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.

 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. 

Activists with the Close the Workhouse campaign call on Mayor Lyda Krewson to close down the jail as she arrives for a segment on St. Louis on the Air.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

What started out as a viral video exposing the poor conditions detainees were facing inside St. Louis’ Medium Security Institution — also known as the Workhouse — has turned into a three-year-long effort to shut it down. In 2017, activists and civil rights organizations Action St. Louis, ArchCity Defenders and Bail Project St. Louis began pursuing calls to action to close it. 

The facility largely houses people who have not been convicted of a crime and cannot afford bail. Conditions inside have reportedly included black mold, dangerously high and low temperatures, moldy food and “rats as big as cats.” 

The city has since invested in renovating the facility, but this week, the Close the Workhouse campaign announced its relaunch with a newly updated report. And now, it has a new ally.

EHOC attorney Kalila Jackson joined Monday's talk show to discuss tenant rights in Missouri.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Bad living conditions are stressful enough. But what about landlords that are neglecting their properties and abusing the rights of the tenants? 

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Kalila Jackson joined us to discuss how tenants can exercise their rights without escalating the situation. She’s a staff attorney at the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council, better known as EHOC. Also joining the conversation was Sunni Hutton, a volunteer grassroots organizer with Homes for All St. Louis.

The House Of Miles East St. Louis is the focal point of a new tour of some of the city's cultural landmarks. It's listed as an Airbnb "Experience." Organizers hope the tour brings in outside money to the city.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

For those interested in learning more about East St. Louis’ rich cultural legacy, a new “music and history walk” is one route to consider. Treasure Shields Redmond, daughter of East St. Louis Poet Laureate Eugene Redmond, is organizing opportunities for hipsters, jazz nerds and genuinely curious minds alike. 

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske discussed with Shields Redmond how opportunities like the Historic Jazz & Poetry Excursion is showing the world a different East St. Louis than what you might see on the evening news.

Amanda McCleary, 33, moves her tassel at the first graduation ceremony of MERS Goodwill's Excel Center high school for adults May 29, 2019. Goodwill runs the schools across the state under a recent state program.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

There are approximately 500,000 adults in Missouri without a high school diploma. In 2017, to help mitigate that setback, then-Gov. Eric Greitens signed a measure that called for the opening of alternative high schools for adults, and Goodwill won the contract. 

The Metropolitan Employment Rehabilitation Services Goodwill established four Excel Centers across the state, in Springfield, Popular Bluff, St. Louis and Columbia, in 2018. The program is an alternative tuition-free high school that helps adults over the age of 21 earn their high school diplomas. The four centers have roughly 900 students combined. 

In St. Louis, the center on Locust Street recently had 47 students complete the program and cross the stage; the first commencement included six students. 

The bar at Little Fox, located on Shenandoah Avenue.
Adam Rothbarth | Sauce Magazine

On Monday’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 Little Fox on Shenandoah Avenue and High Low on Washington Avenue. Joining the program to discuss the full list were Heather Hughes and Meera Nagarajan, Sauce’s managing editor and art director, respectively. 

This is a mock-up of what the new riverfront stadium with a professional soccer team.
Courtesy of HOK

Last month, news emerged about a potential holdup in plans for construction of a Major League Soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis. 

St. Louis city, the St. Louis Development Corporation and the MLS ownership group applied for a combined total of $30 million in state tax credits over 2019 and 2020. Missouri’s Department of Economic Development didn’t approve the request — the current cap on what it awards is $10 million. 

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, the St. Louis Business Journal’s economic development editor, Jacob Kirn, joined host Sarah Fenske with the latest and discussed the $461 million project's future. 

(L-R) Sara Hasz, Christine Millar and Emily Maynard joined Thursday's talk show to talk about their passion for sewing 18th-century inspired clothing.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Sewing may be considered a dying art, but it’s very much alive in St. Louis — and not just the typical hand stitch. In 2017, Dr. Christine Millar and Sara Hasz helped create the St. Louis Georgian Sewing Society. The collective meets frequently to craft clothing based on Georgian attire that hit its peak of popularity from 1715 to 1830. 

They craft intricate dresses, court suits and even baby clothes that try to historically mimic 18th-century fashion — items that Marie Antoinette or Madame de Pompadour would wear. Members help each other source the fabric, and learn the technique and designs based on real patterns people once donned centuries ago. 

Lou Baczewski is the director of "Path of the Past," author of "Louch: A Simple Man's True Story of War, Survival, Life, and Legacy," and is the official historian for the Third Armored Division Veterans.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Many people honor the sacrifices and achievements of combat veterans. But the horrors they experience can get overlooked, especially as many former service members don’t talk about their experiences

But as more veterans of World War II reach the end of their lives, many people are trying to preserve their stories and experiences. One of them is Louis Baczewski. In June 2015, Baczewski bicycled more than 700 kilometers, following the path of his grandfather’s armored division, which doggedly fought its way through Europe during the war. 

Clockwise from top: enchiladas, shrimp taocs, guacamole and queso at Alta Calle located on South Grand.
Izaiah Johnson | Sauce Magazine

As the end of the year approaches, our partners at Sauce Magazine joined St. Louis on the Air to reflect on the best new local restaurants serving up deliciousness in 2019.

On Monday’s program, host Sarah Fenske talked with the magazine’s managing editors, Catherine Klene and Heather Hughes, and art director Meera Nagarajan about their selections —  including fine dining, featuring various eclectic offerings, as well as classic diners. 

Smino performs for a sold-out crowd at The Pageant on Sunday. His annual Kribmas benefit concert has become a tradition for his fans, who look forward to the homecoming shows each December.  Dec. 8, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Hip-hop artist Smino took the stage Sunday night for his fourth annual Kribmas benefit concert in true St. Louis fashion — wearing a Cardinals baseball varsity jacket and jumping out of a sleigh shaped like a Nike Air Force 1 and painted by local artist Brock Seals

McCluer North student Mya Davis describes her photo at St. Louis Public Radio's Photojournalism Prize awards ceremony.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Public Radio digital team crafted its first Photojournalism Prize photography contest last month. The competition provided professional publicity, encouragement and training to St. Louis-area high school students interested in journalistic photography.

This year’s theme was “Window to my World,” and participants were required to tell a story with a caption, image and personal reflection. The six prize categories were: Best Portrait, Best Landscape, Best Still Life, Best Action Shot, Best Caption and Best in Show. All winners received a master class with station photojournalists and publication on

Michael Turley is the fourth generation to operate his family's dairy farm.
Virginia Harold | Sauce Magazine

Michael Turley wasn’t always a farmer. In fact, before he started managing the 120 Holstein cows on his family’s dairy farm in Greenville, Illinois, he was managing workers at the St. Louis communications and marketing firm Osborn Barr as its CEO.

Turley joined Tuesday’s  St. Louis on the Air, along with Sauce managing editor Catherine Klene, to talk about his journey for this month’s Sound Bites segment. They also discussed innovation in the farming industry and how farms are adapting their business plans to stay relevant to consumers. 

(L-R) Ajay Jhamb, Pooja Ganesh and Taine Dry joined Friday's "St. Louis on the Air" to talk about their passion for the cricket sport.
Emily Woodbury | St. Louis Public Radio

From afar, cricket might look like a slightly tweaked version of baseball. After all, there are hardballs, bats and bases involved. But the intricacies of the game distinguish the sport from America’s pastime. 

Invented in England, the sport later spread throughout the world due to the British Empire’s cultural influence on its former colonies in places like Pakistan, Australia and India. And, thanks to the American Cricket Academy and Club, it’s absolutely thriving in the St. Louis region. 

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked to the academy’s founder and president, Ajay Jhamb, about what the sport is all about and how local kids can get involved. Joining the discussion were cricket players Taine Dry, 15, and Pooja Ganesh, 11. 

Dane Hotle (at left) and Syrhea Conaway joined Friday's "St. Louis on the Air" ahead of Chamber Project St. Louis' BEAUTY at CAM concert.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but what about the ear? What defines what’s musically beautiful? The Chamber Project St. Louis is exploring the concept by digging beneath the surface and asking questions about what should be considered beautiful, who gets to decide and why it matters.

Waltz of the Magical Snow Forest scene in Moscow Ballet's "Great Russian Nutcracker."
Moscow Ballet

Moscow Ballet is a Russian ballet company that has toured the U.S. and Canada during the holiday season since 1993. This year marks the 27th annual North American tour of the ensemble’s "Great Russian Nutcracker," "Swan Lake," "Romeo and Juliet," and other classic Russian ballets. 

St. Louisans will get the chance to watch the ballet classics Nov. 20 and Nov. 21 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, and performing alongside the Russian-trained classical dancers will be local ballet students. 

Sauce Magazine's Catherine Klene (at left) and Meera Nagarajan joined Tuesday's "St. Louis on the Air."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Each month, our partners at Sauce Magazine join us to hash out some of the top food and drink additions to the region. But 2019 has said its fair share of goodbyes to notable establishments in the St. Louis, from the tragic fire that shut down Goody Goody Diner to the closing of Piccione Pastry on the Delmar Loop after a seven-year run.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Sauce’s managing editor Catherine Klene and artistic director Meera Nagarajan joined the program to talk through some of the closings patrons miss most. 

The Alley Mill was built in 1894 next to Alley Spring in the Ozarks region. 
Kaitlyn McConnell

The Ozark region has modernized slowly over time, and that’s allowed for the preservation of its traditional culture. To help shed light on what the region has to offer, seventh-generation Ozarker Kaitlyn McConnell started the Ozarks Alive website, fueling her “night-and-weekend obsession” with learning about the places and people that make up the region she calls home. 

“It is true that most 20-somethings don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the historical significance of these hills,” she writes on her website. “Some might blame my love (or obsession, according to others) with this region on my blood. Seven generations of my ancestors have called the Ozarks home, and I’m proud of that connection.” Her posts showcase its history, its unique businesses and different profiles of people. 

After frequently being asked for suggestions of places to explore in the region, McConnell knew she had to use the wisdom she’s accumulated over the years to curate a book. She titled it “Passport to the Ozarks.” 

Musicans Kev Marcus (at left) and Wil B. make up hip-hop violin duo Black Violin. Their performance at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on Nov. 17 was their final show of 2019.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Hip-hop violin duo Black Violin performed their final concert of the year last night at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. Concertgoers danced and vibed to a setlist fused with what Black Violin crafts well — classical music and hip-hop.

Violinist Kevin Sylvester, also known as Kev Marcus, and violist Wilner Baptiste, also known as Wil B., make up the group. They released their new album “Take the Stairs” earlier this month. PBS described the pair as “two former high school orchestra nerds who use their love of Bach and Beethoven to reimagine classical music and connect with new audiences.”

The classically trained musicians joined Sarah Fenkse on St. Louis on the Air alongside St. Louis artist Brandon McCadney, known as Mad Keys. McCadney is classically trained in violin and plays the piano. 

Matthew Albrecht (at front), associate scientist at the Garden's Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development, and volunteer Eva Adams help during a honeysuckle sweep workday at Shaw Nature Reserve in 2018.
Mike Saxton | Shaw Nature Reserve

Bush honeysuckle isn't native to Missouri, but the species is flourishing in the state. The infestation has impacted the diversity and abundance of native plants, eliminated essential habitats for the insects that rely upon native plants, and has provided poor nutrition for birds, among other issues. The honeysuckle also escalates human exposure to Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis, a tickborne bacterial infection, by increasing the activity of the tick host, whitetailed deer. 

In an effort to upset honeysuckle infestation, the Missouri Botanical Garden has organized public events and volunteer removal days to raise public awareness about the need for bush honeysuckle removal and the benefits of replacing it with native plants. 

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with the garden’s restoration outreach coordinator, Ali Brown, who is heading up the organization’s Honeysuckle Sweep Month

From left, authors Meg Cabot and Ridley Pearson joined Monday's program.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Parents and educators often look for various ways to engage kids in reading. Traditional novels are seen as the ideal, but graphic novels can be just as effective. While similar to comic books, graphic novels tend to be in a longer format, and the narrative is largely self-contained. With the combination of text and pictures, graphic novels have complex plots, characters and conflicts. 

DC Comics recently introduced a line of superhero-based graphic novels aimed at middle-grade readers, between the ages of 8 and 12.

St. Louisans will get to learn more about some of them by visiting the St. Louis County Library this week. Authors Ridley Pearson and Meg Cabot are in town Monday and Tuesday to promote their separate DC Comics graphic novels aimed at middle-grade readers.

Chris Clark (at left) and Ben Scholle joined Friday's talk show to talk about this year's St. Louis International Film Festival. Michael Bertin joined the conversation by phone.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

The 28th St. Louis International Film Festival returned this week to offer local moviegoers the chance to view international films, documentaries, American indies and shorts over the course of 11 days. On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Cinema St. Louis artistic director Chris Clark about some of this year’s highlights. 

Joining the discussion were two film directors whose works take a look at issues pertaining to the region, albeit vastly different ones. 

Steve Ehlmann

The exploration of the potential privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport continues — request for qualifications submissions from interested companies were due today. 

The city of St. Louis will now begin screening potential bidders to gauge whether they can financially and operationally move forward in the process. But now both St. Charles County and St. Louis County have entered the debate on airport privatization. They want the Port Authority to study regional control of the airport and whether privatization is a good idea. 

R.J. Hartbeck (at left) and Mary von der Heydt joined Thursday's "St. Louis on the Air" to talk about their "Small Circles" recipe book.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

The holiday season often signals a time when people gather together and aim to impress their friends and loved ones with their cooking skills. And now, home chefs can try some recipes not found in the Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray cookbooks. 

R.J. Hartbeck and Mary von der Heydt have launched a series of short cookbooks titled “Small Circle,” each showcasing about 10 recipes from noted chefs around St. Louis. 

File photo | Washington University

All month long, families have channeled their spooky senses and prepped their homes for Halloween. Decorations, costumes and candy all have to set the right vibe. But parents of children with intellectual or developmental disabilities have additional things to consider when preparing for the holiday, particularly for children whose disabilities aren’t visible. 

An estimated one in 59 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder each year, so it’s likely that a child with a disability will be stopping by households that aren’t aware of their condition this Halloween. 

To help ensure a successful holiday for children with disabilities, Jeanne Marshall and Melanie Mills of Easterseals Midwest joined Friday’s St. Louis on the Air with guest host Jeremy D. Goodwin. Marshall is the organization’s executive vice president of services and chief program officer. Mills is the director of autism services. 

Emily Woodbury | St. Louis Public Radio

Since 2012, Faizan Syed has been a key figure in Missouri’s Muslim community, serving as the executive director of the state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. When he first started, CAIR-MO was a small organization with just one board member and a budget of a little more than $10,000. But the group has since become a leading voice in the community. 

Syed recently left the organization to become the new executive director of CAIR-Dallas-Fort Worth. Taking over as director this month is Mojda Sidiqi, who was previously CAIR-MO’s communications coordinator. There will be a farewell banquet and fundraiser for Syed at the organization’s 7th Anniversary Gala on Friday, Nov. 8. 

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, both Sidiqi and Syed joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss the organization’s past and its future. 

Instructor Mike Pagano works with participants of Continuity's film-training program on interview techniques.

On Nov. 2, Continuity will host a “first-of-its-kind” conference bringing filmmakers to St. Louis to meet its trainees and other people interested in media production. The local nonprofit organization trains St. Louisans of color and underrepresented communities, teaching them filmmaking skills and preparing them for jobs in media production.

Continuity’s executive director and co-founder, Dan Parris, joined host Sarah Fenske to talk about the organization’s efforts on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air.

Also joining the conversation were Erica Renee Walker, a recent graduate of the Continuity Media Training Program, and Letisha Wexstten. Wexstten, who was born without arms, has developed a following for her YouTube channel, Tisha UnArmed. She will be featured at Continuity’s In Motion Filmmaking Conference.