The 2014 Missouri Exhibit: A Look at Agency Here at Home

The 2014 Missouri Exhibit: A Look at Agency Here at Home is the product of varied talents. The combined effort of many students, the exhibit is a free-standing product of architecture, art, and activism. And just as the exhibit itself is a creation born of many efforts, it both displays and encourages agency here at home. By profiling different Missouri grassroots environmental organizations, we’re showing the possibility of creating change here at home, highlighting resistance on any scale, and encouraging individual agency.

The underlying structure of The 2014 Missouri Exhibit: A Look at Agency Here at Home is comprised of reused and responsibly sourced materials, through our partnership with Saint Louis material re-use organization, ReFab. The walkway is made of trapezoidal modules that fit together to create a flowing, interactive, interactive space. The structure also supports the canvas wrapping that walls the walkway. Printed there are seven different stories, told through art and words, illustrating the valiant efforts of Missourians to combat climate change, end corporate pollution, and improve their community’s life and health.

Our case studies:
Located nearly 1,200 feet from an unprotected radioactive waste site, the Bridgeton Landfill Fire has for nearly three years been smoldering underground in Bridgeton, MO. The high levels of methane, benzene, and hydrogen sulfide create a hazardous living environment for residents.

St. Louis is an EPA non-compliance zone with regards to air quality due to the region’s reliance on coal-fired electricity. Asthma rates in St. Louis children are three times the national average and disproportionately affect low-income communities in North and East St. Louis.

Sister Barbara Jennings, one of the Eco-Nuns, leads the Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investment and works to monitor and influence policies and practices of St. Louis corporations such as Peabody, Arch Coal and Boeing through shareholder activism.

St. Louis city regularly doles out million-dollar tax breaks for large corporations while schools and other public services are critically underfunded. Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment is challenging the way St. Louis does economic development through the Take Back St. Louis Ballot Initiative.

In Labadie, Missouri, residents have organized to block the construction
of a coal ash landfill at the Labadie Power Plant, the fourth dirtiest power plant in the nation. The proposed landfill would be located in the Missouri River floodplain, posing a large risk of groundwater contamination.

Building the Flanagan South Pipeline Project increases Missouri’s reliability on nonrenewable energy sources, but it also places surrounding communities at risk for fish and wildlife habitat destruction, oil spills, and water pollution.

There is often a perceived gap between environmental and social issues, when in reality the two are inextricably linked. This gap ends up dividing our efforts as activists, and therefore weakening our ability to affect change. The stories we are telling seek to erase this imaginary distinction, and just as the exhibition itself is an interdisciplinary creation, we hope to produce a more interdisciplinary approach to change. Our message is a universal one, and is meant to inspire a wide audience: the problems in our communities can be solved by the people in our communities. We all have agency, as individuals and as a community of partners. We all might feel small, but we can overthrow established power structures as we strive for change in solidarity with one another.

Material Monster is a material reuse and research initiative investigating the intersections of art, architecture, design and environment. We received the Outstanding New Student Group Program or Event Award | 2013 Excellence in Leadership Awards. We work as a collective, making decisions through discussion and equality of ideas. We have decided that, to create the change in the world that we seek, we must work in unison, supporting the community as a whole through individual talents, research, and work.

With the aim of inspiring local action, the group developed a framework for this investigative art and design project that focused on building relationships and developing tales of resistance with community leaders. By connecting Washington University in St. Louis artists and environmentalists to collaborate, the Material Monster collective utilizes our own skills and abilities to highlight local resistance efforts. Our collective vision is to create a stage for those involved to share their ideas and experiences, amplifying voices of resistance.

Special Thanks

International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability (I-CARES) at Washington University in St. Louis