Every year, the arts create a ripple effect of positive change in the St. Louis region by connecting thousands of men, women and children with meaningful arts experiences. Antionette Carroll, founder and CEO of Creative Reaction Lab, is just one of those examples.

Carroll’s ripple effect began in 2011 when she was named the first Katherine Dunham Fellow, a program now managed by A&E that gives African-American men and women an opportunity to explore, gain experience and be mentored in arts administration, and create a more diverse pipeline of arts leaders. Carroll, a graphic designer by training, credits the Katherine Dunham Fellowship as “the catalyst and spark”  for her arts career.

That experience turned into a career in the arts nonprofit sector, first as part of the marketing team at STAGES (an A&E grantee) and as a board member of AIGA St. Louis (a tenant in A&E’s Centene Center for the Arts).

Then in August 2014 following the unrest in Ferguson, Carroll, who had only recently moved out of Ferguson, founded Creative Reaction Lab, an organization dedicated to working with Black and Latinx youth on creating solutions to social and community issues through design.

Creative Reaction Lab picked up steam as a local arts startup and in May 2016, Carroll moved the organization into A&E’s arts incubator, the Centene Center for the Arts  to be around other arts organizations and explore collaboration opportunities.

Then in June 2017, Carroll’s Creative Reaction Lab won A&E’s inaugural stARTup Competition  – a partnership with the PNC Foundation. As one of two winners, Creative Reaction Lab won $10,000 in funding, one year of incubation support and space in A&E’s Centene Center for the Arts, and professional development and mentorship opportunities.

Up next in 2018, Carroll is expanding her team and her reach as she develops Creative Reaction Lab’s public design showcase, where the results of youth-led community research will be presented, and the Design to Better [Our City] program, an entrepreneurial and civic engagement program for Black and Latinx youth.

Update: In January 2018, Carroll garnered national and international attention when she was among 20 leaders from around the world named a TED2018 Fellow for the work she is doing with Creative Reaction Lab. 

While Carroll’s ripple effect story that started back in 2011 with one meaningful arts experience is inspiring, its not unique. Your gift to A&E  helps stories like hers happen nearly every day.

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