are located in Santa Marta and Palomino, about 1 1/2 hours apart on either side of a famous park named Tayrona National Park, an exotic Caribbean jungle. This area of Colombia is very popular because of its unique ecological conditions. The Caribbean is in front and behind it is a dramatic mountain range that leaps to 18,000 feet.

Of the two properties, Dreamer Santa Marta is a true backpackers hostel and is the most popular choice for foreign travelers. The hostel can accommodate 80 guests in private or shared rooms, and if we’re full, you can rent a hammock.Nicki's Central West End Guide travel  TechArtista CoWorking Environment Eric Hamblett Dreamer Palomino Dreamer Hostel

Dreamer Palomino

The name Dreamer was chosen to capture the essence of a traveler – someone in search of sublime experiences, able to travel the world with a big heart, and an open mind. Dreamer was created by two Italian best-friends who traveled the world and selected Santa Marta as their destiny. I joined the company as it was already underway!

We offer a high quality hospitality experience at Dreamer with bars, restaurants and unique day trips and multi-day experiences at a budget price. “We remember our guests’ names, and these small things have built a strong word-of-mouth reputation and critical presence in publications such as Lonely Planet.”

The NY Times recently published a gorgeous feature on a trek with the hostel as the starting point called The Lost City.

Nicki's Central West End Guide travel  TechArtista CoWorking Environment Eric Hamblett Dreamer Palomino Dreamer Hostel

Tayrona National Park

Dreamer Palomino has accommodations for 100 guests. The resort-hostel property has private beach access, a botanical garden with over 60 species of plants, and amenities that are designed to appeal to both couples and families.

What’s on the horizon for you and your partners?

The success of these two properties has led us to acquire land and real-estate for three new expansion projects. We purchased a beautiful, historic house in the heart of Bogota, which will be our first urban project. We also acquired a lot next to Dreamer Palomino, where we are constructing an up-scale hotel with the coast’s largest swimming pool. Finally we took a swing on a remote Colombian island off the coast of Nicaragua named San Andres. This project, whenever it’s complete, will be the granddaddy of them all.

Tell us a little about the indigenous people

At W. U. I studied anthropology and though I’m here with my business-cap on, I’ve become passionate about the local, indigenous culture, who managed to survive extinction over centuries and are the last surviving civilizations from the Inca and Aztec periods. This was all possible because of their connection with nature.

They view themselves as guardians of the natural systems. The stick and gourd, above, are used in a ritual indigenous men perform to connect themselves with their god, mother nature, Aluna. Inside the gourd is a mixture of crushed seashell from coastal beach sites that they apply to their gums, bringing themselves closer to Aluna.

It’s an incredibly refreshing perspective and I recommend this documentary for anybody curious to learn more. (The running time for the video is 1 hour 28 mins.)

What foods have you come to enjoy that are typically Colombian?

Living on the coast, seafood has come to dominate my palette. I frequently eat filete from a fish named Robalo in a traditional coconut sauce and rice, with fried plantains the locals call “patacones.” Colombian cuisine, no matter which area you visit, is rustic. I always love getting out in Bogota to the cosmopolitan restaurants there. It takes me back to St. Louis, though the food in St. Louis is hard to beat.

What do you miss about living in St. Louis?

I miss the mid-western hospitality. There is definitely something about the personalities and friendliness of St. Louisans. I also miss the food and the service. There’s a reason why St. Louis has produced hospitality legends such as Danny Meyer. It comes down to the character of the place.

For more information about Dreamer or Dreamer Palomino, or just to say hello: here is Hamblett’s email address: ehamblett@gmail.com.

CWE Ideas: Radiophiles Podcast Meetup, Thurs. June 29

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings Food and Drink  podcast club Pagan Wine Bar Eric Hamblett CWE Ideas: Radiophiles Central West End

The 1st CWE Ideas podcast meet up, Radiophiles, was held at Pagan Wine Bar, above, in early May. It was such a hit that CWE Ideas founders Eric Hamblett and I decided it should become a monthly event. With invaluable input from podcast afficionado Haley Bujard, above right, and CWEnder John Barth, chief content officer of PRX, shown in photo below, it turned into a fascinating discussion of s-town, a podcast that was released to wide acclaim earlier this year.

Shown behind the bar above, proprietor Ed King, and CWEnder Melody Walker.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings Food and Drink  podcast club Pagan Wine Bar Eric Hamblett CWE Ideas: Radiophiles Central West End

The 2nd Radiophiles event is scheduled for Thursday, June 29. Haley Bujard and John Barth, above, will once again lead the discussion and Ed King has graciously agreed to allow us to meet at Pagan Wine Bar, 239 N. Euclid, from 7 to 8:30.

We will be discussing 4 diverse episodes from the Criminal series (each podcast is about 25 mins. long). The list includes one I suggest everyone listen to, whether you are able to join us next Thursday or not. I’m still smiling about the ingenious solution to a city-dweller’s trash problem. Here is Episode 15: He’s Neutral

The event is free, however we suggest you purchase a cocktail or glass of wine from Ed King, proprietor of the hippest night spot in the neighborhood, to thank him for his hospitality. For more information and to rsvp, here is a link to the CWE Ideas webpage.Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings Food and Drink  podcast club Pagan Wine Bar Eric Hamblett CWE Ideas: Radiophiles Central West End

TechArtista’s a stop on CAM’s Open Studios Tour in CWE Sunday

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  TechArtista Sheldon Johnson Marlene Lewis Mark Pack Mariana Parisca Kim Kissinger Marino Jennifer Hayes Eric Hamblett Emmeline Solomon Edo Rosenblith Christopher Holt Ben Kiel Barbara Holtz Ann Maree Walker

TechArtista, 4818 Washington Avenue, recently added "art gallery" to the long list of what's available to its 140 members at the collaborative work environment in the CWE. The name "TechArtista" stems from the Italian soccer term "trequeartista," which describes a playmaker whose creativity and technique helps score goals. This Sunday, October 4, that creativity, evidenced most recently in T/A's 1st art exhibition, Surface In-Tension, will be open to the public during CAM's Open Studios Tour.

The photo above shows Honora Coveyou and her father John, who's a member of T/A, at the August 28th opening of Surface In-Tension. Honora is looking at one of two obelisks painted by Screwed Arts Collective based on Cherokee. (Work on the obelisks was completed and celebrated at an earlier event).

Open Studios STL's kick-off is scheduled for this evening, Friday, from 6 to 9 p.m. at CAM, 3750 Washington Blvd. On Saturday, artists' studios located east of Grand Boulevard will be open to the public from 10 to 5, and on Sunday, artists west of Grand will do the same. There is no charge for the self-guided tours.

Other CWE artists who will be "in residence" Sunday are located next door to TechArtista in the Pierce Arrow Building, 4814 Washington Avenue. Artists include Barbara Holtz, Marlene Lewis (watch PBS Arts Interview on website), who is sharing her studio for the day with painter Jennifer HayesSheldon Johnson, Ben Kiel (typeface designer) and Kim Kissinger Marino, who just moved to St. Louis in July.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  TechArtista Sheldon Johnson Marlene Lewis Mark Pack Mariana Parisca Kim Kissinger Marino Jennifer Hayes Eric Hamblett Emmeline Solomon Edo Rosenblith Christopher Holt Ben Kiel Barbara Holtz Ann Maree Walker  The reason TechArtista's co-founders, Eric Hamblett and Christopher Holt, left, decided to stage an art exhibition in an already vibrant co-working environment and start-up scene can be found in a catalog that was created for Surface In-Tension: "We realized that art is a manifestation of our vision for a truly cross-disciplinary workspace, utilizing tensions between different disciplines to inspire innovative ideas. The straddling of these areas is what makes both our workspace and our gallery, which are one in the same, so unique."

Photo above courtesy of St. Louis Small Business Monthly.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  TechArtista Sheldon Johnson Marlene Lewis Mark Pack Mariana Parisca Kim Kissinger Marino Jennifer Hayes Eric Hamblett Emmeline Solomon Edo Rosenblith Christopher Holt Ben Kiel Barbara Holtz Ann Maree Walker

Mariana Parisca, above, a recent graduate of Washington University with a double major in studio art and anthropology, was the curator of Surface In-Tension. Parisca is originally from Venezuela and moved to Toledo, Ohio in 2000. The artist remained in St. Louis following graduation, and is now an admissions counselor at W. U. Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Art. And she added, "I'm an artist always."
 
Parisca is photographed with her sculpture, Tension Form, shown suspended above right, which was on view opening night only. The piece was sewn using tights as the medium and then stretched with strings to the walls.  She saw this creation as "a metaphor for TechArtista where many different types of people share spaces and collaborate to innovate in the spaces in between." To Parisca, "Art that makes a clear point is boring." 
Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  TechArtista Sheldon Johnson Marlene Lewis Mark Pack Mariana Parisca Kim Kissinger Marino Jennifer Hayes Eric Hamblett Emmeline Solomon Edo Rosenblith Christopher Holt Ben Kiel Barbara Holtz Ann Maree Walker
Ann-Maree Walker, above, a research assistant in The Study Room for Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the Saint Louis Art Museum is another artist featured in the exhibition. You're invited to touch her installation Circuit, a stunning wall of feathers. 
 Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  TechArtista Sheldon Johnson Marlene Lewis Mark Pack Mariana Parisca Kim Kissinger Marino Jennifer Hayes Eric Hamblett Emmeline Solomon Edo Rosenblith Christopher Holt Ben Kiel Barbara Holtz Ann Maree Walker
Clothesline's artists, above, placed articles of clothing in suitcases that could be inscribed with a message and hung on the clothesline, below.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  TechArtista Sheldon Johnson Marlene Lewis Mark Pack Mariana Parisca Kim Kissinger Marino Jennifer Hayes Eric Hamblett Emmeline Solomon Edo Rosenblith Christopher Holt Ben Kiel Barbara Holtz Ann Maree Walker
 
The sign reads: "Baggage Claim: Air out baggage on the clothesline."

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  TechArtista Sheldon Johnson Marlene Lewis Mark Pack Mariana Parisca Kim Kissinger Marino Jennifer Hayes Eric Hamblett Emmeline Solomon Edo Rosenblith Christopher Holt Ben Kiel Barbara Holtz Ann Maree Walker

Edo Rosenblith's fantastic Supper Club, above and below, covers a chalk wall on the 3rd floor.

  Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  TechArtista Sheldon Johnson Marlene Lewis Mark Pack Mariana Parisca Kim Kissinger Marino Jennifer Hayes Eric Hamblett Emmeline Solomon Edo Rosenblith Christopher Holt Ben Kiel Barbara Holtz Ann Maree Walker

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  TechArtista Sheldon Johnson Marlene Lewis Mark Pack Mariana Parisca Kim Kissinger Marino Jennifer Hayes Eric Hamblett Emmeline Solomon Edo Rosenblith Christopher Holt Ben Kiel Barbara Holtz Ann Maree Walker

Jacob Elior Berkowitz acrylic on wood, above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  TechArtista Sheldon Johnson Marlene Lewis Mark Pack Mariana Parisca Kim Kissinger Marino Jennifer Hayes Eric Hamblett Emmeline Solomon Edo Rosenblith Christopher Holt Ben Kiel Barbara Holtz Ann Maree Walker

Artist Emmeline Solomon uses teabags dipped in wax as one of the components in her humorous Casual Idolatry, above and below.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  TechArtista Sheldon Johnson Marlene Lewis Mark Pack Mariana Parisca Kim Kissinger Marino Jennifer Hayes Eric Hamblett Emmeline Solomon Edo Rosenblith Christopher Holt Ben Kiel Barbara Holtz Ann Maree Walker

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  TechArtista Sheldon Johnson Marlene Lewis Mark Pack Mariana Parisca Kim Kissinger Marino Jennifer Hayes Eric Hamblett Emmeline Solomon Edo Rosenblith Christopher Holt Ben Kiel Barbara Holtz Ann Maree Walker

Mark Pack's Metamorphic, above, is just one more example of many imaginative works at TechArtista. The exhibition will remain on view through November. 

Curator Mariana Parisca started putting the exhibition together in June for an end of August opening. The effort was dizzying, and she thanks the TechArtista's community, especially Mia Ranard, Christopher Holt and Eric Hamblett, as well as her friend Kahlil Irving for their invaluable help in making it happen.

CAM's Open Studio Tours, Saturday (east of Grand Blvd.) and Sunday (west of Grand Blvd.), 10 to 5 p.m. For more information about TechArtista, visit the website.