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.

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” over the noon hour Wednesday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

Thousands of miles away across the Atlantic — 7, 505 miles to be exact — is a city St. Louisans in Missouri can find a connection with. In the West African country of Senegal, there is a bustling coastal arts city of the same name, Saint-Louis. Known to locals as Ndar, it’s the oldest colonial city on Africa’s western coast. 

St. Louis Recorder of Deeds Michael Butler joined Friday's talk show to discuss Open Concept, his new bar on Cherokee Street.
Adam Rothbarth for Sauce Magazine

An open bar at an affordable price in a hip area offering quality drinks and an accommodating atmosphere might seem like too much to ask for. But a St. Louis official says he’s offering just that. 

Butler has drawn upon his party organizing skills from his college days to found Open Concept — a Cherokee Street bar where patrons pay $10 an hour for access to batched cocktails, draft beer and wine. The St. Louis recorder of deeds promises there’s no catch — no skimping on alcohol or cups filled to the rim with ice.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson poses for a photo at St. Louis Public Radio. 10/10/19
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For 17 months, St. Louis has been weighing the idea of leasing its airport to a for-profit entity. As a member of the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment, Mayor Lyda Krewson is among the three city officials who have the ultimate say in whether any deal goes through — the others being Comptroller Darlene Green and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed.

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” over the noon hour Friday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

An open bar at an affordable price in a hip area offering quality drinks and an accommodating atmosphere might seem like too much to ask for. But a St. Louis city official says he’s offering just that. 

The city’s recorder of deeds, Michael Butler, says he noticed that segregation in the St. Louis goes beyond housing and school districts. Even bars are divided in terms of race and class. 

Cassie Boness (at left) and Dan Kolde joined Tuesday's "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss the role of emotional support animals and the legalities that surround them.
Cassie Boness & St. Louis Public Radio

Do a quick Google Image search of “emotional support animals,” and you’ll see various photos of animals on planes or in airports dressed in vests denoting their purpose. Under the Air Carrier Access Act, passengers needing to travel with an emotional support animal can do so with some basic documentation. 

There are limitations. 

Missouri Botanical Garden's Glenda Abney (at left) and StraightUp Solar's Eric Schneider joined Monday's program to discuss a pilot project for St Louis residents that helps pool their buying power for discounts on solar panels.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

While the sun’s rays were at full effect this August, the Missouri Botanical Garden launched its Grow Solar St. Louis program for St. Louis-area home and business owners. In partnership with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and Washington University, property owners throughout the city and county can participate in this pilot program to pool their buying power for discounts on solar panels.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske was joined by Glenda Abney, director of the Garden’s EarthWays Center, to delve into why the initiative was started and how interested St. Louisans can use green energy to power their homes. 

The patio at Bluewood Brewing, located on Cherokee Street in south St. Louis.
Lauren Healey | Sauce Magazine

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with guests from Sauce Magazine about the latest additions to the St. Louis region’s food and beverage community. 

Among the establishments that made it on this month’s Hit List are Taco Circus on the Hill and Bluewood Brewing on Cherokee Street. Joining Fenske to discuss the full list were Catherine Klene and Meera Nagarajan, Sauce’s managing editor and art director, respectively.

(Oct. 01, 2019) St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed joined Tuesday's talk show to share his thoughts on airport privatization.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Among the local politicians with huge sway over the potential privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport is St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed. He’s one of three members on the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which signs off on all city contracts. He also holds one of four votes on the St. Louis Airport Advisory Working Group.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske sat down with Reed, who could ultimately prove the swing vote that determines whether an airport lease is approved, to get his thoughts on the city’s exploration of a controversial experiment in privatization.

Daria McKevley is the supervisor of home gardening information and outreach at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Adam Smith is the assistant scientist at the Missouri Botanical Garden's Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development.
EVIE HEMPHILL | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

With the United Nations and New York City hosting Climate Week 2019 this week, climate change has been on the minds of many. But what does climate change mean here in the Midwest? The Missouri Botanical Garden isn’t just asking that question. Its scientists are also developing answers by closely surveying Midwestern plant life.

Joining host Sarah Fenske on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air to explain climate change’s effects on the region were Missouri Botanical Garden's assistant scientist, Adam Smith, and Daria McKevley, a supervisor of home gardening information and outreach at the center. 

Lisa Haddon (at left) is a server at Trattoria Marcella, and Peggy Conley is a bartender at Sidney Street Café. Both joined Thursday's talk show alongside Sauce Magazine staff writer Matt Sorrell.
Greg Rannells | Sauce Magazine

For many, restaurant work is a temporary gig to make money in college or pick up shifts as a bartender between periods of more permanent employment. But among restaurant veterans, service industry jobs are a profession. And they often bring all the opportunities for accomplishment — and financial benefits — of jobs thought of as more prestigious. 

Sauce Magazine’s latest issue features local career servers at some of St. Louis’ oldest establishments, like Tony’s and Sidney Street Cafe. On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with two of themabout why they love what they do, how they’ve made a living in a job so dependent on gratuity and why the job is something for others to consider. 

Patrick Strattner | Getty Images

For Missouri families needing government assistance to pay for food, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a necessity. But it’s not always enough.

Empower Missouri's #MOSNAPChallenge campaign invites state and federal legislators to shop for a three-day supply of food for a family of four using only the average amount of money available to families enrolled in the program. That’s just $1.33 per person per meal for a family of four, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services.

On Wednesday's St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske delved into the nonprofit organization’s campaign and discussed various legislative efforts aimed at increasing SNAP benefits, such as the Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2019

Ryan Koenig and the Goldenrods performed Tuesday at the latest Western Wear Night at the Whiskey Ring on Cherokee Street.
Emily Woodbury | St. Louis Public Radio

John Joern, the co-owner of the Whiskey Ring, has watched Western Wear Night quickly grow into quite the bonanza at his Cherokee Street establishment. It all started less than a year ago with what he describes as “band practice” — local musician Ryan Koenig regularly bringing collaborators to the Whiskey Ring for live entertainment.

“He’d just kind of play for a couple hours while everybody meandered in and out,” Joern recalled during a St. Louis on the Air segment, “and [Lucas Hanner] and a few other folks, some friends of his, decided to take it upon themselves to start dressing the part, to sort of celebrate the evening, and it caught on like wildfire.”

With more and more St. Louisans joining in on the shenanigans, Western Wear Night has become a regular third-Tuesday-of-the-month festivity, despite the gathering’s decidedly Midwest, not-in-the-West, location.

Comptroller Darlene Green talked about a number of city matters, including airport privatization, on Thursday's program.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

As the city’s chief fiscal officer, Comptroller Darlene Green is responsible for getting the bills paid — and ensuring the city’s long-term financial health. She's also taken a bold stance on a number of key city issues that include signing on to the campaign to close the city's workhouse and criticizing Mayor Lyda Krewson on public safety issues.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Green joined host Sarah Fenske to explain her outspoken views on airport privatization and a number of other city matters. 

(Sept. 11, 2019) City officials Paul Payne (at left) and Linda Martinez joined Wednesday's talk show to discuss the state of the St. Louis Lambert International Airport privatization process.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

For two and a half years, the city of St. Louis has been exploring the idea of leasing St. Louis Lambert International Airport. An army of consultants has been toiling — largely behind closed doors — to put together a request for qualifications. They hope to attract a private company willing to pay big money up front in hopes of profiting off future airport operations. While other cities have flirted with the idea, the leasing of a major U.S. airport is unprecedented. 

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, two high-ranking city officials joined the program to discuss the state of the privatization conversation: Paul Payne, the city budget director and chairman of the airport working group, and Linda Martinez, deputy mayor for development.

The Big Mak is among the offerings at new restaurant Utah Station.
Michelle Volansky | Sauce Magazine

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske checked in with the team at Sauce Magazine to discuss the latest restaurant additions — as well as upcoming concepts and some closings — within the St. Louis region’s food and beverage community. 

Joining her for the discussion were Catherine Klene and Meera Nagarajan, managing editor and art director, respectively.

The magazine's two picks for new restaurants to try this month are Turmeric (6679 Delmar Blvd., University City, MO, 63130) and Utah Station (1956 Utah St., St. Louis, MO, 63118).

Photos of Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Bethany Collins and Stephanie Syjuco side by side.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis is using art to engage with history and contextualize the present. Chief curator Wassan Al-Khudhairi joined St. Louis on the Air with artists Stephanie Syjuco and Bethany Collins to discuss CAM’s fall exhibitions. 

Rain Stippec (at left) and Paige Walden-Johnson joined Tuesday's talk show to talk about the third annual CommUNITY Arts Festival.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Paige Walden-Johnson originally founded the CommUNITY Arts Festival out of the need to support her friend Rain Stippec, a dancer who was shot eight times in the back while in a parked car in the south city Soulard neighborhood. Stippec survived, but it severely affected her mobility. 

In the first 48 hours after being shot, Stippec was given a 5% chance of survival by doctors. But now, with support from the community and physical therapy, Stippec will perform for the first time in the two years since the shooting. 

A rainbow shines overhead the Kaaba while Muslims are on hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage.
Faiza Mushtaq

Earlier this month, millions of Muslims made their way to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to participate in the Islamic pilgrimage known as hajj. It’s one of the largest annual gatherings, and there, Muslims who represent hundreds of ethnicities and languages give up their normal lives and dedicate the week to devout worship. 

The journey is made over five days during the last month of the Islamic calendar, and Muslims who are physically and financially able to make the trip to Saudi Arabia are required to do so at least once in their lifetime. 

The hajj is seen as one of the five pillars of Islam, and its end is marked with one of the two Islamic holidays, Eid al-Adha. On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske explored the religious obligation and what it entails. 

A video still of boxer Debra Rush from Nanette Boileau's video exhibit, "American Dreamers: Un-Alienable Rights."
Nanette Boileau

Video artist Nanette Boileau grew up in Rock Hill, Missouri, entertained by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world's leading mixed martial arts organization. That fascination led her to incorporate the UFC in her Ph.D. and inspired her to take a contemporary look at St. Louis athletes pursuing their dreams as fighters. 

Her ongoing exhibit “American Dreamers: Unalienable Rights” brings together three people dreaming of sports glory: a professional wrestler, a female boxer and a mixed martial arts fighter. In a series of intense videos, the gallery – held at the William and Florence Schmidt Art Center in Belleville, Illinois – allows the viewer to feel like they’re stepping into the ring with these athletes. 

Missouri Botanical Garden horticulturist Dave Gunn documents his research trips to Kyrgyzstan via Insagram @davegunn3.
Dave Gunn

Earlier this week, members of the Missouri Botanical Garden horticulture staff returned from a research trip in the Central Asia country of Kyrgyzstan. There, the team’s project involved conserving crop wild relatives of popular fruits like apples, apricots and plums found in Kyrgyzstan’s highly threatened walnut fruit forest.

The goal is to preserve genetic diversity that is often lost in modern agriculture, which is based on a single-crop system. On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked to Megan Engelhardt, manager of the Botanical Garden's seed bank, and horticulturist Dave Gunn about how the staff went about bringing seeds back to add to the Botanical Garden’s seed bank to propagate. 

Restaurateur Gerard Craft joined Friday's talk show to discuss mental health in the restaurant industry.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Local chef Gerard Craft is among the most notable restaurateurs in the region. He’s won the coveted James Beard award for "Best Chef: Midwest" for his restaurant Niche; he operated a successful restaurant group; and his eateries included Pastaria, Taste Bar and Brasserie — all of them both popular with diners and restaurant critics. 

But he’s also secretly dealt with intense anxiety. In a new essay published Monday on the website Plate, he wrote that he decided to close Niche in part because he was worried it could only fall in the rankings. 

St. Louis Lambert International Airport. August 2018
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Producer's note: In this program, a caller who identified themself as Dominique may have been an airport privatization spokesman who shared their comment under a fake name. St. Louis Public Radio reporter Corinne Ruff looked into the validity of this call, and her reporting on the story can be found here.

For more than a year, city officials and an army of consultants have been exploring the possibility of leasing St. Louis Lambert International Airport to a private entity. 

Conversations about leasing the city’s largest public asset began during former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s time in office. But the official exploration process started in June 2018, when the city hired a consultant group called FLY314, a subsidiary of Grow Missouri Inc. The political action committee is funding the effort thus far. 

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske explored where things stand and what happens next with St. Louis Public Radio reporter Corinne Ruff. 

Kayla Doughty assists guests at ramen x rui, the pop-up Steven Pursely hosts at his apartment.
Greg Rannells | Sauce Magazine

The underground pop-up restaurant scene is growing, and St. Louis is no exception. Pop-ups are a way for amateur chefs to experiment with selling their cuisine without the commitment of daily catering and operating from a brick-and-mortar shop. They also help talented newcomers build a following and give diners a chance to taste the latest and greatest.

They are set up in the kitchens of established restaurants, held in private homes and can even be found on a downtown roof. Established local chefs like Gerard Craft, Michael Gallina and Mike Randolph host pop-ups around a new opening or to scratch a creative itch, while others like Logan Ely use them to test a market and figure out how to run a business. 

(Aug. 14, 2019) Veronica Johnson (at left) and Maalik Shakoor joined Wednesday's talk show to discuss St. Louis' school desegregation and busing program. Hope Rias joined the conversation by phone.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris clashed in the Democratic presidential debates over the issue of busing, viewers may have thought of these programs as being in the past. That’s not the case in St. Louis — the city has the longest-running and largest desegregation program in the nation. 

Now in its 38th year, the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation has bused more than 70,000 inner-city black students to predominantly white schools in the suburbs – and has also allowed white students living in the county to attend magnet schools in the city. It entails long bus rides as well as necessary but not always comfortable adjustment to new social circles.

Local music artist Tonina Saputo joined St. Louis on the Air to talk about her musical journey locally and beyond.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Tonina Saputo is among the rising names in the local music scene, but her reach is far and wide. The St. Louis-raised musician has made the world her stage, performing throughout Europe and singing in both English and Spanish. Former President Barack Obama is a fan himself and placed her song “Historia De un Amor” on his best-of-the-year roundup. 

But for Saputo, it's her album that dropped in May that feels like the truest expression of herself as a musician. “St. Lost” was inspired by her time away from the Gateway City and represents a split from the producer-manager who gave her a big break.

(L-R) Gabriela Ramirez-Arellano, Valeria Rodriguez and Lindsay Newton joined Wednesday's "St. Louis on the Air."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis has the smallest Latino community of the nation's 25 largest metro areas — the only one that's less than 5% Latino. So how do local Latinos deal with being not just a minority, but one that’s dwarfed in size by other communities? And how do they straddle the Spanish-speaking worlds of their parents and grandparents in addition to life in the Midwest? 

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske delved into ways that St. Louis’ Latino community continues to grow and influence the city – artistically and otherwise.

Joining the program were Gabriela Ramirez-Arellano, business counselor at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in St. Louis and co-host of the bilingual Auténtico Podcast, and Valeria Rodriguez, a Dominican-American multidisciplinary artist and member of the Latinx Arts Network – a collective of local artists. 

Nick Bognar from iNDO, located in St. Louis' Botanical Heights neighborhood.
Michelle Volansky | 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 community. 

Joining her for the discussion were Catherine Klene and Matt Sorrell, managing editor and staff writer, respectively.

Longtime Quincy Senior High School music director Kathi Dooley talked about her experience on Netflix's "Queer Eye" show on "St. Louis on the Air."
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Kathi Dooley was set in her ways when it came to her looks and career; she knew what she loved and stuck with it. The longtime music director at Quincy Senior High School has a passion for helping students expand their artistic horizons, all while rocking the same hairstyle for more than 40 years. 

But all that changed last October when a former student of Dooley’s made a return to Quincy, Illinois, to switch up her routine. Jonathan Van Ness is a 2004 graduate of Quincy Senior High School, and he pitched for his beloved teacher, and her late 1970s mullet, to be featured on the hit Netflix series “Queer Eye.”

Protester Edward Crawford throws a tear gas cannister in Ferguson in August 2014. This photo is part of the "In Focus: St. Louis Post-Dispatch Photographs" exhibit at the Missouri History Museum.
Robert Cohen | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

This Saturday, the Missouri History Museum opens two new exhibits: “Pulitzer Prize Photographs” and “In Focus: St. Louis Post-Dispatch Photographs.” The first is a traveling exhibit from the Newseum in Washington, displaying the most comprehensive collection of Pulitzer-winning photos ever assembled. The second provides a companion exhibit that shows off the work of local photojournalists.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Jody Sowell, director of exhibitions and research for the Missouri Historical Society, and Robert Cohen, a staff photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, about what the new shows entail. 

(July 29, 2019) Sarah Fenske talked about her new role as the host of "St. Louis on the Air" on Monday's program.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Sarah Fenske is among the notable media leaders of St. Louis. She’s served as the editor in chief of the Riverfront Times for the past four years, reporting on various topics such as breaking news, business, arts and culture. Starting Tuesday, she’ll be heard on the airwaves as the new official host of St. Louis on the Air

Having passionately worked in newspapers most of her career, she didn’t expect to shift gears and media platforms so swiftly and quickly. 

“Being in newspapers for 20 years, I had seen a lot and done a lot. And I think, inside, my soul must have been ready for a change – and I didn't even realize it until I saw this particular job posting,” she told St. Louis Public Radio’s Jonathan Ahl on Monday’s program. 

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