Evie Hemphill | KBIA

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill joined the St. Louis on the Air team in February 2018. After earning a bachelor’s degree in English literature in 2005, she started her career as a reporter for the Westminster Window in Colorado. Several years later she went on to pursue graduate work in creative writing at the University of Wyoming and moved to St. Louis upon earning an MFA in the spring of 2010. She worked as writer and editor for Washington University Libraries until 2014 and then spent several more years in public relations for the University of Missouri–St. Louis before making the shift to St. Louis Public Radio.

When she’s not helping to produce the talk show, Evie can typically be found navigating the city sans car, volunteering for St. Louis BWorks or trying to get the majority of the dance steps correct as a member of the Thunder & Lightning Cloggers of Southern Illinois. She’s married to Joe, cat-mom to Dash and rather obsessive about doubt, certitude and the places where refuge and risk intersect.

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.

In an age of crumbling infrastructure across the U.S., sidewalks have been no exception to the pattern of decay. The city of St. Louis alone is home to roughly 2,000 miles worth of sidewalks, and both the physical condition and suitability of those streetside pathways vary widely.

David Newburger, St. Louis’ commissioner on the disabled, thinks about sidewalks quite a bit. He notes that he’s old enough to remember when curb cuts — sloped curb faces that are particularly critical for someone using a wheelchair — were few and far between. These days, Newburger says, a lot of effort goes into the design of new sidewalks to ensure that they are safe and passable for everyone, including pedestrians with disabilities.

When news breaks about a dangerous situation, it’s natural to wonder what one might have done in a similar scenario: Tried to help? Been courageous? Perhaps made things worse?

Running into burning buildings and shielding others from active shooters may be the sort of dramatic situations that come to mind. But far subtler opportunities to intervene on behalf of fellow humans come up more regularly than one may recognize — right in the grocery checkout aisle, for example, when witnessing a tense parent-child interaction.

That’s the sort of scene Nancy Weaver and her colleagues at St. Louis University’s College for Public Health and Social Justice have been helping others around the region visualize and then learn to respond to in positive, practical ways.

In some ways, the concept behind St. Louis Public Library’s Creative Experience makerspace, located at its downtown branch, sounds pretty simple: It’s a space dedicated to creating things. But as makers of all sorts of stuff know, it can be difficult to bring even the best ideas to fruition without the right tools.

That’s where Creative Experience comes in — providing studio-quality software and equipment to help bring many different kinds of projects to life.

Lots of things set St. Louis apart from other Missouri municipalities, from its fixation with the high school question to bread-sliced bagels. So the fact that the city of St. Louis is one of few municipalities in the state with a residency requirement for most of its government employees is hardly its most defining.

But right now, it might be the most hotly contested. After the Board of Aldermen rejected last fall Mayor Lyda Krewson’s plan to put the issue to voters — and have city residents decide whether to continue requiring city workers to live within the city limits — Krewson is now pushing for the Legislature to take up her cause. House leadership seems on board.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with longtime local journalist Ray Hartmann, who has a column in this week’s Riverfront Times on this subject. Also joining the discussion was St. Louis Public Radio reporter Rachel Lippmann.

Vast wildfires in Australia, California and elsewhere continue to have wide-sweeping impacts, testing the limits of firefighters on the front lines and presenting new challenges for experts in all sorts of sectors. At St. Louis University’s Geospatial Institute — also known as GeoSLU — researchers are using remotely sensed images and spatial analysis to extend our understanding of these disasters and others.

The geospatial technology helps them predict wildfires as well as map the extent and severity of wildfires after they have occurred.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske led a conversation about the difference this research can make. She talked with Ness Sandoval, associate professor of sociology at St. Louis University and an associate director of the Geospatial Institute, and with Shawn Steadman, director of SLU’s emergency management program.

The year 2020 is still in its infancy, yet it’s already been marked by a slew of troubling events near and far — from gun violence in St. Louis, to devastating wildfires in Australia, to dramatically escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Many Americans may feel far removed from violence and loss in another part of the world, despite direct U.S. involvement, and everyday life goes on. But for those with loved ones based in volatile, vulnerable places, or who have deep cultural ties to a country such as Iran, the latest round of disturbing headlines can carry a lot more weight.

St. Louisan Jaleh Fazelian, who lived in Iran as a small child, felt a wave of worry after America’s assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iran’s ensuing attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq — and the accounts from Iranian Americans who said they were detained for hours last week along the U.S.-Canada border. She wondered what’s next, both in terms of potential war and when it comes to questioning people’s citizenship.

University of Missouri-St. Louis sophomore Lucy Grimshaw grew up learning about Martin Luther King Jr. and the fraught times that shaped his life and death. But none of those lessons stuck with her quite like what she experienced last spring while touring places associated with key events of the civil rights movement.

As she visited sites such as Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young girls were killed in a racist bombing, and Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, where law enforcement officers brutally attacked black protesters on a day later known as Bloody Sunday, Grimshaw and fellow UMSL students reflected each evening on what they were seeing and learning.

They did so under the guidance of UMSL School of Social Work faculty members Courtney McDermott and Sha-Lai Williams, who co-taught the trip as part of a Pierre Laclede Honors College course offered to students coming from various academic and ethnic backgrounds.

Samuel Rodgers has been a tenant at TEH Realty’s Blue Fountain apartment complex in St. Louis’ Baden neighborhood for about 13 years. Early on, he had relatively few complaints about his living situation. But in recent years, maintenance of the property has plummeted dramatically.

“I’ve been about three or four years without heat in my apartment, so I have these space heaters to try to stay warm, my shower’s not working right,” Rodgers told St. Louis on the Air in a phone interview this week. “I need a whole new toilet — they still haven’t replaced that. My kitchen sink [is] jacked up; I have to take a bucket and get water from the tub to transfer the water from the tub into my kitchen sink to do my dishes.”

At another TEH complex in St. Louis, Southwest Crossing in Carondelet, the situation has deteriorated to the point that Mayor Lyda Krewson and mortgage loan corporation Freddie Mac last month each filed suit against TEH. Southwest Crossing residents began taking actions of their own, too.

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 St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station opened with a big splash on Christmas Day. Thousands of area residents have been streaming through its gates in the two weeks since, and aquarium staff have had to turn some families away due to sellout crowds.

For executive director Tami Brown, that's been the only downside of an otherwise successful launch of the new downtown destination. Many visitors have expressed excitement about their experiences, staff have been enthusiastic about their interactions with visitors and animals, and the marine species that  now call the aquarium home seem to be adapting well.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Brown joined host Sarah Fenske for a deeper dive into the new activity at Union Station. Joining the conversation was St. Louis Aquarium curator Aaron Sprowl, who discussed the wide-ranging creatures and their transition to a new space. The segment included an audio tour of the aquarium, first impressions from children and adults alike, and plenty of questions from listeners who called into the show.

Over the past 13 months, the Loop Trolley regularly traveled a 2.2-mile route from the Missouri History Museum to the Delmar Loop and back again several days each week. But on Sunday afternoon, it made its final few laps along those tracks — at least for now — before going out of service due to funding problems.

St. Louis on the Air connected with people who were gathered at the history museum stop that day to bid the trolley farewell, many of them hoping to ride it for the first and potentially last time.

And while the trolley struggled to attract robust ridership over the course of its months in operation, it faced a different challenge on its last day: There were so many would-be riders that some were turned away. In addition, only one of the two operating trolley vehicles was in service Sunday, and it encountered technical issues that caused significant delays on its final trip.

A year ago this week, Andy Magee set out on a 365-day quest to visit every single location within the U.S. National Park System. His initial travels happened to coincide with a government shutdown in January 2019 that made access to some parks difficult, but Magee didn’t let those early, unexpected challenges stop him.

Now, after having spent the holidays exploring various parks in Hawaii, the local artist and co-owner of Cioci’s Picture Mart in Kirkwood has brought his journey to a close. On Tuesday, he checked the final site off his to-visit list: the Gateway Arch.

He joined host Sarah Fenske on St. Louis on the Air Friday to look back on the highlights and lessons from his trip.

In mid-December, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page touted his police department’s promotion of Keith Wildhaber as a key step toward thoughtful change within the department. The news that Wildhaber will lead a new diversity and inclusion unit came in the wake of a $20 million verdict in Wildhaber’s favor — after a jury agreed that county police had discriminated against the gay officer because of his sexual orientation.

But the Ethical Society of Police, which represents many black officers in the St. Louis region, soon put out a statement that was significantly less enthusiastic.

It’s been a busy and in some instances bizarre few weeks of legal news on both the regional and federal level — from the prospect of legal jeopardy for public defenders to a case involving a St. Louis-area doctor and his child bride.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske convened this month’s Legal Roundtable for a closer look at these stories and other recent developments pertaining to the law.

Also in the lineup was the latest news surrounding St. Louis County Police Department Sgt. Keith Wildhaber — who has been tasked with overseeing a new diversity and inclusion unit after winning a $20 million jury verdict for sex discrimination — and a $113 million judgment facing Missouri taxpayers in light of an appellate court ruling about state corrections officers’ back pay.

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.

As Chloe Owens looks toward the new year, she’s thinking about it from the perspective of an activist — and well aware of the challenges that come with 2020 being an election year.

“A lot of people in this field expect a lot of things not to get done,” Owens, a justice organizer with Empower Missouri, acknowledged. And yet she sees an exception to that pattern in the momentum surrounding a current bipartisan effort to modernize Missouri’s statutes relating to HIV transmission and criminalization.

In the Missouri House, Reps. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, and Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis, have each pre-filed bills for 2020 that they see as addressing an important public health issue. At present, people living with HIV in Missouri can face consequences on par with a murder conviction for transmitting the disease. That’s even though HIV is no longer the killer that it was during the disease’s early days.

The bi-state area was particularly well represented on TVs across the nation last Thursday evening during a two-hour ABC “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition” premiere. Three of the 10 talented bakers competing in the first episode of this fifth season call the region home.

They include Tanya Ott of Bethalto, Illinois; Sarita Gelner of Chesterfield, Missouri; and Helen Pantazis of Maplewood, Missouri.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske went behind the scenes with Ott and Pantazis. They discussed their experiences on the popular show (which is also available via Hulu) — and their ambitions beyond the camera.

What once was a plan to build a continuous greenway along St. Louis’ Chouteau Avenue has morphed into something even bigger — and, after a year of planning and civic engagement, Great Rivers Greenway has released a 140-page document outlining the overall aims of the project.

Described as a “major public-private partnership to bring a longtime vision to life,” the design and construction phases are still to come. But the overall plan involves creating a network of up to 20 miles of paved paths in the city, stretching east to west from the Arch to Forest Park and north to south from Fairground Park to Tower Grove Park.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske got a status update from Emma Klues, Great Rivers Greenway’s vice president of communications and outreach.

With just two weekends left before Christmas, the holiday shopping frenzy is in full swing. And like most Americans, gift buyers in the St. Louis region have countless options to choose from, both online and locally. But more and more people are choosing to put their discretionary dollars toward meaningful products — consumer goods that support a good cause.

Julio Zegarra-Ballon, owner of Zee Bee Market, has been pleasantly surprised to see the growing appetite locally for fair trade and ethical shopping since opening his first brick-and-mortar outpost in the South Grand commercial district in 2014. The fair trade scene in St. Louis is still a relatively small one, and industry professionals including Alyson Miller, executive director of Partners for Just Trade, see plenty of room for more consumer education.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with both Miller and Zegarra-Ballon. The conversation also included comments from Patrice Estes, director of the mostly volunteer-run Plowsharing Crafts, which is headquartered in the Delmar Loop.

Since Brittany “Tru” Kellman started Jamaa Birth Village in 2015, she’s sought to provide a community-driven solution to an ongoing nationwide health issue: the racial disparities within pregnancy-related mortality rates. African American women are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than their white peers.

For Kellman, who endured two cesarean sections and other challenges as a teen mom years ago, that work has been focused in Ferguson, Missouri, where she lives. But earlier this week, a letter published in the St. Louis American — and signed by many women of color who are leaders in the region — revealed a major controversy that’s been festering for months.

“As black women and Missourians who organize to dismantle reproductive oppression,” the letter began, “we write to express our outrage and demand accountability for the disrespect and unethical treatment of Missouri’s first black Certified Professional Midwife [Kellman] by Mercy Birthing Center Midwifery Care.”

Jessica Hentoff is quick to insist that the primary focus of Circus Harmony, the St. Louis-based organization she heads up, isn’t to turn kids into top-notch circus professionals. And yet the program has a track record of doing just that — even as it changes lives in other ways, too.

This fall, a total of four Circus Harmony alumni are touring with Cirque du Soleil, the largest circus company in the world. They include St. Louis natives Melvin Diggs, Sidney "Iking" Bateman, Terrance "T-Roc" Robinson and Chauncey Kroner.

Hentoff couldn’t be more proud of them — and just returned from Vancouver and Chicago this past weekend where she watched them perform. On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Hentoff about the success the program and its participants have seen. The conversation included comments from Bateman and Diggs.

In the wake of St. Louis Public Schools’ termination last month of Trey Porter, Roosevelt High School’s football coach and athletic director, there were more questions than answers. There was also hope — on the part of Porter’s students, parents and others — that Porter might be reinstated, especially after an Oct. 21 student-led walkout in support of him.

But at the latest meeting of the school board, Porter was notified that the board is standing by the district’s decision.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Porter joined host Sarah Fenske to share his perspective on the events of recent days. Porter has said all along that the firing had to do with violating the district’s social media policies, and that his communication with players happened in the context of a strikingly violent summer for many youth in the city.

Filmmaker Lynn Novick’s new documentary “College Behind Bars,” set to air on PBS later this month, follows the journeys of men and women pursuing academic degrees while in prison. In doing so, it illustrates the life-changing nature of educational opportunity while also putting a human face on mass incarceration and, as the film’s website puts it, “our failure to provide meaningful rehabilitation for the over two million Americans living behind bars.”

Prison education programs, including the one featured in Novick’s film, the Bard Prison Initiative, are among efforts to address that failure across the nation. Locally, both St. Louis University and Washington University run programs that bring faculty members to several of the region’s correctional institutions to lead college-level classes. And like other such programs, they boast extremely low recidivism rates for participants who have since been released from prison.

Metro Theater Company’s Julia Flood was looking for a classic holiday show this fall — one that would also speak to Metro’s mission as a theater company inspired by the intelligence and emotional wisdom of young people. Her colleague John Wolbers’ fresh take on the story of George Bailey and the town of Bedford Falls aspires to fit the bill.

Set at a fictional St. Louis radio station 70 years ago and framed as a radio play within a play, the local playwright’s retelling of “It’s a Wonderful Life” aims to build a generational bridge. The 50-minute production opens this Sunday at the Grandel, with the cast introducing younger theatergoers — and audiences of all ages — to the golden age of radio as well as a long-beloved tale.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Wolbers joined host Sarah Fenske to talk about his adaptation ahead of its opening matinee (performances run Nov. 17 through Dec. 15). Also joining the broadcast were cast members Alicia Revé Like, Abraham Shaw and Chris E. Ware. The trio presented a scene from the play during the talk show, complete with Foley sound artistry.

In 2012, Rita Csapo-Sweet and her husband, the late Frederick Sweet, jointly published a paper on the ghastly but little-known legacy of Carl Clauberg, a German physician who conducted mass sterilization experiments at Auschwitz during World War II. Clauberg would use his work in the concentration camp to develop a pioneering fertility test. 

“Clauberg’s name needs to be placed next to [Josef] Mengele’s in its rightful place in infamy,” the two scholars concluded, emphasizing that Clauberg’s medical crimes against humanity “must be disclosed whenever the test bearing his name appears” in modern biomedical texts.

As Csapo-Sweet and Sweet dug into their research, filmmakers Sylvia Nagel and Sonya Winterberg also began a documentary about Clauberg — and the St. Louis-based couple’s academic article filled in key gaps in the filmmakers’ story. Nagel and Winterberg reached out to Csapo-Sweet in 2015, and she joined the documentary as its American producer.

The weather outside may be frightful, but Patrick Horine, co-founder of the popular Tower Grove Farmers' Market, isn’t exactly closing up shop for the colder months these days. As he looks toward the final market of the season this weekend in the south St. Louis park, he’s also gearing up for its wintry equivalent — which is growing.

Initially launched in 2007 as a monthly affair, the Winter Market this year will take place weekly beginning Dec. 7. And it’s moving to the spacious Koken Art Factory in St. Louis’ Fox Park neighborhood to accommodate dozens of local vendors.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Horine joined host Sarah Fenske for a sneak peek at the wintry offerings, which also will feature a holiday theme the first three Saturdays of the season. He also discussed farmers market trends in the region as a whole.

For nearly three decades, the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis has bestowed its World Ecology Award on prominent biodiversity-minded individuals ranging from John Denver to E.O. Wilson. But this year the center is instead honoring a pair of world-class local institutions — the Missouri Botanical Garden and the St. Louis Zoo — for their critical research and conservation work in Madagascar.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with the center’s interim director, Patty Parker, and with a Malagasy scientist, Fidisoa Rasambainarivo, who is in St. Louis to speak at an upcoming gala where the zoo and garden are being honored.

In 2009, when Sheila McGlown began battling metastatic breast cancer at the age of 43, she was already a skilled fighter. She’d spent 25 years in the U.S. Air Force, a background she says gave her strength as well as a sense of defiance that would serve her well amid new challenges.

Ten years later, McGlown is still undergoing cancer treatment — and still focused on the service to others that she cherished during her military career. The Swansea, Illinois, resident has found a new passion for advocacy around the inclusion of women of color in clinical trials. Meanwhile, she’s also 16 months into a clinical trial participation herself.

On Monday, in light of Veterans Day, McGlown joined St. Louis on the Air host Sarah Fenske to discuss her journey.

St. Louis’ relatively low cost of living is an oft-touted point of pride for the region. But a newly released report by the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council suggests that life in the Gateway City isn’t so affordable for everyone — especially when it comes to paying rent.

Compiled by the organization’s community engagement specialist, the report aims to fill an information gap when it comes to understanding local rent costs. And one of the key takeaways from Glenn Burleigh’s ZIP-code-level analysis is that perceptions of gentrification are rooted in reality: Across the city of St. Louis, rents are rising faster than in the metropolitan region as a whole, and twice as fast in the central corridor and south St. Louis.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Burleigh joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss the implications of EHOC’s recent findings as well as related topics.

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