Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

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

Arriel Biggs poses for a portrait at St. Louis Public Radio on Oct. 8, 2019.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Arriel Biggs always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur. But the journey to becoming the founder of Young Biz Kidz, an organization that teaches kids to manage money and run their own business, was not an easy.

In 2010, Biggs and her husband found themselves living paycheck to paycheck even though they were both working full-time jobs. Eventually, they sat down and looked over their finances and found that they were not living in a financially responsible way. In order to get back on track, they decided to move their entire family back in with her parents for 18 months.

Mary Harris poses outside her new townhouse in Pine Lawn. Nonprofit group Beyond Housing built dozens of affordable homes in the area using a low-income housing tax credit. Oct. 7, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s low-income housing tax credit is a complicated program that often gets debated in terms of dollars and cents, but for Mary Harris, the incentive that creates housing for the poor, elderly and disabled isn’t some philosophical concept.

Harris lives in a townhouse in Pine Lawn. Thanks to a tax credit to developers, she pays significantly less money in rent than for other places she’s lived throughout the St. Louis area. It’s an arrangement that’s had a profound impact on her life.

Judy Gladney poses for a portrait at the University City High School auditorium on Oct. 10, 2019.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Before Judy Gladney was among the first black students to integrate University City High School, she and her family were the first black people to move into a gated community in the city called University Hills.

For Gladney, 67, being among the first was almost a family tradition. 

“We were a family of firsts," Gladney said. “My father was a physician. He broke down many barriers. He was the first (black) head of a department of medicine at St. Louis U. We were one of the first black families at Pilgrim Congregational Church. So it was a lifestyle for us to constantly be in diverse environments.”

A visitor looks at pieces on display at the St. Louis Art Museum's 'The Shape of Abstraction: Selections from the Ollie Collection' exhibit. Oct. 9, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Lamerol A. Gatewood developed an interest in art in the early 1970s, when he was a student at University City High School.

The art class so captured Gatewood’s imagination that he started scultpure work and painting a few years later.

In the decades that followed, Gatewood’s career took him across the U.S. and abroad. But he considers his recent inclusion in a collection of African American abstract art donated to the St. Louis Art Museum a crowning achievement.

Gatewood hopes a growing interest in African American abstract art will give him and other black artists their due.

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum's new facade is 34 feet tall and made of pleated stainless steel.
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum once sat at the edge of a parking lot, shielded from passing traffic by a row of trees. 

Following an expansion project that closed the museum for a year and a half, it’s back open and much more visible. 

A gleaming, 34-foot-tall facade made of pleated stainless steel now calls attention to the museum of modern and contemporary art. Behind that facade are new galleries that increase the museum’s exhibition space by 50%. 

Helene Britton in the baseball stands with her children, Marie and Frank DeHaas Britton. She sold the St. Louis Cardinals in 1918, before being able to pass the team to her son.
Missouri Historical Society Collections

The majority women ownership group at the helm of St. Louis' new professional soccer team is continuing a line of female sports ownership in the region that extends to the early 1900s.

While many St. Louisans recall that the National Football League's Rams were owned by Georgia Frontiere for much of the team's time in the Midwest, they might not know the Cardinals also had a female owner.

And she just so happened to be the first female owner in Major League Baseball history.

To help students cope with environmental stressors, Emerson Academy offers therapy sessions, a specialized curriculum and a violence intervention program. Oct. 2, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Early this spring, Shamyia Ford Jennings, 17, walked with her cousin and a friend to a corner store in north St. Louis. Minutes later, she was in St. Louis Children’s Hospital with a bullet wound in left leg. Her friend had also been shot, in the foot. 

And a couple of summers ago, Devin Smith, 16, was playing basketball on the playground with family members when someone fired shots in his direction. His cousin was hit in the drive-by. 

Michael Plisco, a critical care pulmonologist at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, says vaping still carries serious unknown risks.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Across the U.S., 18 people have died and more than 1,000 have become sick from a little-understood respiratory disease linked to vaping products. In Missouri, one patient has died, and state health officials have confirmed at least seven cases.

People with the illness report shortness of breath, nausea and coughing. Doctors have placed some patients on life support or respirators because their lungs have stopped working entirely.

Until doctors know more about the effects of vaping, people should stay away from the products, said Dr. Michael Plisco, a pulmonologist at Mercy Hospital St. Louis who treated the man who died.

A section of the Big Piney River that runs through Fort Leonard Wood. This is one of the places that provides habitat to endandered species that live at the base. 10-02-19
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Fort Leonard Wood is home to more than 6,000 soldiers and at least three endangered species.

Those animals and two more that are threatened are protected and cared for despite living among shelling and other military training.

And scientists flock to the installation, saying it’s a boon to their research and gives them an opportunity to help these animals.

Jessica Kopecky primes one portion of a wall before adding color to it on Sept. 28, 2019. This is the fourth outdoor mural the Wisconsin native will complete.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Paint-splashed walls of four downtown buildings are bringing the first elements of a mural project in the city closer to fruition.

Over the next few weeks, artists from around the country will arrive in Belleville and complete large and colorful paintings around the community.

“It’s taking Belleville from a bedroom community, sleepy suburb and making it its own destination,” said Emily Smith, a Belleville Mural Project committee member. 

Members of the Chickasaw Nation Dance Troupe demonstrate stomp dance at Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville on Sept. 21. The tribe traces its ancestry to the ancient Mississippians who built the mounds 1,000 years ago.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

COLLINSVILLE – As Angelia Griffin delved into her family’s Native American ancestry in recent years, she developed a deeper respect for the cultural importance of Cahokia Mounds.

“I used to come here as a child when I was in school, on a field trip,’’ said the Belleville resident, who visited the state historic site on a recent Saturday. “I’m looking at it in a different light.’’

Tammy Riley poses for a photo with her granddaughter, Frankii, who never met her father.  Frank Sessions was shot and killed before she was born. (Sept. 28, 2019)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A portrait of Frank “Nitty” Sessions hangs on the wall at Nitty’s Salon 1 and Retail on Natural Bridge Road, high above the manicure station.

Tammy Riley’s daughter Tameya named the salon after her brother, who was shot and killed outside a north St. Louis bar in 2009. He was 24.

For Riley, her son’s photo is a constant reminder that his life was cut short. Superimposed on the image is a poem he wrote years earlier, “24 Things to Remember and One Thing to Never Forget.”

“Number 24 is, ‘Don’t ever forget, for even a day, just how much I do really love you,’” read his mother, though it’s clear she had the poem memorized.

Taken at Denver International Airport on 9.17.19
Corinne Ruff / St. Louis Public Radio

DENVER — For Paula Gallegos, who flies out of Denver International Airport weekly on business trips, a 15-minute detour through construction is understandable for a few months. But a few years?

“Two or three years with this is a little much,” she said, pointing to the white paneling guarding exposed concrete and iron beams. “But, I mean, what do you do?”

She’s one of many Denver residents frustrated that a construction project halted last month is blocking a third of the airport’s main terminal. That’s after Denver’s mayor pulled the plug on the nearly $2 billion construction and privatization deal with Great Hall Partners, a group led by Spanish company Ferrovial Airports.

Children Under Fire is a series examining how communities are affected when children are killed by gun violence.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Ten children have been shot to death in St. Louis since Memorial Day weekend — more than the total number of young people killed by guns in all of 2018.

The cause of the increase has vexed police, researchers and those who work with victims of violence.

Novelist and comic writer Gabby Rivera is touring the U.S. to promot the re-release of her hit young adult novel, Juliet Takes a Breath.
Julieta Salgado

When a small press published "Juliet Takes a Breath" a few years ago, the work of young adult fiction first found critical acclaim from online LGBTQ and Latina publications before soon winning awards and attracting scores of dedicated readers. 

The book tells the story of Juliet Milagros Palante, a queer Puerto Rican from New York who leaves her family for a summer of self-discovery after a stressful coming-out. It’s a semi-autobiographical piece of fiction for its author, Gabby Rivera, who went on to write Marvel Comics’ first LGBTQ Latina superhero in 2017.

Designs by Snow Kreilich Architects and HOK show a open-air soccer stadium with a translucent canopy to protect spectators from weather and a field that sits 40 feet below street level.
HOK

While fans are excited about the arrival of Major League Soccer in St. Louis, the new stadium could be the beginning of a more vibrant sports-entertainment district in downtown.

The likely site of the MLS expansion team’s venue will be west of Union Station, just down the street from the Enterprise Center, where the Blues play, and Busch Stadium, home of the Cardinals. That will mean a roughly one-mile stretch boasting three professional sports venues, similar to districts in Pittsburgh and Detroit.

Mixed Feelings meets monthly. The group founded by Alyson Thompson met at Rise Coffee House in September for its launch party. September 9, 2019
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

When Fox Smith arrived to Rise Coffee House a few weeks ago, she was eager to meet people who, like her, understood what it means to have a broad view of race and identity.

Smith, of St. Louis, was born to a Korean mother and a white father. Like the other multiracial young adults at the coffee house, she wanted to talk about shared experiences.

“I'm biracial, and being somebody who is biracial, when I find somebody else who is multiethnic, and it comes out, we start talking about it with each other, it's like an instantaneous bonding experience,” Smith said.

Incoming music director Stéphane Denève will begin his first season at the helm of St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. 2/5/19
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

In a cramped hallway outside Stéphane Denève’s new office at Powell Hall, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra chief executive Marie-Hélène Bernard had a warning for the orchestra’s new music director. 

There’ll be a lot of microphone reverb when he talks to the audience at the orchestra’s Forest Park concert the next night, she said.

“Like Woodstock!” he exclaimed, and pantomimed playing guitar to the tune of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

A crowd of 20,000 at Forest Park is not quite Woodstock, but it’s also a world away from Denève’s humble origins. This weekend, he leads his first concerts as the orchestra’s artistic leader.

Runners take part in a 5K memorial run in Troy, Illinois, to honor Senior Airman Bradley R. Smith, who was killed in Afghanistan. More than 600 people participated in the 10th annual run on Sept. 7, 2019.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

TROY, Ill. — Chloe Smith, a little girl with blond hair and a bright smile, stood before 600 runners, bravely singing the national anthem at an annual 5K run that honors her father — Senior Airman Bradley R. Smith, who was killed in Afghanistan in January 2010. 

Chloe was an infant when her father died a hero’s death that no one has forgotten in this town of 10,000, about 20 miles east of St. Louis. She will be 10 in October.

When she stumbled over a few words, everyone began singing with her. And Chloe finished strong.

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

Ben DeClue wants to be invited to a very exclusive club.

The Benton Park resident joined more than 100 people who live in St. Louis in trying to join what’s known as the Board of Freeholders. If he makes the cut, DeClue will be part of a 19-person body that could present voters with a plan to end the so-called “Great Divorce” between St. Louis and St. Louis County — or offer nothing at all.

Members of the national organization Remember the 400 gather around the historical marker in Hampton, Virginia, that recognizes the location where the first 20 or so Africans were brought on slave ships.
Naomi Blair

After visiting Point Comfort — present-day Hampton, Virginia — a few weeks ago, Anthony Ross, director of the St. Louis chapter of Remember the 400, said he wants the group to bring more black history to the region. 

The group traveled for 20 hours by bus to Hampton in late August to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of African slaves in America in 1619.

St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo raises the Stanley Cup above his head during the downtown championship celebration.
Hockey Hall of Fame Archive

The St. Louis Blues’ summer of celebration is coming to an end. Training camp for a new season is underway, and the team’s time with the Stanley Cup is nearly over — at least for now.

“The Stanley Cup champion gets approximately 100 days to travel with the cup,” said Phil Pritchard, whose official title is vice president and curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame but is better known as the "Keeper of the Cup."

“That name kind of came around by hockey fans,” he said. “It just got created.”

Stephanie Syjuco, seen far right, puts together an installation for "Rogue States," her exhibition at CAM. [9/13/19]
Contemporary Art Museum

Artist Stephanie Syjuco bought some black-and-white photographs a couple of years ago of what she thought were Filipinos seen in everyday moments. 

But when she looked a little closer, she realized the photos were staged. They were actually photos of the Filipino village at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, where people from around the world were displayed in so-called living exhibitions.

A collection of altered photos from that event are part of her exhibition on view at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

Edwardsville High School students observe labor apprentices pour concrete on Sept. 10. The high schoolers are part of a two year program where they learn aspects of the construction trade.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

EDWARDSVILLE — A new program that gives high school students hands-on experience with the construction trades kicked off this year. 

Over two years, juniors and seniors from local high schools will learn to pour concrete, install pipes, construct scaffolding and other aspects of the trades from certified labor instructors through the Illinois Laborers' and Contractors Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program.

Holly Bickmeyer and cattle on the small farm she manages. She wants control over large livestock operations to stay local. Sept 9., 2019
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Holly Bickmeyer is worried about what a large livestock operation would do if it moves in next door. 

She points to the small lake in front of her house on the 20-head cattle farm she operates in Maries County.

“Sinkholes open up all the time,” Bickmeyer said. “You see the lake that’s in my front yard here? If somebody builds a hog operation at the end of my driveway, I would be concerned about that waste getting into the groundwater and I walk out one day and all my bass are dead.”

Bickmeyer said that’s why she wants her local county commissioners to decide if concentrated animal feeding operations, also known as CAFOs, can locate nearby. 

Cards classmates of Jurnee Thompson made after she was shot and killed in the second week of school. Jurnee, 8, was in third grade. Aug. 30, 2019.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Eddie Hill IV never showed up for the fifth grade. The 10-year-old was shot and killed enjoying his summer vacation from his front porch in the Lewis Place neighborhood, which borders the Central West End. 

His death has upended the school year for his former classmates at Pamoja Preparatory Academy at Cole. 

Eddie is one of a dozen children who have died in violence so far this year, part of a dizzying streak of young children being killed by bullets not meant for them, while doing things a kid is supposed to be doing in the summer: playing in the yard, eating pizza and going to football games.

Ben Jellen, an associate professor of biology at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, using a radio receiver to track a copperhead snake at Powder Valley Nature Center on August 30, 2019.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Only a few of the more than 40 snake species in Missouri are venomous, including the one Ben Jellen is looking for: the copperhead.

Copperheads have extraordinarily well-camouflaged bodies, which blend in with fallen leaves and branches. Although it’s the most common venomous snake species in Missouri, scientists know surprisingly little about its basic biology. Jellen, an associate professor of biology at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, is leading a small group of researchers who hope to learn more about this elusive snake.

Even though the Midwest is tops in field corn production and grows row after row of it, these states don’t stand out when it comes to national production of sweet corn. 

But for many in the region, nothing says summer quite like a fresh hot ear of sweet corn — plain, buttered or salted.


Hana Sharif, new artistic director at the Rep, has plans to enhance the theater company's reach into the neighborhoods of the region. [9/4/19]
Cheshire Isaacs

When the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis begins its season this week, it welcomes Hana Sharif as its first new artistic leader in decades. 

Sharif said that, historically speaking, American theater audiences are predominantly white and well-off. One of her top priorities is to expand the reach of the Rep and attract more people of color and audience members of modest means.

St. Louis resident Erica Camp and her spent hen, Jo, at the Autism Behavioral Spectrum School in Ballwin, Missouri in August 2019.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

At the Autism and Behavioral Spectrum School in Ballwin, Missouri, a woman with purple-streaked black hair walked in with a stroller containing a plump, white chicken. 

Erica Camp brought Jo the chicken to meet a few dozen children, who petted and held Jo in their laps. The visit is part of Camp’s efforts to spread word about her organization, Second Hen’d, which helps people adopt older chickens from commercial farms that don’t want them anymore. 

Jo, a spent hen from a commercial egg producer, is one of 180 hens that Camp has saved since starting Second Hen’d last year. Owning hens can be therapeutic, she said.

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