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Jim McKelvey

LaunchCode hosts Breaking Barriers Celebration

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Web/Tech  Lori Rasmussen LaunchCode Techforce Center Jim McKelvey JEMA Jeff Mazur

LaunchCode has just completed a $5 million fundraising campaign and is poised to begin work on the renovation of its headquarters located in the former Nat Rivers State Office Building at 4811 Delmar just east of Euclid, above. The Breaking Barriers Celebration was held last Thursday, November 5.

 

LaunchCode was the brainchild of Jim McKelvey (co-founder of Square with Twitter’s Jack Dorsey), who hired a team of “techies” to offer free coding classes and job placement services in the technology field after McKelvey found there was a shortage of qualified candidates in St. Louis to staff Square’s needs. Classes were held in the Cortex Innovation District until 2015 when LaunchCode moved to the Delmar location.

Last year 1,036 students completed the program, while 3,700 additional applicants were not admitted to the program because of a lack of space. When the renovation is completed in Fall 2021 the Techforce Center staff expects student population to increase by 30%.

At the groundbreaking last Thursday, two inspiring female graduates of the program told the crowd, some of whom were contributors to the fundraising campaign, how grateful they are for the opportunity to have participated in the free program, and how their lives have been impacted now that they are in stable high-paying tech jobs.

JEMA Studio’s John Mueller said his design team considered the significance of LaunchCode’s location on the north side of the “Delmar Divide” and decided it was important to make the entry to the building more welcoming and visible to the community, so glass blocks that currently frame the entry will be replaced with clear glass windows. Plans also include a rooftop terrace.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Web/Tech  Lori Rasmussen LaunchCode Techforce Center Jim McKelvey JEMA Jeff Mazur

From left, LaunchCode founder Jim McKelvey, Chief Development Officer Lori Rasmussen, and Board Member & CWEnder Alison Ferring are shown discussing the many barriers to success that were written on the soon-to-be demolished entry walls. Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Web/Tech  Lori Rasmussen LaunchCode Techforce Center Jim McKelvey JEMA Jeff Mazur  LaunchCode’s Executive Director Jeff Mazur, above, welcomed the crowd virtually.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Web/Tech  Lori Rasmussen LaunchCode Techforce Center Jim McKelvey JEMA Jeff Mazur

The two walls covered in messages that depict barriers to success, above and below.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Web/Tech  Lori Rasmussen LaunchCode Techforce Center Jim McKelvey JEMA Jeff Mazur

The video shows Jim McKelvey taking the first swing. Attendees were then invited to take turns symbolically breaking through those barriers too.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Web/Tech  Lori Rasmussen LaunchCode Techforce Center Jim McKelvey JEMA Jeff Mazur

McKelvey told St. Louis Magazine reporter Amanda Woytus (article here): “At some point, when a visitor comes to St. Louis, they’re going to go to the Arch, they’re going to go to Anheuser-Busch.” He said, “I want them to come here, and I want them to understand that LaunchCode is as important of a place.”

Earlier posts about LaunchCode can be found here, as well as a recent post on a development plan for the area that surrounds LaunchCode. With the addition of Craft Alliance, which just opened west of Kingshighway, Delmar continues to show continuing and much-needed progress.

Visit LaunchCode’s website for more information.

Theaster Gates, world-renowned artist & innovative urban planner, recommits to St. Louis

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Third Degree Glass Factory Theaster Gates The Magic House at M.A.D.E. Mayor Lyda Krewson M.A.D.E. Kevin Bryant Jim McKelvey Emily Rauh Pulitzer Doug Auer Baredu Ahmed

Several weeks ago Kingsway Development’s Kevin Bryant, far right (see earlier post here), brought an eclectic group of people together at Third Degree Glass Factory to meet Chicago-based, world-renowned artist* and urban planner Theaster Gates, 2nd from right. Gates is reviving his plan to turn the former Euclid Elementary School just north of Fountain Park into a hub of mixed-income artists lofts and creative spaces called the Fountain Park Arts Block.

Among the 30 or so guests was former Alvin Ailey Dance Company member Baredu Ahmed, left, and Mayor Lyda Krewson.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Third Degree Glass Factory Theaster Gates The Magic House at M.A.D.E. Mayor Lyda Krewson M.A.D.E. Kevin Bryant Jim McKelvey Emily Rauh Pulitzer Doug Auer Baredu Ahmed

Other attendees included Brian Phillips, executive director of Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation, Dr. Lisa Small, principal of Washington Montessori School, Abdul-Kaba Abdullah, executive director of Park Central Development, architect Chip Crawford of Clayco, Pamela McLucas, interim president of Park Place Housing & Urban Development, and Lisa Potts, project director of the Community Mental Health Fund.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Third Degree Glass Factory Theaster Gates The Magic House at M.A.D.E. Mayor Lyda Krewson M.A.D.E. Kevin Bryant Jim McKelvey Emily Rauh Pulitzer Doug Auer Baredu Ahmed

Pictured with Gates and Bryant are Emily Rauh Pulitzer, chair of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, who has just announced plans to create new housing on Olive Street in Grand Center (read St. Louis Public Radio report here), and Laura Costello, director of real estate for the LRA (Land Reutilization Authority). Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Third Degree Glass Factory Theaster Gates The Magic House at M.A.D.E. Mayor Lyda Krewson M.A.D.E. Kevin Bryant Jim McKelvey Emily Rauh Pulitzer Doug Auer Baredu Ahmed

18th Ward Alderman Jesse Todd was there, center, as well as 26th Ward Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Third Degree Glass Factory Theaster Gates The Magic House at M.A.D.E. Mayor Lyda Krewson M.A.D.E. Kevin Bryant Jim McKelvey Emily Rauh Pulitzer Doug Auer Baredu Ahmed

When I interviewed Kevin Bryant in 2018 (see earlier post here) I learned that Theaster Gates was interested in renovating the Euclid Elementary School, just north of Fountain Park, but funding was an issue. Now that several development projects are in the works for the 154-acre redevelopment area (just 2 blocks north of the CWE), Bryant was able to woo Gates back to St. Louis to take a second look.

Plans for the Fountain Park Arts Block include 32 loft apartments, 21 new housing units, and a fully-equipped arts center. The site is directly across from Washington Montessori School on Euclid.

Gates believes that “culture can be a catalyst for social transformation in any city, anywhere.” He has transformed an area of Chicago’s South Side by repurposing 50-60 buildings, Examples include the Dorchester Art and Housing Collaborative, and the renovation of the Stony Island Arts Bank. (For more on how Gates’ got started, listen to his 2015 Ted Talk.)

Another St. Louis project that has been dormant is The Pink House, a music program that will be housed in three buildings in north St. Louis, two on Mallinkrodt, and one on Blair near Salisbury.  Baredu Ahmed (in first photograph) will be moving here from New York to get the project up and running soon.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Third Degree Glass Factory Theaster Gates The Magic House at M.A.D.E. Mayor Lyda Krewson M.A.D.E. Kevin Bryant Jim McKelvey Emily Rauh Pulitzer Doug Auer Baredu Ahmed  While Nick Dunne, above, communications director of Third Degree Glass Factory, led the group on a tour of the glass-blowing studi0s, he mentioned that founders Doug Auer and Jim McKelvey purchased the building in 2002 for $20,000. They are currently in the process of renovating the entry adding a courtyard and more event space. Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Third Degree Glass Factory Theaster Gates The Magic House at M.A.D.E. Mayor Lyda Krewson M.A.D.E. Kevin Bryant Jim McKelvey Emily Rauh Pulitzer Doug Auer Baredu Ahmed

The group then walked across Delmar to see more of what has been designated the Delmar Maker District, including  M.A.D.E., an impressive “maker space” that opened in 2018 at 5127 Delmar, and The Magic House at M.A.D.E. upstairs, which opened this summer.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Third Degree Glass Factory Theaster Gates The Magic House at M.A.D.E. Mayor Lyda Krewson M.A.D.E. Kevin Bryant Jim McKelvey Emily Rauh Pulitzer Doug Auer Baredu Ahmed

Auer and McKelvey have acquired additional properties in the Delmar Maker District including two buildings immediately east of Third Degree Glass, above, and two structures just west of M.A.D.E., shown below.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Third Degree Glass Factory Theaster Gates The Magic House at M.A.D.E. Mayor Lyda Krewson M.A.D.E. Kevin Bryant Jim McKelvey Emily Rauh Pulitzer Doug Auer Baredu Ahmed  Dunne said they haven’t decided what they are going to do with the two buildings above. They are seeking input from the Delmar Maker District community to determine what’s needed. If you listen to Gates’ Ted Talk you’ll hear the same philosophy about involving the community in decision-making.

In a press release following the get-together, Kevin Bryant says: “Fountain Park’s mix of large, stately brick homes, vacant lots and dilapidated structures are ripe for redefinition and rehabilitation…We have already begun construction on the first three homes around Fountain Park circle and we are working with one of the local housing organizations to assist existing homeowners with basic repairs this fall so that they keep pace with development.”

As that meeting wrapped up, I had a chance to ask Theaster Gates what prompted him to refocus on St. Louis again.

“I started work in St. Louis 12 years ago,” he said, “and then fell asleep. There’s never been a better time to restart than now.”

*After posting this article I received an email from Emily Rauh Pulitzer expanding on what I already knew about Theaster Gates.

“He started as a potter,” Pulitzer said, “but he has gone way beyond that making sculpture, paintings, and mixed-media objects which have been shown in important galleries and museums in this country and in Europe.

He won the Nasher Sculpture Prize and has often done performances with the musical group, ‘The Blind Monks of Mississippi.’ The Whitney (Museum) describes him as a sculptor, urban planner and performance artist. He is not only charismatic but accomplishes an unbelievable amount of work.”

The Magic House @ M.A.D.E. is open

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

The Magic House opened its satellite location at M.A.D.E.  yesterday, June 7, at 5127 Delmar (between Kingshighway & Union). It’s located on the second floor of the 33,000 s.f. maker space, “a place where St. Louis designers create and collaborate,” which opened in late November 2018.

A veritable techy wonderland of interactive experiences awaits those ages 3 to 13—at least that is what The Magic House @ M.A.D.E.’s brochure says.  But when I spoke with The Magic House’s Chief Administrative Officer Carrie Hutchcraft on Wednesday, during a preview day for members,  she explained that kids ages 6 to 13 will be their “sweet spot” at the satellite location. Younger siblings are certainly welcome to come along, and there are plenty of things for them to do, but the activities on Delmar are STEAM focused (science, technology, education, arts & mathematics), whereas the Kirkwood location is geared toward younger children.

Hutchcraft added: “Middle schoolers think they are ‘too old’ for the Kirkwood location.” From what I observed, they will be happily engaged as soon as they walk through the doors of The Magic House @ M.A.D.E.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

M.A.D.E. was founded by Doug Auer and Jim McKelvey, who are responsible for Third Degree Glass Factory located across the street. McKelvey is perhaps best known as a co-creator of Square.

Read more about M.A.D.E. on the website here and on an earlier post here.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

At a strategic planning meeting in 2016, the board of The Magic House mandated that the organization should stretch its reach beyond its Kirkwood facility and open a satellite location in north St. Louis. The Magic House had been working closely with the St. Louis Public Schools for 30 years, but the board felt they could and should do more.

The board’s objective became to open a satellite experience in north St. Louis, thereby offering accessibility to its programs to a broader community. Auer and McKelvey had worked previously with Dennis Lower, head of  the Cortex Innnovation Community, on creating M.A.D.E. after the closing of Tech Shop in Cortex. Together they determined to create a new facility in its current location on Delmar. Happily for those of us who live nearby, that vision has been fully realized.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

In theory, according to Carrie Hutchcraft, the activities available at The Magic House @ M.A.D.E. are similar to what’s available downstairs at M.A.D.E.  There are 4 distinct areas of learning experiences, as shown on the banners above. The hope is that as kids learn from their exposure to The Magic House @ M.A.D.E., they will “graduate” and become members of M.A.D.E. (downstairs) in high school.

Some of those activities that are sure to thrill are shown in the photographs that follow:Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

As I looked at the learning opportunities it occurred to me that these activities are inter-generational, and that parents and grandparents might also enjoy learning how to code a robot to move, or create a stop motion video.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

The entry fee is $5 per person, starting at age 1. However, family membership for a year is a reasonable $50. Hours at the new location are posted above and correspond to the hours at the Kirkwood location.  A display listing the generous donors occupies a wall in the new space.  Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

In 2014-15 when Mayor Lyda Krewson was the 28th Ward Alderwoman, many CWEnders worked with her to cultivate the sunflower garden on a property across the street from M.A.D.E. Although it was intended that the Sunflower Project would both beautify that section of Delmar and inspire others to think about future possibilities, I doubt anyone imagined what would blossom nearby in such short order.

Progress is often frustratingly slow, but when there are people with the means and the intentions to contribute to the community, good things spring up. Thanks to Doug Auer, Jim McKelvey and the board of The Magic House for all that they’ve done for the neighborhood and the City of St. Louis.

The Magic House @ M.A.D.E., 5127 Delmar. Limited parking is available on a lot just to the west of the building, and there is free parking on Delmar. The lot to the east does not belong to M.A.D.E.  Summer hours: Monday through Saturday 9:30 to 5:30, Sunday 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.