Issue 2: A Letter from the Editor

 In Culture, Feature

The scraping of putty knives and the sawing of drywall muffled the normal shuffling of unsteady toddler feet. Thick dust flying from freshly sliced sheetrock filled the home with a hazy cloud that could have been confused for a clap of powdered sugar falling slowly to the ground and caking the scratched wood floor. A hot mist poured from my handheld garment steamer. I burned my fingers and realized that this tool was not meant for releasing decades-old wallpaper from centuries-old pine walls; and these singed fingers were not meant for renovating this once-beautiful historic home that now seemed to be falling in around me.

The mood boards packed with Moroccan rugs, peacock chairs, stone countertops, modern art and warm paint swatches ached to be realized. When my husband presented the option of renovating a home, what I may have heard was “decorating a new home.” What I definitely didn’t hear were “months of repairs on a dilapidated money pit complete with sore muscles and sleepless nights.”

Four months into a marriage-testing renovation, I turned a corner. My cell buzzed at work, and my husband shared that he had just visited the resting place of the man who built our home. He had been researching the home’s 135-year-old history and found records from the early 1800s, when the original builder first broke ground. Columbus Strome was a carpenter, not unlike my husband, and a farmer, not unlike my family. When he built the Victorian Italianate, the suburban neighborhood that now surrounds it had not yet been imagined. It stood alone, in a field; a nearby train station was the only local civil animation. The home was his work of art, and now it could be ours.

It was energizing to be reminded that while traditional works of art are critically important, we’re all contributing to the conversation with our life’s work as well. The artists in this issue are special, because while at once accomplished fine artists they are also accomplished fine humans. For more than sixty years, Jun Kaneko has crafted a prolific career in the arts. Together with his wife Ree, a sort of magic partnership formed where culture, art and humanitarian work collide to create a humble empire of creativity in Omaha, Nebraska. Liz Gardner and Josef Harris are the duo behind Bodega Ltd., a multi-disciplinary creative studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When they aren’t serving up inspiration to their long list of clients, they are renovating an old building dubbed #maisonbodega and inspiring the rest of us.

Another Minneapolis-native, Chaun Webster, is our literary highlight this month, writing poetry from the heart of a father, a Black man, an entrepreneur—whatever iteration his soul speaks at the moment his pen hits paper. Michael and Tara Gallina take turns igniting every sense with the earthy-modern décor of their Saint Louis, Missouri restaurant. Katherine Simóne Reynolds and Rachel Gropper are exciting visual artists, both positively impacting the way culture looks at femininity whether it’s among the beauty supply shelves or hanging from a carefully constructed mobile.


As drywall dust settles on the floor around a framed photograph of my son—prepared for the home that will be—I feel at peace with the challenge ahead. Let these pages help you find spirit in the quotidian calendar. Let us craft our days so that our journals become our memoirs, and mundane tasks become the quarter notes in our symphony of life.


Share your stories with me on Instagram @rachelebrandt and Twitter @rachelebrandt.
This letter was originally published in our second print issue of 2018. Find the full issue on

alive magazine issue 2 2018 maker st. louis missouri creative creativity inspiration midwest

Click here to purchase the full issue, or subscribe at
Photograph by Rafaela Biazi.

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