Students with special needs and a taste for terpsichore have been served since 2005 by Access the Arts, a unique program STAGES developed in response to parent concerns that their kids had limited opportunities to participate in performing arts. It has since blossomed, now serving some 450 children annually. Recently, the Centene Inclusion Project ponied up $120,000 to increase the program’s scope even further. Access the Arts has helped enable children with physical, cognitive, and developmental challenges—including Down syndrome, visual impairments and autism—to display their singing, dancing and dramatic skills and enjoy performing for others. The initiative also helps blur the line between the ‘special’ kids and ‘regular’ students. For students interested in Access the Arts programs, STAGES offers a variety of courses at the Performing Arts Academy in Chesterfield. The goal is inclusion through performance, with an ad hoc troupe rehearsing and putting on a musical revue of Broadway hits for family, friends and other students.

The county courts complex in Clayton is on its way to becoming bigger and better. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held recently for the new family courts building at Bonhomme and Meramec avenues, which is expected to open in late 2016. The $122 million project includes improvements to the existing courthouse, as well. At these prices, that’s no mere face-lift. But much needs to be done, including new elevators. The foundation of the 44-year-old building is crumbling. Wiring needs to be replaced throughout. Electronic infrastructure badly needs updating to better accommodate digital media. Meanwhile, bringing family courts into the complex just makes sense. Presently, they are in their own building, on Brentwood Boulevard a half-mile or so away; the revamp will connect the new family building to the overhauled courthouse via a bridge across South Meramec Avenue.

[creve coeur]
Danforth Plant Science Center is growing like a weed. Established in Creve Coeur in 1998, the center will become an even more sophisticated nexus for botanical research, to the tune of $45 million. A three-story building addition, slated to open in fall of 2015, will give the center the capacity to house more than 100 additional researchers. It will include flexible research laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment, as well as core facilities and additional growth chamber space. Officials say the new section, just to the west of and attached to the existing building, will improve the capacity for high-level science in crop improvement, bioenergy, sustainable agriculture and plant biology.

[webster groves]TT_Web.5-28
Once not worthy of a second glance, the triangular plots at the intersection of Kirkham and North Gore avenues have morphed into the Webster Groves Sculpture Garden. And a pretty, inviting area it is indeed. At least five works are situated in a meticulously designed and landscaped grassy area. Winding walkways, plantings, gentle hillocks and rock walls have made a small area seem much, much larger. From west to east, its theme could be ‘taking flight.’ There’s a grouping of mosaic eggs near the western end, and o a small rise farther east is a commission by Catharine Magel of a bird that seems to be emerging from a flower, all a-glitter in the colorful tiles and mirrored surfaces typical of her work. At the easternmost point is a tall, pewter-tone metal weather vane that evokes the old windmills so common throughout the Midwest. Its spires look like hawk feathers ruffled by the wind. Interspersed are saplings and young trees to supplement the half-dozen or so mature trees, about four of them catalpa, that for years were the only notable features of the site. Come and ‘set’ a spell, or take a short walk. You won’t get nearly as tired as you would on a visit to, say, Laumeier Sculpture Park.

[university city]
Almost 30 feet tall, the sign over the box office is synonymous with ‘vintage’: Tivoli. It turned 90 years old on May 10 and doesn’t look a day older than, well, 90. The venerable theater on Delmar Boulevard in the U. City Loop has experienced several revivals over the years. Its name changed for awhile in the 1960s to the Magic Lantern. Over time and through several owners, its condition deteriorated. It was looking rough by 1994, with parts of the four-story building condemned. But (guess who) entrepreneur and tireless civic booster Joe Edwards came to the rescue. About $2 million, many tears, and much blood and sweat later, the gem was lovingly restored, some would say above and beyond its former glory. Technology, for one thing, had advanced considerably over two or three generations. And the trend in movie theaters was the multi-multiplex: Ronnie’s 20 and its (their?) ilk. The Tivoli expanded from one to three screens. And it found a niche beyond the latest blockbuster exploding from a comic book: The art film and the latest independent title that got tongues wagging at Sundance, with a few mainstream movies (natch) sprinkled in between. What could be more fitting to celebrate this sparkling, spry old-timer than a screening of Meet Me in St. Louis? (That was Sunday. Aw, missed it? No worries. You can get the video at Blockbuster … um, rent it on Netflix.) BTW, the beloved classic marks its 70th anniversary this year.

Tree trimmers can get some pretty good peeps into upstairs windows—they might even be able to spy the family jewels … literally. We’re talking nearly 80 grand in watches and other pricey knickknacks that vanished from a Ladue home, a crime to which an opportunistic knucklehead confessed. He denied it at first, then cops showed him his picture on surveillance cameras—at jewelry stores where he’d gone to fence his ill-gotten booty. Criminal minds don’t seem to process that sort of BGO information (Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious). At any rate, he used a pry bar on a door to gain entry, but the victim was able to recover much of it. Criminy, how careful do you have to be in vetting prospective contractors? This lamebrain was referred by a relative, who’s probably been checking and double-checking ever since to make sure nothing is missing in their place! (‘Knucklehead’ and ‘lamebrain’ are technical terms for describing anyone who hasn’t a clue how easy it is to be found out … although the cops may use more colorful language.)

Early spring meant a chilly tiptoe through the tulips, but you can pedal among the petals of countless other flora as you warmly wend your way along the numerous trails of the Great Rivers Greenway District into summer. Much of the route, most notably in Kirkwood, U. City, Olivette and Clayton, is former railroad right-of-way converted for walking and cycling. (Chances are slim that the railroads will need the corridors back.) Trails have been completed and are under development in St. Louis and in the county to the south, east, west and north. Florissant has enjoyed a surge in cyclists in Sunset Park and Old Town Florissant since the district completed the Sunset Greenway in 2010. To give cycling enthusiasts a chance to take a break on their expeditions, the Rotary Club of Florissant recently installed 10 new bicycle racks throughout Historic Old Town Florissant. Kudos—not only does this give visitors a chance to suspend all that go-go-go; it gives them pause to rest, stroll … and shop-shop-shop.

[st. louis]
Never let it be said that our fair city doesn’t know how to fete its veterans.During the recent Memorial Day holiday, in addition to the usual festivities, the Compton Heights Concert Band kicked off its 2014 season of free concerts in Tower Grove Park. The afternoon of patriotic music was enjoyed byfolks from all around, as have been the volunteer band’s concerts since 1976. And the Boy Scouts performed their patriotic duty by marking each of the nearly 190,000 headstones at Jefferson Barracks Cemetery with small flags in a gesture of honor for those who have served.

[TT Trivia]
Who created the abstract metal pieces on display at the Webster Groves Sculpture Garden? The first correct email answer we receive at towntalk@townandstyle.com will win an exclusive Town & Style tote bag or apron!

Last issue’s answer:  In their tight diamond formation, U.S. Navy Blue Angels pilots fly … wait for it … 18 inches apart. That’s a mere foot-and-a-half from wing to canopy for the four jets.

By Bill Beggs Jr.