Mural outside of Craft Alliance
Mural outside of Craft Alliance
Madeline Jeans

Makers Unleashed

The Delmar Maker District allows artists of all backgrounds to unite and create

The area between Union and Kings highway, which used to be a rundown, struggling community, has transformed into an arts district that breeds innovation and encourages the pushing of boundaries.

“History has shown us that it is often artists and makers that lead the way in revitalizing otherwise ignored and neglected neighborhoods,” Area Co-Founder Doug Auer said.

History has shown us that it is often artists and makers that lead the way in revitalizing otherwise ignored and neglected neighborhoods.”

— Area Co-Founder, Doug Auer

In 2002, Auer and Jim McKelvey put the idea of a creative area for community members into motion.

“We want to create a destination for people that want to not only purchase things made locally but learn more about how they are made, so they have a better appreciation for the work,” Auer said.

Although the district only started with Third Degree Glass, it grew over the past 21 years. Creative spaces include MADE Makerspace, Craft Alliance, The Magic House MADE for Kids and Maker Hill. The district is also expanding to include seven total food options.

The idea first came in 2018 for an authentically Mexican restaurant and coffee shop, Brew Tulum. A husband and wife, AJ and Laura, run the specialty restaurant in Tulum, Mexico, along with the St. Louis location. The restaurant not only serves coffee and food but also offers a range of experiences, such as live coffee tastings, the preparation of Mexican spiced coffee, a concise coffee history and instructions on making it.

Despite Brew Tulum being the only restaurant currently open in the district, there are five more projects in development, including Ben Poremba’s restaurants: Elaia, Olio, and Nixta.

Poremba is nativley Israeli and comes from a mother with a 40-year career as a culinary educator and chef. In 2008, Poremba started Bengelina Hospitality Group with his wife, Angela. He currently owns six restaurants.

Poremba’s goal is to run a sustainable enterprise by providing an equitable work environment and fair and safe corporate culture to his employees, whom he admires. Porembra’s formula for his restaurant is to retain and attract talented people, providing opportunities to others.

The most ambitious plan for the district is currently Maker’s Locale at 5232 Delmar Blvd. According to The Delmar Maker District’s website, the plan includes “Alpha Brewing Company Distillery, Steve’s Hot Dogs, Fountain Off Locust (a spinoff from Fountain on Locust), an event space run by Third Degree Events and a shared exterior with a family-friendly beer garden and game area.”

“Our goal was to bring food to the district in a big way,” Auer said. “For 21 years, we have seen thousands of people come to our anchor, Third Degree Glass, for tours, events, classes and shopping. We have been answering the question ‘Where should we go to eat?’ for 21 years.”

Craft Alliance utilizes its gallery space to display work from many different artists. From Aug. 4 to Oct. 28, 2023, the gallery hosted the exhibit Convergence: Indigenous Exchange & Encounter with free entry Tuesday through Saturday. The exhibit featured artwork from many different Native artists. Heather Ahtone, Ph.D., curated the exhibit.

Junior Mira Stahlheber saw the exhibit earlier this fall and had her first experience with the Delmar Maker District.

“I had not heard of the area before I went to the exhibit at Craft Alliance on Indigenous Art and was surprised at how much the area had. I loved seeing such a fun collection of people and ideas,” Stahlheber said.

Craft Alliance offers a wide range of art classes, catering to various experience levels and covering diverse mediums, such as wheel-thrown and hand built ceramics, glass, metals, printmaking, textiles and more. Junior Analee Miller takes wheel ceramics classes at Craft Alliance. During the summer, Miller also volunteered as an intern for the summer camps.

“Craft alliance has provided a space for young artists such as myself to grow. The studio offers summer camp in various mediums so new experiences are more accessible to kids and teens. Craft Alliance is the ultimate art community hot-spot in the area,” Miller said.

New non-food additions include SMOOTH House and housing at 5095 Delmar Blvd. According to the Delmar Maker District’s website, SMOOTH House is a “carbon-neutral structure designed by the students from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. SMOOTH House will support research and clinical services for WashU’s Occupational Therapy program.” Hongxi Yin and Lisa Tabor Connor are leading the project. SMOOTH House will be a space for clinical services, research and public health education. SMOOTH House will provide more inclusive resources in rehabilitative health care and wellness for the surrounding communities as well.

According to Auer, the best introduction to The Delmar Maker District is Third Fridays, which take place on the third Friday of every month from 6 to 10 p.m. and offer a variety of activities, including parties, demonstrations, and musical acts.

“From there, you can decide your next level of involvement from something as simple as buying something you love, to learning how to make it yourself,” Auer said.

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Madeline Jeans
Madeline Jeans, Page Editor
Madeline is a junior and is a page editor this year for The Globe. This will be her second year as a staff member. She participates in Best Buddies, Community Service Club, Dance Marathon, STUCO, ALLin, swim, and track. Outside of school, she enjoys dancing and reading. She is looking forward to improving her writing and learning more about the Clayton Community this year.
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