Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Lara Hamdan

“St. Louis on the Air” Producer

Lara Hamdan joined St. Louis Public Radio as the news intern in 2017. A year later, she became a producer for St. Louis on the Air. A St. Louis native, Lara graduated with a degree in journalism from Webster University. She is a cat-mom to Sali and Sami, a lover of traveling, fluent in English and Arabic – and in eating falafel sandwiches and veggie burgers. She enjoys discovering new people and gems in the city throughout her work at St. Louis Public Radio.

The Sichuan takins enjoying a bubble party at the St. Louis Zoo.
St. Louis Zoo

Things have been pretty quiet lately at one of the region’s most visited attractions — the St. Louis Zoo. On March 17, it closed its doors to the public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

While the organization is operating under unusual circumstances and with limited staff, zoo fun continues on its social media feeds. Their #BringTheStlZooToYou initiative involves photos and videos of the zoo’s residents from its animal care teams. 

Since the Humane Society of Missouri implemented a curbside pickup model (March 25), it's coordinated more than 150 adoptions.
Humane Society of Missouri

The current coronavirus pandemic has left many homebound — mostly around family, addictive snacks and pets. What’s a true virtual work meeting if a pet doesn’t end up making an appearance?

For those without pets, this might be the ideal time to add a new member to the household. Pets provide something for a family or an individual to care for and can be a source of fun and pleasurable activity. And during frightening times, they create a sense of constancy and comfort. 

The Humane Society of Missouri has adjusted its efforts to connect people with furry companions. While its shelter doors are closed to comply with the region’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, they’ve implemented a curbside pick-up model.

Michael-John Voss is a co-founder and special projects director with ArchCity Defenders.
Michael-John Voss

In 2015, a cohort of lawyers sued the city of Ferguson to stop municipal court abuses widely publicized after the killing of Michael Brown the previous August.

ArchCity Defenders, the St. Louis University School of Law Legal Clinics and the Campbell Law Firm filed on behalf of Roelif Carter, a Ferguson resident charged with court fees that the suit argued were illegal. In the class-action lawsuit, Carter stood in for nearly 10,000 people harmed by the city’s revenue-generating practices. 

Rev. Matt Miofsky of The Gathering preaches to an empty church at the McCausland site. The congregation was tuned in, however, to an online worship service.
The Gathering

Over the past few weeks, local sites of worship have had to recalibrate how they serve their congregations during a time when coming together can do more harm than good.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced a 30-day stay-at-home order last weekend. The restrictions require people to remain in their homes whenever possible as part of an ongoing effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. There are a number of exceptions to the stay-at-home order, city and county officials said, but religious centers aren’t one of them.

C-SPAN's national 2020 StudentCam competition partners with local middle and high school students to produce short documentaries about a subject of national importance.

A homework assignment turned into cash and national recognition for some area high schoolers. Clayton High senior Lila Taylor and Kirkwood High junior Zach Baynham were both among the top winners in C-SPAN’s 2020 StudentCam competition.

Since 2006, C-SPAN has invited middle and high school students across the U.S. to produce short documentaries on subjects of national importance. This year, students addressed the theme "What's Your Vision in 2020?” In their submissions, they explored issues they’d want presidential candidates to address during their campaigns.

The STLMade is movement is a three-year effort set to highlight the region's innovative community and to retain and attract talent in the area across industries.

March 14 marked the one-year anniversary of a grassroots effort that set out to highlight the stories of the people and businesses that make up the St. Louis region. Over the past 12 months, STLMade has featured regional staples ranging from Skate King to the Wildey Theatre, profiling those who boost the local economy, including Tony’s Family Farms and Vega Transport, along the way. 

The multi-year initiative was started by civic, business and university leaders across the region, including St. Charles and Belleville.  

Paige Alyssa's latest single, "What's the Move," is the artist's first time releasing new music in two years.
Paige Alyssa

Paige Alyssa Hegwood is back — in St. Louis and in music. After spending approximately two years in Los Angeles and doing some soul searching, the singer-songwriter, who goes by Paige Alyssa, is expressing that growth both musically and individually. 

Through up-tempo pop and vibrant vocals, Alyssa is releasing music on their own terms. Their just-released single, “What’s the Move,” features mixing and mastering by Shock City’s Sam Maul. 

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Alyssa joined host Sarah Fenske to talk about their time in Los Angeles, how they overcame artistic struggles and the new music they have in store. 

A St. Paul sandwich at Chinese Express in Richmond Heights.
Julia Calleo | Sauce Magazine

St. Louis has an abundance of unique culinary creations that locals don’t care to convince outsiders to embrace: If newbies don’t like this stuff, it just means more for the rest of us. We’ll happily keep our fried ravioli, Provel cheese to ourselves, along with gooey butter cake’s havoc on the arteries. 

But one creation that really perplexes the masses is the St. Paul sandwich: It’s an egg patty topped with lettuce, tomato and pickles, and held together by white bread smothered in mayo. Regional eaters can now find variations of the sandwich that include pork belly, ham or shrimp. 

Tenelle Winmore (at left), Sierra Brown (center) and Ryan Escobar curated "STL Exchange," a 314 Day celebration. This year's theme is "It's Bigger than the Area Code."
Jaelin "Curry Street" Collier

Updated March 13 with revised event details

In light of the recent developments concerning the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Contemporary Art Museum has postponed public programs and events through April 5 until further notice, including "STL Exchange." Visit for updates.

Original story from March 12:

314 Day is this Saturday, and that means St. Louisans near and far are gearing up to show up and out for their city. The local holiday began as an informal celebration by residents — particularly in the black community. Within that community, people often gather for block parties, neighborhood barbecues and club events when the last numbers of their ZIP code or street number correspond with a date on the calendar. A day named for St. Louis’ main area code was a natural way to take the party city-wide.

St. Louis natives Ryan Escobar and Tenelle Winmore set out to formalize the celebration they grew up loving. The two make up the hip-hop duo Souls of Liberty, and last year, they teamed up with event coordinator Sierra Brown to throw a 314 Day party that takes things to the next level. To them, 314 Day is not only about celebrating St. Louis, but also the artists, musicians, businesses and products with roots in the city. 

Sir Eddie C

Eddie Cox has always been fascinated by words, whether he’s stringing together freestyle raps with his friends or fine-tuning coherent arguments on debate teams. 

That interest has translated well to his star turn as hip-hop artist Sir Eddie C. The Belleville native is making waves in the St. Louis music scene and recently notched his first performances in New Orleans and Chicago.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Cox joined host Sarah Fenske to talk about his musical craft and inspirations. He began by describing how his hometown carries a rich history of creatives but lacks the outlets to catapult the talent out. That’s where debate came in handy for Cox. 

The sashimi platter at Takashima Records.
Adam Rothbarth

It’s a question savvy diners confront with regularity: What new place should I try this month? Once again, our friends from Sauce Magazine visited St. Louis on the Air to help us answer the question. And while some months offer an embarrassment of riches, so many options that it’s hard to know what to do, this month promises an entirely manageable list: one restaurant, one bar and one coffee shop. 

On Wednesday’s show, Sauce managing editor Heather Hughes Huff and art director Meera Nagarajan delved into each spot’s charm. 

The Whitmire Wildflower Garden at Missouri Botanical Garden's Shaw Nature Reserve.
Missouri Botanical Garden

March 3 is the United Nations’ annual commemoration of World Wildlife Day, a time to highlight the importance of Earth’s natural resources and call for action to protect them. 

This year’s theme is “Sustaining all life on Earth,” as 2020 is noted to be “a biodiversity super year.” The international body aims to raise awareness about the multitude of benefits of wildlife to people, plus the interlinkages between the various components of biodiversity and the threats they are facing. 

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske discussed the impact of biodiversity loss on Missouri's lesser-known native plants and insects. Joining the conversation were experts from the Missouri Botanical Garden: Quinn Long, director of the Shaw Nature Reserve, and Aaron Lynn-Vogel, horticulturist at the Kemper Center for Home Gardening.

Tyrone Henley shows his electronic ankle monitor after its installation at EMASS' south St. Louis office.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In 2000, the circuit court in St. Louis entered a contract with Eastern Missouri Alternative Sentencing Services, a private company based in St. Charles that tracks and monitors people awaiting trial in the region.

At first, the company was required to provide periodic reports of all cases under its supervision. That changed in 2012 when it signed a new contract with the city court, leading to no routine collection for up-to-date data. In recent years, there have been higher rates of judges ordering defendants into the monitoring program, according to St. Louis chief public defender Mary Fox

Destiny Klimaszewski (at left) and Cyndi Williams are the co-leaders of St. Louis' Modern Widows Club. They joined Wednesday's talk show to share their stories and how the organization helps foster growth and process grief for young widows.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

In 2013, Cyndi Williams found herself a sudden widow at only 38 years old. While she was out of town, her husband, Joe, passed away due to an undiagnosed heart condition. Friends, co-workers and family gathered to accommodate and help Williams during her grieving period. But while she found support among her loved ones, she never quite found understanding. 

She tried to attend support groups for widowed women, but quickly realized that she was in a different place than others, facing different challenges. Most of the women were over 60 years old, retired, had older children and had already worked out their grief — leaving Williams still misunderstood.

It wasn’t until she met another young widow that Williams said she felt like she found a soulmate. She realized those were the women she could relate most to. 

'Starry Night Over the Rhone' is on loan from a museum in Paris and is on display at the St. Louis Art Museum.
Photo: Herve Lewandowski; Copyright: RMN-Grand Palais | Art Resource, NY

The St. Louis Art Museum has opened an exhibition that its curators say acknowledges the contributions of a largely forgotten artist who was instrumental in the birth of modern art: 19th-century French painter Jean-François Millet.

The exhibition, “Millet and Modern Art: From Van Gogh to Dalí,” is on display now through May 17. Millet’s work features landscapes, nudes and other work that inspired other artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art at the St. Louis Art Museum. He is the co-curator of the exhibition along with Maite van Dijk, senior curator at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

The Leaning Tower of Niles is a half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Located in Niles, Illinois.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Last week, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced that 12 sites in the state were added to the National Register of Historic Places during 2019. That’s the official federal list of properties that merit special attention and preservation. Every Illinois county has at least one property or historic district listed in the National Register.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, guest host Emily Woodbury learned more about the sites in Illinois that made it to the 2019 National Register of Historic Places, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa replica that was completed in the 1930s in Cook County; the Alton Gas and Electric Powerhouse in Madison County, constructed in 1913; and the Hunziker Winery Site in Warsaw, a little over 30 miles north of Quincy — it dates back to the mid-1800s. 

David Murphy at his home parish Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in O'Fallon, Missouri.
Colleen Murphy

David Murphy prides himself on being a “goal-setting” type of guy. Every year, he sets out different goals for himself — whether they’re physical, spiritual or work-related. And hitting those targets isn’t necessarily the intention. For Murphy, it’s more about the journey. 

So for his 50th birthday last year, Murphy decided to make his goal “epic.” He wanted to go on a quest: one that turns a seemingly doable thing (say, going to Mass) into something grand — like attending Mass at every active Catholic church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. 

Inspired by his love for his Catholic faith and its deep history in the region, Murphy set out to visit each of the 190 active churches in the archdiocese, which covers 10 counties and the city of St. Louis. His quest earned coverage in the local St. Louis Review. And on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Murphy joined host Sarah Fenske to share what he learned — and which local churches made his “epic list.”

Taste offers a variety of cocktails and snacks in the Central West End.
Izaiah Johnson | Sauce Magazine

When you’re out on the town, it can be fun to try a couple of different spots. What isn’t fun, though, is driving from one spot to another, or having to seek out parking in one packed neighborhood after another. 

Fortunately, our friends at Sauce Magazine have addressed this problem in their most recent issue. They’ve outlined a three-stop nightlife tour in eight St. Louis-area neighborhoods in their “Night Moves” feature. 

Meera Nagarajan, art director of Sauce, and Heather Hughes Huff, Sauce’s managing editor, joined host Sarah Fenske on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air to explore the highlights the region has to offer for date nights. 

For many out-of-state visitors driving to St. Louis, the Gateway Arch is their first glimpse of Missouri.
File photo I David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ most notable feature — the Gateway Arch — hasn’t seen as many fresh faces lately. According to the St. Louis Business Journal, the Arch grounds aren’t getting the kinds of visitor numbers projected before the $380 million redevelopment project, CityArchRiver, that wrapped up in 2018. 

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske delved into the reasons for that and what new programs are in store to help bring those numbers up. Joining the discussion were Jacob Kirn, St. Louis Business Journal economic development editor, and Mike Ward, superintendent of the Gateway Arch National Park. 

A selection of posters of productions with nominations for the 2020 St. Louis Theater Circle Awards.
St. Louis Theater Circle

Every year, the St. Louis Theater Circle honors the best of local professional theater, voted on by local critics. The St. Louis Theater Circle released its 2020 award nominees on Friday's St. Louis on the Air for locally produced professional theater in 2019. 

Calvin Wilson, theater critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Tina Farmer, theater reviewer for KDHX, joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss the highlights and the upcoming awards ceremony.

St. Louis Theater Circle asserts that this year's nominations represent the most competitive field in the eight years of the awards.

American Artist is an interdisciplinary artist whose work considers black labor and visibility within networked life. Film still from 2015.
Courtesy of American Artist and the Queens Museum

Artists are no strangers to political activism. Through captivating installations, they’re able to visualize complex themes that resonate with movements and social causes. 

This weekend, a new exhibit at the Luminary Center for the Arts, “America’s Mythic Time,” will take it to the next level with an unusual partner — ArchCity Defenders. But the collaboration isn’t really that far out. 

The two organizations have worked together closely for years, co-sharing spaces and political expertise, such as when the Cherokee Street-based gallery hosted ArchCity’s Pro Se STL event. Their pro se guides are used to help people learn how to interact with police to represent themselves in court. 

James Biko is a St. Louis-based artist and CAM's new DJ-in-residence.
Contemporary Art Museum

Last week, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis announced the latest multidisciplinary artist patrons can expect to see at the space during its First Fridays and other CAM events. James Biko is an East St. Louis-born and St. Louis-based artist prominent in the local hip-hop and soul scene. 

He’s been on the radar of music aficionados in the city and is a 10-time Riverfront Times Music Award winner. He also co-hosts the Rawthentic radio program, with Cleo Jones on KDHX, which plays hip-hop, R&B and soul on Thursday evenings. 

St. Louis-Stuttgart Sister Cities will commemorate their 60th anniversary on Feb. 15, 2020.
St. Louis-Stuttgart Sister Cities

In the first half of the 20th century, armed conflicts claimed the lives of an unfathomable number of civilians. Stunned by the horrors of war in Europe, President Dwight Eisenhower sought out a different way to prevent future cycles of war. He proposed a program that connects citizens of nations abroad with U.S. cities: Sister Cities International

The program began in 1956, and the people-to-people, citizen diplomacy initiative took off across the country. A few years later, in 1960, St. Louis’ first partnership abroad flourished in Stuttgart, Germany, through the World Trade Center St. Louis' international mission. Now St. Louis has 16 sisters abroad, from Argentina and Senegal to Indonesia. 

Sauce Magazine recommends trying the spicy 'nduja pizza at Noto in St. Peters, Missouri.
Adam Rothbarth | Sauce Magazine

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with our partners from Sauce Magazine about the latest additions to the St. Louis region’s food-and-beverage scene. 

Joining this month’s Hit List segment discussion were Heather Hughes Huff and Meera Nagarajan, managing editor and art director, respectively.

Voters pick up "I voted today" stickers at the St. Louis County Board Of Elections on Oct. 25, 2018.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

This year is full of political commemorations: the presidential election, the centennial of the 19th Amendment and the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement. The year also marks the sesquicentennial of the 15th Amendment, which granted black men the right to vote after the Civil War.

Every year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History selects a theme for Black History Month. Because of those political milestones, this year’s theme is “African Americans and the Vote” — nationwide and here in St. Louis. On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske delved into a variety of Missouri Historical Society programming planned throughout the month at the Missouri History Museum and Soldiers Memorial.

Jameca Falconer joined Friday's "St. Louis on the Air" to talk about the types of attention and how limited attention spans can lead to hasty or irrational decision making. Steve Smith joined the conversation by phone to talk about guidelines for senators
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

This week marked the next phase of the U.S. Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Eventually, the senators will have to vote whether or not to remove the president from office. Senators are in the midst of a question-and-answer period before potentially calling on witnesses to testify. 

The lawmakers sit through hours and hours of information overload during these hearings, which began Jan. 16, and are only granted a brief 15-minute recess every two hours — with a 45-minute recess for dinner at 6 p.m. The break time is decided on by the majority leader, with approval from the minority leader. 

That can take a mental and physical toll — as noted by reporters covering the hearings and illustrated by senators taking cat naps or walking out during presentations. One senator is even providing fidget spinners to colleagues. 

 Downtown STL is in the process of upgrading the street lights throughout 360 square blocks in downtown St. Louis.
Downtown STL

The streets of downtown St. Louis are looking brighter — and more energy efficient — thanks to technology developed by Hazelwood-based Labyrinth Technologies. The local company developed a custom lighting solution as part of a $4 million Downtown STL Inc. project to brand downtown and improve public safety. 

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske learned more about Downtown STL’s process of upgrading the streetlights throughout 360 square blocks. Once completed, the project will have made St. Louis one of the largest smart cities in the U.S., second only to San Diego, according to Downtown STL.

Joining the discussion were Downtown STL CEO Missy Kelley and the father-and-son team that helped develop the smart technology: Ted Stegeman, CEO of Labyrinth Technologies, and his 23-year-old son, John, the company’s chief technology officer. 

(L-R) Nyara Williams, Collin Elliott and Tef Poe joined Wednesday's talk show to discuss Harvard University's first #IntheCity Visual Arts Fellowship.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

This spring, a cohort of six talented St. Louis-based visual artists will head to Cambridge, Massachusetts, as part of a new initiative founded by local changemaker Kareem "Tef Poe" Jackson and Harvard professor (and Missouri native) Walter Johnson.

The Commonwealth Project at Harvard University aims to model a new way for universities to engage with social problems through service and collaboration, with a special focus on St. Louis. The half-dozen local artists were selected for its new #IntheCity Visual Arts Fellowship last November.

The goal of the program is to provide exposure and resources for up-and-coming artists in the region. And it looks to attract artists who use art in a manner beyond just creating for art's sake.

Alejandra Fallows (at left) and Bailey Schuchmann are among Sauce Magazine's picks for "Ones to Watch" in 2020.
Greg Rannells | Sauce Magazine

On this month’s Sound Bites segment, produced in partnership with Sauce Magazine, managing editor Heather Hughes Huff gave an overview of the six up-and-comers the publication chose for its annual "Ones to Watch" feature that highlights local culinary talent.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Hughes Huff as well as featured restaurateurs Alejandra Fallows and Bailey Schuchmann

Fallows is the bar manager at Chandler Hill Vineyards. She recently achieved the top score on her certified sommelier exam. Schuchmann is the beverage director at the acclaimed restaurant Farmhaus. She’s also a certified sommelier. Sauce’s profile describes her as a “wine/cocktail/service triple threat.” 

Volunteers with the Salam Clinic hold proclamation that declares Jan. 19, 2020 as Salam Clinic Day in St. Louis County by County Executive Dr. Sam Page.
Fatima Ahmad

Every Saturday, a cohort of physicians carves time out of busy schedules in an effort to fill a gap for health care for people in the St. Louis region. 

Started by members of the Muslim Community Services of St. Louis in 2008, the Salam Clinic is a model of interfaith charity. The initiative was simple: provide free medical care to the uninsured and underinsured. Doctors of various religious backgrounds gladly signed on, including the Deaconess Nurse Ministry.

The first clinic opened in north St. Louis at Lane Tabernacle Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. The second opened its doors in 2013 in Ferguson at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ. Last November, Salam opened its third location at Epiphany United Church of Christ in St. Louis’ Benton Park neighborhood. And this Sunday, the nonprofit’s first Salam Psychiatry Clinic will open at its Ferguson location.