One of the newest tenants in the Centene Center for the Arts is Creative Reaction Lab (CRX Lab), a social justice nonprofit that educates, convenes, and supports individuals looking to better their communities through creative problem solving. Happenings recently sat down with CRX Lab president and CEO and founder Antionette D. Carroll to catch up and learn where the organization is headed.

CRX Lab began in 2014 as a response to the social unrest in Ferguson. The first lab was a 24-hour event in which designers came up with solutions to the unrest through such projects as civic matchmaking websites and participatory public art.

Topics are sourced from the community through pledges rather than a traditional survey. Staff members are on the ground talking to residents about what changes they want to see. Topics have included police brutality, gun violence, domestic violence, the school-to-prison pipeline, and bullying, among others.

“For us, it’s about moving ideas about racial inequities into action,” Carroll explained.

CRX Lab then takes these topics and designs a diverse curriculum to empower communities to resolve these issues. From toolkits and skills training to weekend-long labs focused on building empathy, co-creation, prototype testing and business plan development, CRX Lab works closely with each participant and build community among them.

As a St. Louis native, Carroll hasn’t been surprised by the topics on the community’s mind like opportunity gaps and transportation issues. What has surprised her, though, is how the data supports these community concerns.

“When you look at the data and see the life disparities between white Americans and black Americans,” Carroll said, “you realize our institutions and policies support this divide. That surprised me.”

CRX Lab is constantly looking for ways to build community and get the creative sector a seat at the table of these larger community conversations.

“We use arts and design to bring community members together,” Carroll continued. “The creative sector is often left out of conversations about social justice, but we’re the experts in building connections and human empathy.”

In May 2016, CRX Lab moved into the Centene Center for the Arts from their previous home at CIC St. Louis, a co-working space in the Central West End.

“I wanted to be a part of the Centene Center because design is where we started and it’s embedded in what we do,” Carroll said.

In 2017, CRX Lab will scale their programming nationally – first to Boston and Miami – similar to how TEDx and Creative Mornings have expanded. They have also added two national board members as they work to encourage other communities to follow this model for civic engagement.

“My hope is that by the end of 2018, we can bring communities from around the country here to the Centene Center so they can inspire and collaborate with each other,” Carroll said.

We welcome Creative Reaction Lab to the Centene Center for the Arts and look forward to seeing what they accomplish.

For more on Creative Reaction Lab, visit and subscribe to their newsletter. You can also find them on Twitter @CreativeRxLab.