Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some Esteemed Visitors

The Urban Studio Cafe recently received a surprise visit from two inspirational movers-and-shakers, Rick Lowe and Jess Garz. Rick Lowe is one of the founders of Houston-based Project Row Houses, a large-scale development founded on the principal that art can be the basis for revitalizing depressed inner-city neighborhoods. Rick founded Project Row Houses (PRH) in 1993. Through the vision and successes of PRH, Rick has become a powerful thought-leader, inspiring people throughout the country and world. Rick was in town to receive the Skandalaris Award for Excellence in Art Architecture at the "Economies: Art + Architecture" conference hosted at Washington University.

Jess Garz is the Project Manager of Transforma Projects, a collective of artists and creative professionals working to unite creative thinking with the physical and social needs of New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina. Rick is on the National Resource Team that helped shape Transforma Projects.

It was great to connect with Rick and Jess at the Cafe. Not only are they social change power-houses, but they're also all around great people. Make sure you visit the links above and check out their inspiring work combining community, art, and architecture.

Community Makes the World Go Round

Caption: Neighbor and friend, Teresa, hosting a yard sale to raise funds for The Urban Studio Cafe

Before The Urban Studio Cafe opened, one of our main goals was the creation of a community gathering space--a space that would serve as an informal meeting place for neighbors to get to know one another, share ideas for the community, work together to address concerns, and generally strengthen the social fabric of our community.

Since we opened in September, the Cafe has done just that. On a typical Saturday morning, the Cafe is full of neighbors, young and old, sipping drinks, munching on goodies, and participating in one of the most important and enjoyable acts of humanity: relationship building.

Neighbors who had never met before are now friends, and friends who hadn't connected in months regularly bump into one another. The Cafe has become the neighborhood living room or the neighborhood "third place," for you sociology buffs.

We keep a library of mugs so that friends and neighbors can enjoy their morning coffee out of their favorite mug. One of our new good friends, Magnolia, travels quite a distance to hang out in Old North and sip out of her cute little cup. And the great thing about The Urban Studio Cafe's mug library is that there are no late fees!

One of our newer neighbors, Ms. Teresa Johnson, moved to Old North St. Louis from Lafayette Square a few months ago and has become a regular in the Cafe. She is in her 70's, and she is a pistol! Ms. Teresa has become such a wonderful fan and supporter of the Cafe that she decided to host a yard sale to raise funds to support our work. The picture above shows Ms. Teresa selling her wares in front of the Cafe on a recent Fall day. Thanks Teresa!

The response that we have seen in 3 short months is testament to the great need for community gathering places in communities throughout the US. People are fundamentally social creatures--we just need spaces and places to gather and linger. Oh yeah, and food and drink always helps build relationships. Everybody eats, right? Stop on by The Urban Studio Cafe for one of our killer pretzel roll sandwiches, an off-the-hook white chocolate mocha, or any of the other tasty menu items. While you're at it, check out the incredible historic revitalization of 14th Street, AKA Crown Square, to get a glimpse into both the past and the future of Old North. See you soon.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Urban Studio Halloween Party!

The Urban Studio hosted a neighborhood Halloween Party from 5pm - 8pm Halloween night. Approximately 100 spooky, heroic, and fairy-tale kiddos came through the studio to trick-or-treat, play spooky musical chairs, and carve pumpkins. Thanks to everyone who made the night possible: Louise, Claire, Darnell, Natasha, Phil, and Magnolia! More photos below and more to come soon!

Caption: A devil and a butterfly enjoy some popcorn and marshmallow pretzel spiders!

Caption: Superman and woman!

Caption: Early in the day a princess, two dalmatians, a new-school GI Joe, and a fine-dresser gather round to check out a Handy Manny Talkin' Toolbox

Caption: The Cafe aglow with pumpkins

Caption: A close-up of the pumpkins designed by neighborhood kiddos

Caption: Transformer borrows Where's Waldo's glasses and hat

Caption: Sleepy Pepper!