Like the CGI monster-filled remake of How Green Was My Valley, STL Cinemas combine state-of-the-art technology with classic Hollywood aesthetics. Mainstream blockbusters and independent films happily rub silver-screen shoulders on each theater's marquee, while the retro lounges and concession stands serve enough beer, wine, and classy sweets to keep movie-goers sugar-buzzing—or just plain buzzing—through any double-feature. Voted Readers' Pick Movie Theatre by St. Louis Magazine readers, the Moolah Theatre's single screen is one of the biggest in town, and cinephiles can take their pick of 400 stadium seats, plush leather couches, or balcony seating. Chase Park Plaza Cinemas—nestled inside the Chase Park Plaza Hotel building—boasts five auditoriums with luxury seating. Granite City Cinemas is brand-new with all digital projection. And exposed beams and stage lighting add a vintage touch to Galleria 6's lobby, while its bar provides a lovely backdrop for post-film discussions, screenplay pitches, or outbursts of hard-boiled dialogue and artfully lit cigarette smoke.
When asked about their teaching qualifications, the instructors at Finney's HIT Squad—including Jesse Finney himself—all point to their win records. All of them have a competitive fighting history in their chosen disciplines, and several have earned championships or black belts. As full-time employees of the gyms, they school guests on MMA, kickboxing, boxing, Brazilian jujitsu, and wrestling. They also access their inside knowledge of the industry for fighter-development programs, which strive to transform beginners into professional combatants without stuffing them into hollowed-out punching-bag cocoons for 5 years. For amateurs and experts alike, they assert that "you fight how you train," and aim to simulate official rounds inside their onsite cages, boxing rings, and matted arenas. In 2011, their professional chops helped Finney's HIT Squad take the title of Best MMA Gym in the Riverfront Times Best of St Louis feature.
Despite their investment in competitions, however, the staffers view the two gyms as all-inclusive spaces. Whether they are instilling confidence in children through kids' jujitsu, orienting a new member to the fitness equipment, or leading a women-only martial-arts class, they mentor students of all backgrounds.
Fire. Hammers. A pottery wheel. Some of humanity’s most elemental and primitive tools, yet into the 21st century they remain. And Craft Alliance Program Director Susan Donahue Yates attests that they’re some of the coolest. With each season’s catalog of classes, some of the most popular, according to Yates, let students play with fire, hammer metal into jewelry, or shape a lump of clay into something as fundamentally beautiful as a baby seal mimicking the Mona Lisa’s wry smirk.
At Craft Alliance, the focus is art in all its forms. Whether the tool is the raw flame fusing cut copper or a Mac loaded with Photoshop image-editing software, the intention to inspire and to create remains the same. Its two locations schedule seasonal terms with four- to six-week classes, as well as intensive workshops and children’s classes. Guiding each student along his or her adventure, skilled faculty instruct from experience. Most are working artists who exhibit their work and who have reaped their experience from the trenches of the art world.
Craft Alliance is not just empowering people with knowledge; they are also helping people make mugs, bowls, wooden spinning tops, rings, rugs, and digital photo albums. Many of these things are practical and serve a functional purpose. But many do not—they’re just beautiful things, like vestigial tails. A good number of these pieces are created by hand and are meant to remind us, as Yates remarked, that everyone can do something different from their everyday, workaday lives by adding beauty to a world that truly needs it.
The student and faculty artists backbone the Craft Alliance community, which in 2014 celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Grand Center location represents a regeneration of an arts district already pillared by the Fabulous Fox Theatre, Powell Symphony Hall, and St. Louis University.
Though built as a private home in 1901, the Victorian mansion stood vacant for years—until its first children's hands-on exhibits opened to the public more than 30 years ago. Since then, The Magic House's curators have worked to engage children of all ages in learning and creative thought through a range of interactive multimedia exhibits. Their exhibits enable visitors to service cars, climb treehouse ladders, and go fishing in a child-centric community, or play with pumps and pipes in a waterworks playground. They can also climb a three-story fairy-tale beanstalk or use detective skills, fingerprint analyses, and secret passageways to solve mysteries.
Museum staffers also organize a range of themed birthday parties, during which attendees play and complete special tasks as time travelers, scientists, or fairy-tale nobility. Family programs encompass monthly visits from outside professional artists, and special events designed to get the whole family moving. Visitors can refuel for exploration at the on-site Picnic Basket Cafe, whose menu highlights whole grains and healthy ingredients.
Shane Perrin’s love for the standup paddleboard led him to set a world record as the first person to use the simple vehicle to travel the Missouri River’s 340 miles between Kansas City and Columbia. His trek even made him the subject of the documentary Stand Up Guy, which chronicles his odyssey against more than 100 kayakers and canoeists in the sixth annual Missouri River 340.
When he’s not looking for another stretch of water to conquer or out paddling for the Pau Hana Surf Supply team, Shane shares his passion through lessons and guided tours for all levels of outdoorsmen. Venturing out onto waters such as the Meramec River, Shane pays meticulous attention to every detail to help guests have a positive, memorable experience. He starts by matching each client with a standup-paddleboard outfit that suits their stature, which facilitates proper maneuvering. He then provides ongoing training as he guides guests past wildlife such as deer, hawks, and the beavers who built the river’s hydroelectric dams.:m]]
Chris and Pam Schmick had spent six months cleaning out the scrap metal from their abandoned silos and just finished drilling thousands of holes in its walls. With little time to spare, they prepared for their climbing gym's grand opening on September 2, 1995—a date on which they had already agreed to hold a regional JCCA competition. The effort they've expended in the nearly 20 intervening years shows: today, climbers scramble on top ropes, lead ropes, and more than 20,000 square feet of lava-free climbing surface.
Instructors prepare visitors to surmount the gym's features in a range of classes, such as Rock Gym 101, which is an introduction to top-rope climbing that covers climbing safety, basic technique, and equipment. Once climbers are equipped with gear from the pro-shop, staff shows them around a multi-level bouldering cave, a main climbing area with 30-foot walls shaped by arêtes, cracks, and waves, and the building's five original silos. Elsewhere inside the gym, six auto-belays safely cradle visitors who wish to climb without taking a class.