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Exhibit reimagines what art and nature can do for St. Louis

Exhibit A in Delmar showcases how art and sustainability can be used to reimagine existing buildings and public spaces in St. Louis. (Ulaa Kuziez)

Art can look like white walls and fancy canvases. At Exhibit A in Delmar, the colorful walls are filled with doodles and writing.

The temporary art exhibit is playful and engaging by design, creator and artist Jayvn Solomon said. Solomon’s work merges art, sustainability and community, while exploring how to reimagine existing spaces in St. Louis. 

Through the interactive exhibit, he said he hopes visitors leave feeling inspired to incorporate art and nature into their own lives. 

“I want to create something that people can engage with in a constructive and productive way,” Solomon said.

Solomon’s artistic vision was nurtured while working at an architecture firm in St. Louis. In his free time, he reimagined how buildings around downtown can look and function. He would draw trees on top of a skyscraper, a mural on a garage, a mini wind turbine on a flat roof. 

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Left: Artist and creator of Exhibit A, Jayvn Solomon, poses for a portrait on Dec. 7. (Mary Schleuter) Right: An artist’s rendering of a spiral garage in St. Louis shows how art and nature can enhance buildings. (Mary Schleuter)

“What is actually stopping us from doing any of these renderings?” Solomon would ask himself. 

To satisfy his persistent question, Solomon created Loutopia— a series of artistic renderings that explore how to embed sustainability and art into daily life. Exhibit A gives these renderings a physical home.

Loutopia is a way to respond to his own anxiety about climate change and its ramifications, Solomon said. Instead of despairing, he said he turned to creating art-inspired solutions to climate problems. 

“It turns out we have a lot of really beautiful nature and softscape as well as just sustainable practices and innovations in St. Louis,” Solomon said. “So I figured I might as well lean into it and sort of see how to blend these things together to create something both new and functional.”

A solar panel donated from local company, Influent Energy, hangs on a wall inside Exhibit A. The exhibit encourages visitors to connect with local sustainability organizations working to solve climate change-related issues in the region. (Ulaa Kuziez)

Collaboration with local sustainability non-profits like Perennial and Forest ReLeaf is at the heart of his vision, Solomon said. He’s volunteered with all of the organizations represented in the exhibit and looks to them as partners in his artistic mission. 

Forest ReLeaf executive director Meridith Perkins said natural resource professionals like herself often face challenges convincing the general public why sustainable projects are important.

That’s where artists like Solomon come in, Perkins added. 

“What I recognized early on, and I think probably Jayvn knows all along, is that without that inspired creative vision of what could be, sometimes we lose people in trying to explain it because it seems too hard to plant trees and grow them or it’s unattainable in so many ways,” Perkins said. 

The exhibit, Perkins said, not only inspires conversations about sustainability, but it provides visitors with tangible ways to take action after leaving. 

“They see this vision, they get inspired, they want to do something,” she said. “What I really respect about what Jayvn has done with this work is taking it to that next level and said ‘if you feel so compelled, if you if you believe in this mission, and you want to get on this journey with me and us in the city, then join these organizations and take action in these different ways.’” 

Solomon said that it’s this mix of art and sustainability that can help people reconnect with nature and with the city.

A colorful shop front greets guests as they enter Exhibit A. (Mary Schleuter)

Growing up in north city, Solomon said he feels a commitment to St. Louis and a desire to see it flourish. 

He credits the city’s established art scene. The city’s Grand Arts District has been named America’s most exciting emerging arts district by Forbes and studies show the local economy benefits significantly from the arts ecosystem. 

Yet, Solomon said he’s disappointed that artists leave the city. 

“And I’m not exempt from wanting to do that,” he said. “There’s a lot of reasons to not be so energized about [St. Louis], but, I choose to be inspired by what other folks are doing. That’s probably the most bountiful source for me to pull from.”

Solomon said a practice of reciprocity fuels his work. He does not want full creative ownership of Loutopia. Instead, he said he hopes it will be a vision that is built through collaboration with others.  

“That’s why it’s important to me to have resident creators … to help each other out, whether that’s verbal affirmations and confirmations, or whether it’s something a bit more in-depth from business practices to creative technical stuff,” Solomon said. 

Donovan Calloway, a resident artist at Exhibit A, said visitors often walk in not knowing what the exhibit is about. 

“Wow, what is this?’ That’s the initial response off the street,” Calloway said. 

By the time they leave, they have a better understanding of what it means to have a city that is aesthetically beautiful and sustainable.

“Loutopia Exhibit A demonstrates what the possibilities are. It shows people what St. Louis could be,” Calloway said. 

For more information about the exhibit and when to visit, click here.

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Ulaa Kuziez
Ulaa Kuziez, News Editor
Ulaa Kuziez is a junior studying Journalism and Media at Saint Louis University. She enjoys storytelling and believes in uplifting student perspectives. In her free time, you can find her walking in local parks or drinking coffee. Email her at [email protected] with any news tips!
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