Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

Feature-length audio news reports from St. Louis Public Radio reporters.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

June’s arrival heralded a new era for elections in Missouri, one in which voters are expected to show identification before filling out a ballot.

Any new law stirs up questions — especially when similar measures in other states make headlines again and again.

Maplewood city attorney Craig Biesterfeld and city manager Marty Corcoran look through the city code during a meeting with a reporter at Maplewood City Hall.
Jenny Simeone-Cases | St. Louis Public Radio

Nuisance ordinances have been commonplace across the U.S. for at least a century. They are used to crack down on everything from overgrown grass to large-scale drug dealing. In the city of Maplewood, that extends to excessive calls to the police.

Maplewood's nuisance ordinance, last updated in October 2006, is the subject of two lawsuits, which allege the policy and its enforcement are discriminatory. How the city handles nuisance complaints is hailed by some as a way to keep the community safe, and reviled by others who believe it’s a way to regulate residents’ behavior and push out people of color, people with disabilities and survivors of domestic violence.

Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Corrections Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri.
File photo | Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The new leaders of the Missouri Department of Corrections say they’re working to shake off the negative image due to numerous lawsuits filed in the last five years by current and former corrections officers, who alleged widespread harassment, intimidation and retaliation.

Gov. Eric Greitens made a brief call to reform the agency after he took office and brought in a new director, Anne Precythe. And last month, a House subcommittee released a list of recommendations to address the agency’s issues. But some corrections officers say things won’t change until some of the current supervisors and high-ranking officers are fired.  

A 100-foot sculpture  made from fibers and plastic sheets hangs from the ceiling at St. Louis Lambert International Airport over the heads of Southwest Airlines passengers waiting to pass through security.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Amid the hustle and bustle of morning rush at St. Louis Lambert International Airport, a man in a red baseball hat, blue sportswear shirt, and flip flops chats with a woman in jeans and T-shirt and an adolescent girl in tie-dye.

Much of their exchange is lost to the cacophony of people asking agents for directions, complaining to airport workers about the long security line and making bland observations about arrivals and departures. Yet one comment slips through the noise.

“Wow, it looks like a lake,” the man said, nodding up at the new sculpture hanging from the ceiling, before turning to head through the security checkpoint.

Darnell Loyd, of Northwest Academy of Law High School, is one of 50 students enrolled in Washington University's summer College Prep Program.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University is a top-tier college, attracting both the nation’s smartest and richest students. That often puts the private university on the wrong end of rankings for socioeconomic diversity.

To reverse that distinction, Wash U is halfway through an effort to have at least 13 percent of its students be from low-income backgrounds or be the first in their family to attend college. But proponents of college access say the goal isn’t ambitious enough — and won’t help foster a different atmosphere on campus.

Charles Berry, Jr. stands behind a podium with a giant image of Chuck Berry behind.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For more than 40 years, bassist Jim Marsala toured with Chuck Berry. They played together in the Kremlin in Moscow, on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, and at Berry’s regular Duck Room show at Blueberry Hill in the Loop.

In the early 2000s, Berry’s son Charles Berry Jr. joined the band. Berry then began music, writing piano lines, lyrics and guitar parts for what would be his final work — tapping Marsala and his son on guitar.

Those recordings will be released today in the rock icon’s final album, “CHUCK.” The younger Berry says it’s a classic, and shows that late in life his father remained a gifted songwriter with a knack for making people dance.

Poet Jane Ellen Ibur, seen here in a May 1, 2017 photo, has enjoyed a storied career. For nearly 20 years, she co-produced and co-hosted the local radio show "Poet for the Halibut."
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis poet Jane Ellen Ibur is certainly a character. She's appeared before a class of children wearing a cape and carrying a magic wand. She sometimes wears two pairs of glasses at a time — one for distance, a second for close-up.

Southeast Missouri State University graduate student Kathy Hixson prepares to draw blood from a male bluebird at the Madison County Mines Superfund Site in Fredericktown, Missouri
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

In Fredericktown, Missouri, three women walked towards what looked like a Martian landscape.

Mya Petty poses for a portrait before graduation last week.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Since second grade, Mya Petty has taken an hour-long bus ride from Baden, her mostly-black north St. Louis neighborhood, to Chesterfield – where most of her classmates were white.

The recently graduated 18-year-old is one of thousands of students in St. Louis’ long-running school desegregation program, Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation. Last year, administrators voted to bring the decades-long program to a close.

Barb Fleming of Bel-Nor enrolled in Missouri's high-risk pool after a breast cancer diagnosis in 2008. Today, she pays much less for a plan through the Affordable Care Act.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Barb Fleming had built a small business selling tableware and wedding gifts. But that career nearly came crashing down around her in 2008, when her doctor found a lump in her breast. 

Months later, Fleming, of Bel-Nor, in St. Louis County, would find herself in Missouri's high-risk pool: a pricey, state-managed insurance plan that covered people with pre-existing conditions. The programs were phased out by the Affordable Care Act, but could return in the sweeping health care proposal passed this month by House Republicans.

In this May 24, 2017 photo, Robert Orth as Uncle John and Katharine Goeldner as Ma Joad tangle with each other in "The Grapes of Wrath."
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre St. Louis

St. Louisans can experience a musical makeover of the classic Depression-era tale of a poor Oklahoma family when Opera Theatre of St. Louis debuts a new rendition of “The Grapes of Wrath” on Saturday.

Drought and desperation drive the Joad family of tenant farmers off the plains to California for the promise of a better life. It’s a story of good intentions and bad outcomes that resonates today, said Katharine Goeldner, who sings the role of Ma Joad.

“All they were trying to do was feed their families,” Goeldner said.

Sue Spencer surveys what remains of her home on County Road 806 in Perryville. A tornado tore through the area in late February, destroying the home she lived in for three decades.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The sirens started a little before 8 p.m. on the last night of February. Residents of Perry County, in southeastern Missouri,  retreated to their basements — many of them not expecting the incoming tornado with a 14-mile-long and half-mile-wide path. Within an hour, the tornado had killed one man, damaged more than 100 homes and leveled dozens more.  

Three months later, there are signs that rebuilding is underway. Structures now stand where fallen trees, busted up car frames, and mangled bits of homes were scattered before. Perryville’s residents are recovering, hiring contractors, negotiating with insurance companies, and even managing the aftermath of severe flooding in April.

Jared Leppert, a graduate student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, conducts a learning test with a student at St. Louis College Prep on Monday, May 8, 2017. The charter school hired Leppert as an intern.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers assigned higher education institutions primary oversight of charter schools when authorizing them 20 years ago. Universities know a thing or two about schools, after all.

It’s not the norm when it comes to charter schools in the United States, though, as a majority of the 42 states (and Washington, D.C.) put the independent schools’ governance in the hands of a local school board.

Ongoing rain and the threat of more flooding kept downtown Eureka business owners from removing piles of sandbags Thursday morning, as planned. (May 4, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Sharon Wasson, a Eureka resident and retired high school physical education teacher, treats her basement as her sanctuary. It’s where her office is, where she watches the news and where she decompresses after a long day.

But severe flooding this week along the lower Meramec River has transformed her basement into a source of stress. 

You know what they say: You can’t spell Cut & Paste without “u.”

OK, go ahead: groan. We're groaning with you. We know that no one says that.

But seriously, we want to know what you want to hear in Cut & Paste, our arts and culture podcast. Not necessarily “who,” but what kinds of conversations and experiences do you want to be in on?

6 North in the Central West End.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Jane Jones was overwhelmed when she first visited the 6 North Apartments building in the Central West End.

Built in 2004, it’s the nation’s first building constructed entirely under the universal design concept, which incorporates features that allow people with disabilities to live in the space. It can be defined as "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design."

Jones, who is blind, moved there in 2012. She couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

A pharmacist at Crider Health Center in Wentzville.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

This week, Missouri transferred the state-run health coverage of about 240,000 low-income adults and children to managed care plans run by three companies: WellCare, Centene Corporation and United Health Group.

The move is part of an increasing privatization of Missouri’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet. Legislators call it a cost-saving measure that improves efficiency in health care. Critics say the transfer happened too quickly, putting patient health at risk.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville biology professor Danielle Lee examines a deer mouse with undergraduate student Jacquelyn Isom.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

On a humid, mid-April morning, nearly a dozen students were scattered around a small field across the street from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. They planted pink flags, strung measuring tape up and down the field and used machetes to clear their way through tall, prickly prairie grasses.

“Did I tell you about the fox? A fox just ran past Danielle’s foot. Like, really!” exclaimed their professor, Danielle Lee, an animal biologist at SIUE.

The fox sighting is important, as Lee and her students are trying to find out what rodents and other animals live near the campus. Lee and other scientists who study urban ecology are just starting to discover the ways in which human development affects wildlife.

Members of the SFJAZZ Collective
Photo by Jay Blakesberg

When jazz trumpeter Sean Jones took on the job of interpreting tunes by Miles Davis, he didn’t try to recreate the famed musician’s notes.

Instead, Jones set about pushing the music forward.

He’s part of the SFJAZZ Collective, a San Francisco-based group of musicians that is booked through Saturday at Jazz at the Bistro in St. Louis. The group, which each year honors a big name in jazz, is now focusing on Davis, a trumpeter who helped give birth to the cool but stylistically never stayed in one place.

In this April 12 photo, arts advocate and law professor Adrienne Davis looks upon a piece by artist Lorna Simpson in her home collection.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Adrienne Davis teaches law but she regularly cross-examines the status quo in a completely different field: the arts.

The Washington University law professor will receive an Arts Advocacy award from the Women of Achievement of St. Louis in a May 16 event at the Ritz-Carlton. The honor applauds her service on various boards including that of the St. Louis Art Museum and Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

But it also extols her efforts to infuse more racial diversity into the artistic pipeline, from art-makers to gallery attendants to curators to institutional leaders. In our latest Cut & Paste arts and culture podcast, we talk with Davis about her advocacy and why it matters.

Devonshae Ali, who plays Alice, and Gary Shepard, who has the role of Sam, are pictured in this April 2017 photo. They have both experienced homelessness in their own lives.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There was a time when Devonshae Ali, Kimberly Romine and Gary Shepard had no place to call home.

Now they all have not only permanent addresses but a new mission: helping people see what it's like to be homeless, through a play to be staged this weekend by St. Louis’ True Community Theatre.

Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf, of St. Joseph, sponsored the Senate drug monitoring bill.
Courtesy of Harrison Sweazea, Missouri Senate Communications

Rob Schaaf rose Monday to speak on the Missouri Senate floor, capping what seemed to be a tough few days. One of his fellow GOP senators had highlighted how the 60-year-old from St. Joseph rented a room from a well-known lobbyist. And the nonprofit linked to Gov. Eric Greitens was making personal attacks on Schaaf’s political decision integrity — and giving out his cellphone number.

 

But Schaaf made it abundantly clear he wasn’t slinking away, issuing a blunt message to the Republican governor.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

This story was updated on 4/26/2017 with comments from Sen. Will Kraus

The state of Missouri collected $435 million in corporate income tax revenue in fiscal year 2015.

That plummeted to $280 million last year.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

It's a sentiment shared by Democratic politicians and liberal pundits: disgust over how Republicans drew up favorable (for them) legislative districts after the 2010 Census.

Mexican immigrants participating in English and Citizenship classes for new immigrants organized by the YMCA Industrial Commission. There was additional programming, like, apparently this trip to Forest Park.
State Historical Society of Missouri

Fewer than 4 percent of St. Louis city and county residents are Latino. While the Midwest as a whole has a reputation for very small Latino populations, St. Louis County Historian Daniel Gonzales says it wasn’t always on track to be that way.

Gonzales has been focused on uncovering forgotten narratives since he started his job about a year and half ago. One such story is the subject of an academic publication he's working on. It relates to the 19th and 20th century Mexican immigration to St. Louis, how the community was encouraged to blossom, and then pushed out.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Summer is approaching, a time when Missouri residents hit the road for a little rest and relaxation. It might be a rougher-than-expected journey, though, as legislators aren’t making transportation projects a priority during the 2017 session.

In the meantime, the Missouri Department of Transportation is using a reserve fund to maintain the state’s roads and bridges — money that’s supposed to go toward emergencies and natural disasters. MoDOT chief engineer Ed Hassinger said it’s not an issue right now, but will be if the department has to draw from it for another three years.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth / St. Louis Public Radio

Many high-achieving and low-income high school students bound for college get an assist from the state of Missouri in the form of modest scholarships.

The trouble is that budget constraints have left programs that help both groups of students underfunded and unable to keep up with rising tuition. That’s bad news for high school seniors who’ll be choosing where to go to school in the coming weeks.

Kat Reynolds is pictured in a file photo of a self-portrait shown recently at The Militzer Art Gallery in St. Louis.
Provided | Kat Reynolds

Photographer Kat Reynolds is having a moment.

In the past few months, Reynolds has exhibited at five St. Louis venues. She was named this year’s Emerging Artist by the local Visionary Awards, a prize she’ll accept April 24 at the Sun Theater in Grand Center. She’s also wrapping up a residency program at Paul Artspace, north of Florissant. Her work primarily features young people of color, friends, people she encounters on the street, or people she finds through social media.

Reynolds works all these activities around a full-time customer relations job. In our latest Cut & Paste podcast, we catch up with this busy artist, who strives to genuinely connect with her subjects.

Gene Jackson started his professional performing  career at 15 when his mom signed a waiver allowing him to perform at the Midnight Lounge on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in the mid-1970s.

Older musicians took him under their wings, showing him the ins and outs of St. Louis’ rhythm and blues, and initiating him into a fellowship of performing musicians determined to keep soul music alive.

Roland Johnson entered the scene years earlier, started his career singing with groups at sock hops and youth dances before entering the realms of bars and clubs.

(From left) Arthur Woodley as Emile Griffith, Jordan Jones as Little Emile Griffith and Denyce Graves as Eelda Griffith
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Update 4:17 PM: this piece was updated to better reflect the use of NEA/NEH funding at the Missouri History Museum.

When acclaimed trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s jazz opera opened at the Washington National Opera last month, it was heralded as new hybrid in contemporary opera that fused musical traditions and audiences. 

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