Arts & Culture | St. Louis Public Radio

Arts & Culture

Kimmie Kidd Booker plays brothel owner and philanthropist, Eliza Haycraft in Madam.
Caroline Guffey

Most people in St. Louis likely have never heard of Eliza Haycraft, one of the city's wealthiest citizens in the late 1800s. But a new musical could change that. 

Fly North Theatricals' latest musical, “Madam,” is based on the last few years of Haycraft’s life. At her peak, she ran five brothels, earning a fortune of about $28 million in today’s dollars. And she used that fortune and power to make her own rules and wielded them over men.

The Enterprise Center in St. Louis played host to the 2020 NHL All-Star Game.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

Native St. Louisan and actor Jon Hamm was back with a video message before the NHL All-Star Game. Charles Glenn returned to sing the national anthem. Laila Anderson, the superfan battling a rare immune disease who inspired the St. Louis Blues last season, introduced the Blues players who made the team.

Saturday night’s All-Star Game at Enterprise Center had a distinctly St. Louis feel.

Players on the defending Stanley Cup-champion St. Louis Blues were eliminated in their first game. The single-elimination tournament pitted the NHL’s four divisions against one another.

Oprah Winfrey selected "American Dirt" by Jeanine Cummins for her popular book club in January 2020.
Left Bank Books

Updated Jan. 25 with the event cancellation

Left Bank Books has canceled Sunday’s scheduled discussion and book signing with "American Dirt" author Jeanine Cummins, citing strong opposition toward the book from the Latino community. 

Cummins’ latest novel tells the story of a Mexican woman and her son migrating to the U.S. border. The book has been skewered by some critics who say the nationally hyped release leans on stereotypes damaging to Latinos. It was released this week.

Maria Ellis leads a rehearsal on Jan. 22 in UMSL's Music Building.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

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

Growing up in north St. Louis County, where she was leading choirs by the time she was 12 years old, Maria Ellis remembers thinking about St. Louis Children’s Choirs as “the ultimate vocal group.” But as her alma mater, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, notes in a recent UMSL Daily story about Ellis’ journey, Ellis couldn’t afford to join the SLCC program as a child.

She did participate in one of the organization’s community honors choirs, and now she’s come full circle, having landed a position as SLCC’s community engagement manager several years ago. But shortly after starting that job, she realized the north St. Louis County honors choir she’d so enjoyed as a child was no more. Now, in 2020, it’s coming back thanks to Ellis.

Dozens of children in grades three through six are now gathering for regular rehearsals on UMSL’s campus — a place that was pivotal for Ellis’ own musical journey.

Colin McLaughlin, Larry Sheldon and Kevin FitzGerald rehearse a scene from "Workers' Opera." Jan. 19, 2020
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On a recent Sunday afternoon, about a dozen people gathered at the otherwise-quiet headquarters of the Service Employees International Union in Clifton Heights to rehearse an opera.

Granted, they were using the term opera a little loosely. “Workers’ Opera" is an original compilation of vignettes — mostly dramatic sketches and songs — addressing a variety of issues facing working people today. 

Bread and Roses Missouri, an activist group with a pro-labor stance that addresses social issues through the arts, is behind the production. The fifth annual incarnation of “Workers’ Opera,” updated for 2020, makes its debut in a free performance at Missouri History Museum on Sunday.

(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.” 

Richard Geary performs as Mark Twain during his one man shows at the Planter's Barn Theater in Hannibal.
Richard Geary

Mark Twain, the author born Samuel Clemens in 1835 Missouri, was ahead of his time in many important ways. That’s one reason his brilliant novels endure, and why they’re just as funny as they were when they were published more than 140 years ago.

On Chess: Life Lessons After Winning The 2017 US Women's Chess Championship

Jan 21, 2020
Women's Grandmaster Sabina Foisor, winner of the 2017 U.S. Women's Chess Championship.
Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

Winning the 2017 U.S. Women's Chess Championship has been the highlight of my chess career so far.

It was a wonderful moment that I was blessed to be able to share with my fiancé and — from afar — with my family, but it also was the saddest moment of my life, having just lost my mother a little over two months before the start of the event.

Officials at Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, known as the ALPLM, are once again trying to verify the authenticity of a hat once thought to belong to Lincoln.

January 14, 2020 Miranda Popkey
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Miranda Popkey is a California native, and much of her debut novel, “Topics of Conversation,” is set in the state. But the novel has a St. Louis origin story. It’s while she was in the MFA program at Washington University that she wrote much of it. And it’s at Wash U that she realized it could be, and was, a novel.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Popkey joined us to discuss her novel. 

The novel’s focus on ideas over plot — and its sometimes “unlikeable narrator” — have drawn pushback from some readers, she acknowledged.  

January 6, 2020 Dave Greteman
Emily Woodbury | St. Louis Public Radio

Getting drunk at dinner is sooo 2010. Some of the area’s most buzz-worthy bars are now focused on drinks that won’t get you buzzed. That includes Elmwood.

At this one-year-old Maplewood hotspot, the roster of booze-free cocktails (called “zero proof”) is just as interesting and complex as that of their liquor-fueled cousins. The restaurant is also serving drinks it calls “low proof,” offering a taste of spirits without condemning you to a raging headache the next morning.

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.

St. Louis Chess Club co-founder Rex Sinquefield shakes hand with Nate Cohen across a "Sinquefield Table."
Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

When the St. Louis Chess Club wanted to create new and innovative chess tables for the 2019 Grand Chess Tour events held in St. Louis, it reached out to longtime partner and supporter Nate Cohen.

Cohen, 30, is the chief financial officer of Cohen Architectural Woodworking, a 70-employee family-run business in St. James, Missouri, that supplies commercial millwork to companies nationwide. 

Ron Himes (left) is the founder of the Black Rep, and Ed Smith (right) is the director for the Black Rep's production of "Two Trains Running."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

In a series of 10 plays, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson chronicled the black experience in 20th-century America. The plays are collectively known as the "Century Cycle,” with each play set in a different decade — nine of them in the same Pittsburgh neighborhood in which Wilson grew up.

As St. Louis’ premier black theater company since 1976, the Black Rep has a long history of performing Wilson’s plays. In fact, it was only the third company in the U.S. to complete the cycle.

Waller McGuire and Kristen Sorth
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Two of the largest library systems in the St. Louis region are axing fines for overdue library materials.

St. Louis County Library and St. Louis Public Library join a trend of major metropolitan library districts across the U.S. — including those of Kansas City, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Chicago — that have eliminated fines for their users in an effort to increase access and equity within the communities they serve.

“We have seen a lot of studies out there that say fines are not the incentive to get people to bring their books back,” said Kristen Sorth, the director of the St. Louis County Library district. “And so, we still want the books back. You just don’t have to come back and pay a fine.”

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. 

Missouri painter George Caleb Bingham shaped the way the nation saw life on the frontier. His work spanned politics, civil war discord and rowdy riverboatmen, and his genre paintings of 19th century river life are in many major national art collections.

Within the next three years, all of Bingham's nearly 600 known paintings will be accessible online and freely available to the public.

I attended an inspiring and educational talk titled "Mound City--The Place of the Indian Past and Present in St. Louis" given by Professor Patricia Cleary at The Missouri History Museum. Professor Cleary referred to the ground under the museum as the place where the indigenous Mississippian culture lived and thrived almost a thousand years ago. She went on to talk about the need to pay homage and give respect to those ancient peoples and their descendants in our city today.

On Chess: How Chess Gave Me Opportunities In Different Aspects Of Life

Jan 2, 2020
Grandmaster Pepe Cuenca visits a school in Peru.
St. Louis Chess Club

I began to play the game of chess when I was only 5 years old. My father taught me the rules of the game, and I will always remember how my mother bickered with my father for not letting me win even a single game!

During primary school, I signed up for chess as an after-school activity. I was kind of hyperactive, so I combined chess with many other sports such as soccer, basketball, handball and tennis. 

Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

A clothing library at St. Louis University is helping students find outfits that match their gender identity.

The student-led Queer Closet allows transgender and gender-nonconforming people to find affordable clothing that helps them feel more comfortable. 

“I think one of the biggest and best aspects of the Queer Closet is the idea you’re working with someone who understands what you’re going through and someone who understands the queer experience,” said co-founder Regis Wilson, a SLU business major who identifies as gender-nonconforming.

Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger walks out of federal court in May after pleading guilty to three counts of public corruption for steering county contracts to campaign donors.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio journalists were there for the biggest stories of 2019. Whether it was St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger's fall from power under federal corruption charges; the St. Louis Blues first Stanley Cup win; or the protests over Missouri passing one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

We also witnessed many quiet moments of personal struggle, celebration, courage and discovery in our community.

Staff photojournalist Carolina Hidalgo shared her favorite photos from the moments that we'll remember from 2019. 

Caitlin Franz and Mic Broshans of the late, great Cherokee Street venue Foam. [12/30/19]
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

A much-loved, multipurpose venue just closed its doors for the last time. Foam, located at Cherokee Street and Jefferson Avenue, had its last event on Sunday, a marathon performance of bands with longtime connections to the venue.

Foam was many things to many people. It was a coffee shop that also featured a full bar — or, perhaps, a bar that offered late-night coffee. It was also a performance space where young St. Louis bands got their start and touring groups that didn’t fit into neat commercial categories found a friendly outpost on the road. 

Dennis C. Owsley / Copyright Dennis C. Owsley

Jazz Unlimited for Sunday.

Fashion designer Brandin Vaughn cuts fabric for a client's custom suit at Brandin Vaughn Collection, his Cherokee Street storefront and workspace. Dec. 18, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Lisa Hu wants to make St. Louis sexy. Not only in a fashionable way, but with a desirable economic engine. 

Hu's posh, eco-friendly handbag company Lux & Nyx has already been featured in national and local fashion magazines, and the St. Louis venture has only been around for about a year and a half. That’s partly because of her connection to the St. Louis Fashion Fund.  

Volunteers make no-sew blankets during the annual Jewish and Muslim Day of Community Service in 2017.
Jewish and Muslim Day of Community Service

While many in the St. Louis region will be opening presents on Christmas Day, a group of volunteers will spend the day giving back to the community. 

MindsEye volunteer Cory Sturdevant performs live audio description of a St. Louis Blues game at Enterprise Center. [12/24/19]
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

Thirty minutes before the St. Louis Blues took on the Edmonton Oilers on a recent evening, fans slowly filled the seats of the Enterprise Center. A blues band playing in a concourse on a lower level was shown on the Jumbotron and pumped through the speakers.

In a luxury suite, MindsEye personnel tested the wireless headsets they’d later give to a group of visually impaired young people. Volunteer Cory Sturdevant was on tap to describe the game for them.

Unlike professional radio broadcasters working the game, he had the task of going beyond the play-by-play. He was there to provide a vivid picture of the full experience. 

Dennis C. Owsley / Copyright Dennis C. Owsley

Jazz Unlimited for Sunday.

Dionna Raedeke (at left), Beverly Brennan (center) and Robert Breig joined Friday's show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis cabaret scene got a boost this fall with the debut of the Blue Strawberry, a dining and show destination on the eastern edge of the Central West End. A quick glance at the venue’s music calendar reveals a steady parade of performers — continuing on into the new year.

And during the first weekend of 2020, New York-based singer/songwriter Rick Jensen will be collaborating with local cabaret performers, together presenting three consecutive evenings of storytelling and song.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske got a preview from cabaret artists Beverly Brennan, Robert Breig and Dionna Raedeke.

Philip Barnes is artistic director of the St. Louis Chamber Chorus. | 12/20/19
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

While many St. Louis-area residents are accustomed to celebrating Christmas during winter, it’s just the opposite in Australia where it’s summer.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Philip Barnes, artistic director of the St. Louis Chamber Chorus, about the organization’s “Christmas Down Under” concert.