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Mayor Lyda Krewson

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.”

Hodiamont Tracks Clean-up Day reaps more rewards than anticipated

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

On a hot Saturday morning early this month, a large group of volunteers gathered at Lane Tabernacle CME Church at 910 N. Newstead to “Clean up and Green up the Hodiamont Tracks.” The Tracks, a 3.5 mile former streetcar/bus right-of-way just north of Delmar, is being considered for development by Great Rivers Greenway, the public agency that connects the region with a system of greenways.

Residents of the 7 neighborhoods that border the Tracks, which extend from Vandeventer to Skinker (near Gwen Giles Park), have expressed overwhelming support for the plan. When considering an extension to their system, a major concern of Great Rivers Greenway is ongoing maintenance. To demonstrate how seriously the affected neighborhoods want the project to be adopted, Judith Arnold, a resident of the Vandeventer neighborhood, and a committee of about 20 people, organized the clean-up day for August 10, and sent out a call for volunteers.  Judith hoped for 200 people, 209 answered the call.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

Mayor Lyda Krewson was there for the kickoff, middle above, and extended her gratitude to the volunteers for their participation. There were residents from the 7 neighborhoods that border the Tracks, groups from Churches United in the 18th Ward, several Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops, staff from Great Rivers Greenway, Brightside St. Louis, and Mission STL.  I met a mother and her 10 year-old daughter who drove in from Fenton to participate after seeing the event on local news. And a few of us were there because we recognize what a positive impact the development of this greenway just north of us will have on the entire community.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

From left, 26th Ward Alderman Shameem Hubbard, whose Ward includes blocks that border the Tracks, and 1st District Congressman William Lacy Clay. Congressman Clay said he grew up on a block of Cabanne, which is in Hubbard’s Ward.

Others who came to show support for the event included 18th Ward Alderman Jesse Todd, and 28th Ward Alderwoman Heather Navarro and her family.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

Volunteer Coordinator & Event Organizer Judith Arnold (at podium above right) introduced 9 field supervisors (standing behind her), who were each assigned a section of the Tracks and a team of volunteers.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

I got one of the plum assignments with a group that included Congressman Lacy Clay and 22 members of his Congressional Youth Cabinet, which was a wonderful experience. We were charged with picking up trash along the Tracks from Kingshighway east to Taylor.

I was impressed that the Congressman stayed for the duration of the cleanup and worked as hard as anyone. He stopped occasionally to chat with residents who would do a double-take and then walk over to visit, including Pastor Clinton Stancil (in white shirt above) from nearby Wayman AME Church, who kindly invited us over for barbecue.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

The photo above shows Congressman Clay, his Congressional Youth Cabinet (Jasmina Hadzic in red hat is in charge of the group), and several other volunteers wearing their “Clean up” tees. (I’m deep in the background.)

Arnold arranged for the City’s Refuse Division to collect bulk items in advance of the clean-up day (illegal dumping is a persistent problem along the Hodiamont Tracks), and the Forestry Division to clear overgrowth and honeysuckle.

It’s amazingly quiet along the Hodiamont Tracks—almost like a country road. On that summer morning there wasn’t much more than the sound of birds and humming insects in the brush, which allowed for some nice conversations with my teammates. There was an opportunity to thank  Congressman Clay for sponsoring H.R. 3435, a bill in Congress that would give cities freedom to pass their own gun restrictions, and we chatted about how proud he is of the young people in his Youth Cabinet.

There was such a positive feeling among the people who worked together that day. Doing physical work for a common cause brought strangers together. It really is true that we are all basically alike and have shared interests and concerns. We want safe neighborhoods, good education for our children, clean streets, and most of all a solution to rampant gun violence.

If you haven’t tired of reading by now, here is one more story:

In preparation for this clean up day my husband Jim made many trips along the length of the Tracks to take photos so Judith Arnold would know how many volunteers she needed to assign to each section.

On each trip he waved to the same group of people sitting in the shade on a trash-strewn stretch of the Tracks just west of Kingshighway. Apparently, they had gotten word that there was going to be a cleanup. To his great surprise Jim discovered that they had pitched in and transformed the area. When he stopped to thank them for their efforts they asked about the t-shirts they had seen on the volunteers. He said he would see what he could do and returned later with a shirt for each of them, which they proudly wore.

Bottom line: The collective effort of so many was nothing short of inspirational. Kudos to Judith Arnold for her capable leadership and to all sponsoring organizations for their contributions.

P.S. – Congressman Clay’s Congressional Youth Cabinet is looking for the “Next Generation of Leaders in Missouri’s First District.” For more information on this opportunity, click 2019 2020 CYC Brochure. There is also a Congressional Internship Program for undergraduates and graduate students seeking professional experience while earning academic credit through their university. For more info, click Internship Pamphlet Fall 2019 Spring 2020

And finally, I’ll leave you with this comment from Congressman Clay’s local staffer Jasmina Hadzic in response to my thanking her for sending info for this post. It is another example of how the Clean up Day gave me so much more than I could ever give:

  “I feel obligated to serve the United States government and the party that saved thousands of refugees who were displaced by the war in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Similarly, I am grateful to Saint Louis and it’s citizens for welcoming us in 1997 and for giving us the chance to make a positive impact.  Without a doubt, I want to do all I can to set a good example for our youth, and make our city a better place to live.”

M.A.D.E., a “maker space” opens on Delmar

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

On November 16 entrepreneurs Jim McKelvey and Doug Auer (top photo), along with Cortex’s President and CEO Dennis Lower (bottom photo: middle), hosted a ribbon cutting for M.A.D.E. (Makers, Artists, Designers, Entrepreneurs), a new 33,000 s.f. maker space at 5127 Delmar.

The grand opening marked the one year anniversary since the abrupt closure of all 10 TechShops across the country, including one located in the CWE’s Cortex Innovation District where there were 500 members. As soon as the news broke, McKelvey contacted both Auer, his partner in Third Degree Glass Factory, and Lower and together “we vowed we would be the city that saved our maker space.”

They acquired TechShop’s equipment, purchased the vacant building directly across from the The Glass Factory that formerly housed a Vespa dealership, and immediately got to work renovating the space. Amazingly, the total gut rehab project was accomplished in less than one year!

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

In his welcoming remarks Jim McKelvey, above left, the co-founder of the Square payment device, said the camaraderie and inspiration of makers at TechShop in San Francisco was very important to him when he was developing the Square prototype.

He added that Mayor Lyda Krewson and the City of St. Louis were extremely helpful in facilitating the quick opening of M.A.D.E. “Getting it up and running within a year wouldn’t have been possible without their cooperation. This is Phase 1,” he continued, “Phase 2 will house The Magic House for children on the second floor, which is set to open this summer. (More on this exciting news follows.)

In time, McKelvey, Auer and Lower plan to transform the entire area on and around Delmar into a “maker zone.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

Mayor Krewson drew a laugh when she recalled a phone call from Doug Auer and Jim McKelvey 15 years ago when she was 28th Ward Alderman: “We’re interested in a vacant building on Delmar…a few people will be blowing glass…” The wildly successful Third Degree Glass Factory opened in 2002 and Krewson said she has learned over time that “Doug can build anything, and Jim can do anything.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

Beth Fitzgerald, president of Magic House said her board wanted to expand its reach into north city and they contacted Cortex’s Dennis Lower for ideas. When Magic House opens this summer at M.A.D.E., the board’s vision will be realized. This summer is also the 40th anniversary of the opening of Magic House in Kirkwood. Magic House at M.A.D.E., which will offer classes and camps with a focus on STEAM education, is geared toward elementary and middle school children.

In his final remarks McKelvey said, “Come here and play. If you don’t know how to use the equipment, ask us. There are no rules—well,” he laughed, “there is a waiver.”

The photos below show a small sampling of what is available at M.A.D.E.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

Top photo: Textiles teacher Sheila Lenkman also works part time for The Repertory Theater. She explained that, for beginners, the first step is to sign up to learn how to use the equipment, which includes a long-arm quilter.  There will be classes based on the needs of the community whether that is pattern making, installing zippers, etc.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

It was fun to see CWEnder Melody Walker in her new role as Economic Development Editor at St. Louis Public Radio. Follow her on Twitter here.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

Left: Wiley Price IV, newly elected to represent District 84 in the Missouri House of Representatives, and right: Price with Justin Idelburg, left, community leader in Ward 26, and Doug Auer.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

M.A.D.E., 5127 Delmar, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Membership is $50 per month plus a small hourly fee to use the equipment. For more information, visit the website.