Today, we suggest you tip your morning mug and look up. And look all around. And prepare to be inspired.
St. Joseph has long been revered for its intricate and lavish architecture, including stunning mansions and commercial structures constructed during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Any review of historical St. Joseph photos or postcards would show dozens of properties with jaw-dropping detail. Historic Register neighborhoods, multi-story historic loft properties and blocks of turn-of-the-century jewel homes have also led to a surge in preservation-minded citizens and experts.
The Wyeth-Tootle Mansion, a showcase property of the St. Joseph Museums, Inc., ranks among the top for luxury and craftsmanship. Recently, the St. Joseph Museum has begun combining a rising interest in architecture with its year-long cultural programming. Both the children’s ArKIDtecture Club and the monthly Coffee and Gingerbread talks have allowed guests of all ages to ask questions, study, ponder and remain curious about St. Joseph’s architectural treasures.
Kathy Reno, marketing and public relations director, St. Joseph Museums, Inc., explains why the classes have been popular. “The Wyeth-Tootle Mansion, designed by St. Joseph architect Edmond J. Eckel, was the original inspiration for a workshop on architecture. Since Eckel designed 75% of St. Joseph’s early buildings, it seemed like a natural fit to have the workshop there where there are exhibits on local architecture and lots of architectural elements to explore,” says Reno. “The workshop filled to capacity with ease, and as a result, ArKIDtecture Club was born.”
Each month, ArKIDtecture Club meets at the Wyeth-Tootle Mansion. Club participants explore architecture through a variety of activities with the assistance of area architects. For adults, the monthly Coffee and Gingerbread series features diverse topics presented by local experts. (Think history and architecture, as well as the care, restoration, and furnishing of older homes.)
Local architect Sara Markt stepped into a leadership role with the first ArKIDtecture Club workshop and continues to help lead the club. Vasia Katsanou, adjunct professor in the Art Department at Missouri Western State University, also has a leadership role in the club, as does Sara Wilson, director of the St. Joseph Museums, Inc., and other members of the museum staff. Several local architects, artists and historic preservation experts continue to lend their talents to the events. Volunteers help choose the topics and explore ways to help children grasp the basics.
The Museum keeps an extensive calendar on its website and through social media, including easy online registration, but the events seem to sell themselves due to relevance and local interest.
“The club has been very popular with all ages. We’ve found that if you have projects for various age and skill levels, you don’t need to set limits. We wanted to encourage participation by all ages and genders of children. We have enough volunteers, staff, and architects on hand that participants can be split up into smaller groups if necessary,” says Reno.
“Our goal is to encourage children to think about the built environment and how it impacts daily life. If they begin to think about how they can achieve certain goals through architecture, that’s terrific,” says Reno. “One spring session will be about the natural environment and how architecture fits within it, which is a very timely topic.”
During the Coffee & Gingerbread monthly lectures, professionals are invited to speak and share demonstrations. “In St. Joseph, there are many owners of older homes who are always ready to get together and share their actual experiences. They’ve learned by doing and they know what works well,” says Reno.
Group guided trips are another opportunity to engage the local community in a study of what’s around. Ranging from day trips to weekends or longer excursions, guests are immersed in the culture and architecture of a variety of locations. It’s one more way The St. Joseph Museums, Inc., fulfills its mission.
“In deciding what programs, trips, and activities to offer, we look at where the needs of the community and our mission as a museum that preserves and interprets history intersects,” says Reno.
Today, we lift our mugs to that … and encourage you to think outside your own “architectural box.”
What local stories can you help interpret, share and connect your community to as a business or an organization? (If a brainstorm or a strategy session is your next step, let’s talk today. Contact our team at SJC Marketing.)