Spotlight On St. Louis: The Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum

Did you know that our greater St. Louis region has our own air and space museum? Well, just across the river in Cahokia, IL we do, thanks to a few former McDonnell Douglas staffers who wanted to showcase St. Louis’ rich aviation history.

The museum was initially located at Creve Coeur Airport before a disastrous flood in 1986 lead them to move to the Spirit of St. Louis Airport. The flood of 1993 hit the museum hard as well, and after closing public displays in 2001, they re-opened in an old Curtis-Wright hanger at the Greater St. Louis Downtown Airport in January 2005.

If you’re lucky enough to snag a docent tour, you’ll learn all about the unique artifacts such as early pilots licenses signed by Orville Wright, the original space suit worn by Gus Grissom in the famous photo of the Mercury 7 (alongside more memorabilia from the astronaut’s St. Louis training), some really cool planes and more artifacts and memorabilia than you’d think could fit in their small space.

At one time there were seven companies making planes in the St. Louis area, and museum has an impressive collection of models of many of the planes that have been made here.

One such company belonged to a man named Benoist, who manufactured seaplanes at his factory on Delmar and opened the first airplane parts store in the country on Washington Avenue in the early 1900s. Benoist’s seaplanes were the first seaplanes used in commercial flight.

The museum also includes a wide variety of engines (from the earliest planes through modern models) as well as a number of planes and flight simulators that were used over a number of years for a number of reasons.

Their memorabilia includes smaller items as well. St. Louis hosted some of the earliest major air races, and an original poster from the 1923 International Air Races hangs on the wall alongside an original banner from the 1937 International Air Races. 

The museum also makes sure you’re aware that though Kitty Hawk may have been home to the first air flight, Glenn Curtis made the first aeroplane flight from Forest Park, and Aviation Field in the park is so named because from 1920 – 1921 the area served as a landing field for airmail service between St. Louis and Chicago. (The pilots averaged about 77 miles an hour, reaching Chicago in about three and a half hours.) Also, that police horse barn nearby – it used to be an airplane hanger.

And the museum has big plans, from fixing their leaking roof to repainting an old 727 to display half of it’s old TWA colors and half of it’s previous Ozark Airlines colors – a mission that will compliment their TWA and Ozark Airline exhibits. The plane will serve as both a museum exhibit and an airport fire department training plane. Ozark Airlines started their operations from the building now housing the museum.

The museum is clearly a labor of love for the docents who volunteer their time restoring their planes and sharing their love of our region’s place in the history and future of flight. They also serve as a reference source with thousands of documents and historical records stored at the museum. Whatever you’re level of interest, you’re guaranteed to learn a lot.

The Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum is open Friday – Sunday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. The museum is located at 2300 Vector Dr. Cahokia IL, 62206. www.airandspacemuseum.org.

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Spotlight On St. Louis: The Saint Louis Art Museum

I think it’s safe to assume you’d agree with me that we have a citywide (and national) treasure in the Saint Louis Art Museum, but for some reason we generally move on after acknowledging this. How often do we revisit the paintings and other pieces of art displayed in the galleries of the Cass Gilbert designed building? Until recently, at least I rarely did, yet as a kid it was a regular field trip (5 year-old Amanda was going to be an artist the likes of Monet – big dreams, eh?).

But inside the walls, we find marvels of so many shapes and sizes – from modern art to photography to furniture from all periods and styles. We find works from Ancient Chinese scrolls and Egyptian metal work to glassware to arms and armor – just part of a collection that includes 33,000 works.

The newest special exhibit “Degas, Impressionism, and the Millinery Trade” is gaining the museum, and their impressive impressionist collection, the national spotlight with articles in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, as well as a segment on CBS Sunday Morning.

The exhibit displays a variety of impressionist paintings from Degas, Cassat, Renoir and more depicting the millinery trade and those who patronized it. Some of the Degas works have never been publicly displayed in the United States before. Alongside our museum’s rich collection of paintings, the exhibit strategically places fantastically detailed and embellished period hats and period publications.

The exhibit, located in the new wing of the Art Museum, is worth a visit for anyone interested in art, impressionism, fashion or history. You can learn more about the segment from our recent Scope piece at hectv.org.

Scope has also profiled a private collection of Renaissance and Baroque Masterworks that will be on display until July 30, 2017. “Learning to See: Renaissance and Baroque Masterworks from the Phoebe Dent Weil and Mark S. Weil Collection” features pieces from 150 works promised to the museum by the Weils.

When the pieces enter the collection, the Saint Louis Art Museum will have one of the strongest collections of Renaissance terracotta anywhere. The exhibit explores intellectual and spiritual themes of European sculpture, prints and paintings from the 15th to the 17th century and includes many mythical and religious subjects and themes.

The exhibit was the inspiration for the museum’s most recent SLAM Underground event, which featured the exhibition and other activities related to the Renaissance. Never have I seen so many millennials present, or even seen the museum so crowded, as at this monthly night of live music, cocktails, art projects and scavenger hunts around the museum – with the exception of big events like Art in Bloom, of course (if you missed it, Scope has a beautiful look of this year’s displays).

Certainly, there is much to the Saint Louis Art Museum that we don’t see in the galleries and through their regular events. The museum has an extensive archive of work it either can’t display at the moment, is loaned out, or is restoring. They also hold further information, letters and historical documents about the artists whose work grace the walls, and on its historical and architecturally significant building. Further, the museum offers classes and gallery talks for children and adults and engages in numerous other forms of outreach.

And they have a new installation. Shimon Attie’s “Lost in Space (After Huck)” opened on April 1st, and will remain open through June 25th in Gallery 210 of the main building. The site-specific installation creates an immersive experience that asks the attendee to reflect on local culture and social issues. You can find an interview with Attie about the piece at hectv.org.

Regardless of what type of art or what special event or exhibition may attract you, it may be worth making another visit to Louis IX and the building he guards.

Spotlight On St. Louis: The Eugene Field House

On the corner of Broadway and Cerre St. about a block from the southeast corner of Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis sits a house. It’s an old house – from the mid-1800s – that doesn’t draw much attention amongst the bars and Cardinals love doting the area, unless you know what you’re looking for.

But inside the house and its adjoining museum is a look back in St. Louis’ past, and at a classic author’s childhood home. This house was Eugene Field’s boyhood home, and during the seven years Field lived here with his parents and brother, his father, Roswell M. Field, took up Dred and Harriet Scott’s freedom suit. Field argued on Scott’s behalf and carried the case into the Federal Courts, leading to the infamous Supreme Court decision in Scott v. Sandford.

eugene-field-7The house tour and the adjoining museum detail the family’s involvement in the case with artifacts and anecdotes, that share a new perspective to the famous legal suit, as well as details of the house’s place in St. Louis’ history, Field’s writing career, and his fascination with children’s toys.

Known as “The Children’s Poet”, Eugene Field is perhaps most famous for his poems, which include “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” and “Little Boy Blue”,  though he is also well known for being the father of the personal column in newspapers.

While a student at the University of Missouri, Field co-founded the campus newspaper and served as it’s literary editor. He continued his journalism career in Missouri, writing for the St. Joseph Gazette as well as St. Louis’ Morning Journal and Times-Journal.

002Field’s first published children’s poem, “Christmas Treasures”, was written during the first of two stints in St. Louis during his adult life. Field’s newspaper career also took him to Kansas City and Denver, and finally to Chicago, where the Chicago Daily News hired him to write “exactly what I please on any subject I please.”

dsc_0031The Field House Museum, which elaborates on his career, family life, and peculiarities (he was terrible at keeping his finances and turned all money matters over to his wife), was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007. The house opened December 18, 1936 as the first historic house museum in St. Louis, and has recently undergone an extensive renovation for its museum and restoration of both the exterior and interior of the house.

Today the house is a museum and memorial that reflects the era in which Field, his parents, and his siblings lived within its walls. Featured rotating exhibits also include toys from every era that reflect Eugene Field’s abiding interest in collecting children’s toys and dolls. The Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has also been named a City of St. Louis Landmark.

The museum is located at 634 South Broadway and is open Wednesday – Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4:00 p.m. The museum is closed on all major holidays. Admission for Adults is $10.00, though they honor an AAA discount, and children seven to fifteen years of age are $5.00. The museum and the first floor of the historic house are handicapped accessible.

Spotlight On St. Louis: Grand Center

The lights, the music, the crowds of people and battles for a good parking space –most nights it’s clear you’ve found St. Louis’ arts district the minute you get to Grand Center.

Over the last few years, numerous renovations and moves have put the district back on the city’s map – from the renovations of the Metropolitan Artists Lofts, the Sun Theater and the new .Zack incubator to the forthcoming Grandel Theater renovation, a lot is moving into the area.

Though The Fox and Powell Hall are the best known stakeholders of the district, you can also catch performances from Metro Theater Company, New Line and Upstream Theater, who are all based in the area among smaller spaces (like The Kranzberg Art Center, The Sheldon, and The Stage at KDHX) where you can catch a wide variety of performances, musical acts, and other arts & culture programs.

Galleries in Grand Center range from The Dark Room, which features live music and curated photography alongside appetizers and an extensive wine list, to exhibits at the Sheldon, The Contemporary Art Museum (CAM), The Pulitzer Foundation and The Saint Louis University Museum of Art.

Food is part of the arts experience when attending Jazz at the Bistro, or when considering the art deco surroundings of the Fountain on Locust. If those aren’t your style, there are plenty of other options, too. From the Stage Left Diner (previously City Diner) to Small Batch, from Urban Chestnut Brewing Company to Flying Cow Frozen Yogurt, from Curtain Call Lounge to the district’s newest addition (Anew Rooftop and Test Kitchen) and everything in between, there’s something for every taste.

And more will be coming with the City Foundry development project just to the south (stage one is expected to open in Fall 2018), and the next phase of Cortex’s development to the west. (Look for producer Kathleen Berger’s story about what the City Foundry development will bring at hectv.org in early 2017.)

If you want to learn more about the galleries, performances, and theater you can find in Grand Center, look no further than our website (hectv.org,) where you can find Scope packages on The Pulizter Arts Foundation, Bruno David Gallery, The Kranzberg Arts Center, .Zack, Metro Theater Company, CAM and more. You can also find Two On The Aisle’s bi-weekly theater reviews, and the best of arts and culture (much of it from Grand Center) on State of the Arts.

Maybe we’ll see you around Grand Center soon!

Who To Watch: Roland Johnson

Roland Johnson performs at a Sofar Sounds St. Louis show on August 27, 2016. Photo by Abby Gillardi/A. Gillardi Photo.You’ve been able to hear Roland Johnson belting out his own take of Blues and Soul classics at regular gigs around town for years, but the singer has recently taken his music to another level with the release of his first album of original music.

With Imagine This, co-written with local musicians Paul Niehaus IV of Letter to Memphis and Kevin O’Connor from 7 Shot Screamers, Johnson tells some of the stories he’s collected during his 68 years. The album came in as KDHX’s eighth most played of 2016, with only two local releases ahead of him – Middle Class Fashion’s iii and a compilation album from the St. Louis Blues Society that features one of his songs.

Johnson says he tries to put himself into every song, every time he sings it, and if you come to a gig – whether solo or a Roland Johnson and the Soul Endeavor set – you’ll believe it. When you hear Johnson perform, the Riverfront Times assertion that “few singers in St. Louis can wrest something new out of “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” like Johnson can” makes sense. The group was named the Riverfront Times best R&B artist in 2007.

You can catch him most Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. at Beale on Broadway. He also performs at Blues City Deli and elsewhere in St. Louis. Check out his website and Facebook page for more show information.

Photo: Roland Johnson performs at a Sofar Sounds St. Louis show on August 27, 2016. Photo by Abby Gillardi/A. Gillardi Photo.

Who To Watch: Samuel Achilefu, PhD

This month we’re watching Samuel Achilefu, PhD, a scientist and inventor at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. Achilefu and his lab are featured in this month’s episode of Innovations for his innovative work using light to activate drugs and the immune system. The approach may be a safer and more effective way to treat breast cancer than current chemotherapy drugs.

achilefu_f_l-700x467For his and his lab’s work Achilefu has been recognized as the first recipient of the Breast Cancer Research Program Distinguished Investigator Award, from the U.S. Department of Defense which comes with $4.5 million to support his research.

The approach, called photoimmunotherapy, delivers light directly to tumor cells, as an imaging agent frequently used in positron emission tomography (PET) scans. This light source, along with a new cancer-targeting product and a chemotherapy drug, selectively kills cancer cells.

In addition to being safer, the treatment also has the potential to help those with Metestatic cancer, which is typically resistant to chemotherapy. Metastatic disease is responsible for more than 90 percent of the 41,000 breast cancer deaths in the U.S. each year.

Achilefu will also be featured on this month’s Explore! Inventions show for his previous invention of “cancer goggles” that help a doctor determine which cells are healthy and which are cancerous during surgery.

St. Louis’ Long History of Invention

St. Louis is no stranger to invention. The ice cream cone, toasted ravioli, provel cheese, gooey butter cake – we’ve heard of the city’s most famous food inventions. But St. Louis, and the state we reside in, can claim many more – iced tea and 7up were both invented in St. Louis – as well as more impressive inventions.

Susan Elizabeth BlowSusan Elizabeth Blow opened the first Kindergarten in Des Peres School in 1873. Blow directed and taught a class of forty-two students – all paid from her own pocket. About 150 women volunteered to work at Blow’s kindergartens between 1876-1877.

Annie Turnbo Malone moved to St. Louis in 1902, and the skilled chemist quickly became a millionaire by developing and marketing hair products for black women. She donated most of her wealth – particularly to causes that advanced the African American community in St. Louis.

In 1885, George C. Hale invented a new type of suspenders for firemen that were treated with a fireproof chemical. They were intended to allow a firefighter to retrieve a rope from the ground so they could lower themselves to safety if trapped on the second floor of a building.

And we’re still inventing. St. Louis can claim recent inventions making a difference in the health field including a better blood glucose monitor for people with diabetes, a better breast pump for new mothers, and “cancer goggles” that may revolutionize cancer treatment and surgeries.

There are also inventions created elsewhere but whose inventors were born and raised here. Aunt Jemima pancake flour was invented in St. Joseph, Missouri and became the first ready-mix food sold commercially in 1899.

The designer of the Lear Jet airplane and inventor of the 8-track stereo (William Lear), the inventor of the micro-chip (Jack Kilby), and George Washington Carver (who discovered three hundred uses for peanuts and sweet potatoes) all spent their earliest days in Missouri.

So was the inventor of LCD technology. James Fergason was born in Wakenda, Missouri in 1934 and graduated from Mizzou. He was awarded over 100 patents during his lifetime – including the aforementioned LCD technology.

What causes inventors to create? What lead St. Louisan Bob Chandler to build the first monster truck in the mid-1970s, or in 1981, to videotape his “Big Foot” truck crushing two normal sized cars as a promotion for his truck shop? Whatever the reason, two years later he had a sponsorship from Ford Motors; and the rest is history.

The question of what drives inventors to create is one we’ll explore on our upcoming Explore! Invention! program – a program that made us curious about local inventors and inventions.

It lead us to learn that Dr. John S. Sappington, a physician, farmer, and medical pioneer in central Missouri, developed an anti-malaria pill that helped save the lives of countless others who lived along rivers and in swampy areas back in the 1800s.

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Rose O’Neill

Or are you familiar with Rose O’Neill? O’Neill lived in the Missouri Ozarks off and on throughout her adult life. She built a successful career as a magazine and book illustrator and, at a young age, became the best-known and highest-paid female commercial illustrator in the United States – in addition to writing novels and poetry. O’Neill earned a fortune and international fame by creating the Kewpie, the most widely known cartoon character until Mickey Mouse (whose creator also hails from Missouri) entered the scene.

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A Kewpie Drawing

Lastly, we can’t forget two incredibly famous Missourians who could be considered inventors in their own right – Scott Joplin & Joseph Pulizer.

Scott Joplin’s musical career began in Sedalia, Missouri where he released his most famous piece “The Maple Leaf Rag” – ragtime’s first and most influential hit. He then spent six years in St. Louis creating other musical masterpieces before settling in New York.

Joseph Pulitzer hailed from St. Louis for part of his life and his storied newspaper career began here. Pulitzer is considered the father of proper journalistic style (still in use today) and created the Pulitzer Prize. Mixing thought-provoking editorials and news with crime and public interest stories, Pulitzer made the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the New York World profitable papers.

Invention comes in many shapes and sizes and from every corner of the world, but at HEC we focus on the inventors and inventions shaping the world that come from our own backyards.

We can claim quite a few here in St. Louis, and in the wider state. Join us on January 19th to learn more about St. Louis inventions, and check out the inventors and inventions we bring you in future episodes of Innovations, Impact, Behind the Minds and more.