Saturday, March 29, 2014

Teach Your Children Well

ShareFair, Experience the STEMosphere is a FREE one-day event where students, parents, educators and lifelong learners of all ages can join us for a public exhibition of fun, interactive, STEM-inspired activities at the University of Missouri - St Louis. It took place on March 29, 2014. The event was made possible through the generosity of the Morgridge Family Foundation, a private family foundation that invests in the transformation of education for both students and educators. A leader in educational philanthropy throughout the nation, the Morgridge Family Foundation supports educational initiatives in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), environmental stewardship, broadband access, educational inclusion for hospitalized children, innovative instructional practices and educator development. 



EXHIBITORS included:  Academy of Science - St. Louis, Anatomy in Clay, The Boeing Company, Center for Nanoscience/Chemistry Dept. UMSL, Challenger Learning Center-St. Louis, Code Red Education, Custom K-12 Engineering, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, E Desmond Lee Fine Arts Education Collaborative at UMSL, Endangered Wolf Center, Gateway Greening Inc, Humane Society of Missouri, Illinois Mathematics & Science Academy (IMSA), Jane Goodall Institute's Roots & Shoots, The Magic House, St. Louis Children's Museum, Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, Monsanto Science Education Outreach, The Nature Conservancy, Republic Services, Saint Louis Science Center, Saint Louis Zoo, Schwartz & Associates Creative, Sophia M Sachs Butterfly House, UMSL CoE Technology Learning Center, University of Missouri - St. Louis, UMSL College of Nursing, UMSL/Washington University Joint Engineering Program, US Army Corps of Engineers, Washington University, World Chess Hall of Fame and YMCA.

The Saturday included 20+ classroom intensive presentations of which I attended four: Anatomy in Clay: Experience the first interactive tool: the hand (Jon Zahourek); Khan Academy: Building Khan Artists: Developing Support Structures to Facilitate Differentiation of Instruction (Brad Avery, Wayne Thornes); Red & Black Books: Preparing Students for Life, a Funny Thing Happened on the way to Hollywood (Tina Pennington, Mandy Williams); Smart solutions in STEM Education (Ian Belanger).

That’s a lot to take in on a Saturday. That being said, like any learning experience: When approached in earnest, there are net take-aways. Here are mine: 1. Educators are passionate
2. Technology is transforming Education 3. Smart people will find ways to merge creativity and content.

P.S. -  Carrie A. Morbridge, Vice President of the Morgridge Family Foundation followed Carole G. Basile, Dean of UMSL College of Education in the kick-off of the event with the analogy of giving teachers something better than a one speed bike to climb the continental divide.

Snarky P.P.S. Carrie Morgridge inadvertently refereed to UMSL as the “University of Saint Louis” in her opening remarks. She also mentioned Lance Armstrong better bicycle as analogy for transformative tools for teachers. (I’m pretty sure teachers want NOT to be associated with any form of cheating). But you gotta love it if it was her idea to take this show on the road to St. Louis. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

SIUE Thad Duhigg and LSP Docents

Thad Duhigg (in red) flanked by visitors to SIUE from the Laumeier Sculpture Park

Thad Duhigg is a sculptor, artist, and a friend of the Laumeier Sculpture Park. He is a friend in a different way than the euphemism that implies a person who is a magnanimous patron who writes checks in support of the arts. This friend is a guy who has helped repair sculpture, produced castings that are part the maquettes for visually impaired visitors and even delivered two bronze busts for last Summer’s exhibition The River Between Us. It wasn’t long ago that he was a featured artist at Laumeier Scuplture Park himself.  

Thad is professor of sculpture at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville (SIUE) and on this early Spring day he is host to a dozen docents from Laumeier. This peak inside the SIUE sculpture department shows students eager to make art, but perhaps more importantly, learn the craft of creating sculpture. The docents are listening carefully as Thad reinforces the steps necessary for the lost wax method of casting in bronze. “There are a lot of opportunities to experience failure and when every piece is unique there are different challenges,” says Duhigg.

The nature of this lesson is far reaching. It isn’t only about manufacturing in a laboratory. It is about the commitment and attention to detail from temperatures, the “investment” and allowances you make for metal to form and air to escape. The specification covers a group of requirements that are mandatory for castings produced by the investment casting process to meet the metallurgical requirements: chemical, heat, and product analyses performed wherein the material shall meets the specified composition limits for carbon, manganese, silicon, phosphorus, sulfur, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, tungsten, copper, and aluminum. It isn’t just art for art’s sake.

Meanwhile “let sleeping dogs lie,” is a theme that seems to creeps into the tour of sculpture and the adjacent departments at SIUE. Thad Duhigg is not satisfied to leave things as status quo. Even though recently he has “sleeping dogs” appearing in sculpture he not about to go without stirring things up. Status Quo is not his style. So when you see a pit bull on a pedestal on the campus of SIUE it is not because the artist is asleep.

Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville (SIUE )is a nationally recognized university educating and developing professional and community leaders through excellent faculty and programs. For more information

Friday, March 7, 2014

Barb Wired

Barb Flunker was indeed wired for her opening at the architecture and design firm in the Grove neighborhood on Manchester Road in St. Louis on March 7, 2014. She greets everyone as they enter. She helps create excitement around her work on display. She is brave, expressionistic, contemporary and unafraid of talking about her process that includes found and re-purposed materials such as fabric, chicken wire, wire window screens and paint. “I love to recycle materials but that isn’t what I’m about. I’m not saying my work is about recycling…”

SPACE is in the business of architecture and design. Their story is chronicled in a blog series that illustrates in dramatic fashion the old fashioned ideal called stick-to-it-ive-ness. As it happens, Tom Niemeier the writer of that blog is a friend of mine and the founder of that firm. And so it goes with artists like my friend Barb Flunker. She is creating art over a period of time and at this very point in time she is showing at Space.

So it goes in St. Louis, when you have lived here long enough, your worlds collide. Tom is happy to have the traffic in his Space. Barb is happy to be showing in this Space. It is a win-win when Barb’s fans show up and are buying. Red Dots are telling the guests that the work is selling – at least six works sold in the first hour. Her friends include the docent volunteers at the Laumeier Sculpture Park where she is a charter member.

There is wine and a spirit in the space that is Space. Artists, art fans, friends of Barb and Ray Flunker, young architects, designers and people out on a Friday night in St. Louis. It is a moment in time. This is when you see that being an artist today is as much about today as it is about what you are doing now as it is about what is next. You look and you see that Barb sees things in unique and wonderful ways. Go to this space called Space because Barb will be moving on this Spring to whatever is next.

About SPACE Architecture + Design Studio…
An AIA award-winning design-build firm in St. Louis, Missouri, SPACE was launched in 2005 by St. Louis native Tom Niemeier (Tom is first on left in group shot above). SPACE’s collaborative team of talented architects and interior designers give clients inspiring commercial office, retail, schools, medical facilities, restaurants and churches to enhance the most important moments of life. As proud residents of St. Louis’ up-and-coming Grove neighborhood, SPACE participates in Public Architecture’s 1% Program, in which the firm donates 1% of its hours back to local nonprofits each year. SPACE’s community participation was recognized by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, who awarded them the Spirit of St. Louis Award in 2010. For more information, visit, get up to the minute news on their blog at, or follow along on Twitter at @spacearchitects.