In recent years, St. Louisans have turned abandoned buildings into apartments, art galleries and restaurants. But a grassroots effort has repurposed a north St. Louis space into a much more active venue.
The transformation of St. Liborius Church at 1835 N. 18th St. into an indoor skate park called Sk8 Liborius is the subject of a film called “Sanctuary.” The short documentary by Ashley Seering and Cory Byers will be screened Thursday evening at The Tivoli Theatre, as part of the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, presented by Cinema St. Louis.
The title pays homage to the history of the building as well as the skating group’s efforts to create a refuge for all.
“Just the idea that their community … can really come together in a space and do what they love and then also do something good,” Seering said.
‘The most amazing thing’
Everyone is invited to the Sk8 Liborius' open-skate programs, and admission is free — sort of.
“They ask people that, if you're going to skate there that you either give them $5 or you give them an hour of your work-time,” Seering said.
The eight-minute “Sanctuary” uses two subjects to tell its story: a younger St. Louis man who spearheaded the renovation and an older man who serves as a kind of one-person welcome committee for the space.
In January, the documentary was named Best Film and won for Best Cinematography in the Fusion Doc Challenge at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
Seering was captivated by the project as soon as she walked into the church. Here’s part of her conversation with St. Louis Public Radio's Nancy Fowler:
Tell me what someone would see if they opened the front door to the church.
The first time you ever walk in the door there, it's like the most amazing thing. I mean, it's probably one of the most unique locations that I've ever visited.
And it's one of those things where you aren't really sure what you're looking at because it looks like this old Catholic Church, and there is still a lot of the original stuff there and they are trying to incorporate as much of the original stuff into it as they can … stuff like the art, like the original artwork on the ceilings and just the big columns.
And the floor is still the original, and then over in the corner they have some old pews that were left there. And so … on the inside it's obviously this church, and the ceilings are massive and it's really, really unique and then there's street art, there's graffiti art, which is really well done. They've invited some amazing artists to come in there. And then … all these really, really big skate ramps.
What was it about it that spoke to you … and what resonated with you about it?
It's kind of funny because this was my second skateboarding project. People like to ask me, ‘Were you like a skater growing up?’”
I was always super into sports but could never really do skating, never really was a skateboarder. There's something about like that community that just really resonates with me because it's like all of these kids, who, a lot of the times, are considered outcasts.
And it's a lot of stereotyping like, ‘Oh, they're on drugs or they're just there to drink and party; they're not real athletes … they're troublemakers,’ and that kind of thing. … Meeting those guys in the first one, I realized these people are really, really interested in saving their community.
So what is the heart of this story?
For me, the heart of it is the fact that the skating community is so open minded, and they really, really are interested in saving St. Louis.
I just really love it. I love that it's there is an athletic component to it but there's also this like artistic, social aspect. And they really do welcome anyone in there …. [regardless of] gender, sexual orientation, race, age. I mean, there were kids in there, and older people. So I just love how welcoming it is.
Watch a trailer of “Sanctuary.”
If you go:
‘Sanctuary’ film screening
St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase’s ‘Doc Shorts 2,’ a collection of eight films
When: 5 p.m., Thursday, July 20
Where: Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Blvd.
Follow Nancy on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL