ODE TO THE PIONEERS: MADE MONARCHS
Written by Glo(w)
Something happened when Mike Brown died. More than the communal grief that lay thick on the population of Ferguson and surrounding areas. More than the political awareness that was birthed (or heightened) by the blatant injustices taking place around the corner. More than the gathering of masses to protest, to be heard, to mourn and heal collectively. Something happened: St. Louis found her voice. And her voice lies with the people.
From the Palace and Saints, lock-ins and late night mall excursions, the people have always gathered. And where there are people, there is dialogue. Dialogue has been the source of personal development. Through the process of sharing opinions, awareness can be heightened. After Ferguson, cyclical trends became evident. The people began to cling to one another, to work together, and to independently revisit and revise foundational values. These same actions have been the subtle fabric of the art community, a longstanding safe space for self-exploration.
For me, and other mid-twenty year olds like me, it started with Made Monarchs. Even if you didn’t know the individual members personally, it was hard to escape their realm of influence. I remember seeing the brand name everywhere and not quite understanding. Are they artists? Promoters? Random memories laced together like a lucid dream illustrates the magic of the collective. I remember turtle shells with Made Monarchs painted on the back at Lupe Fiasco’s performance at Live on the Levee. I vaguely remember shirts and parties, a music video with Twiggy on World Star Hip Hop, and joy. So much joy was associated with the simple coolness that defined the Made Monarchs era. Standing outside The Gramophone—when it was still a venue, not a sandwich shop—I once asked Adrian Walker about his goals. As he loosely explained his desire to connect people through art, I nodded in shallow agreement. This was pre-Ferguson me: I didn’t understand the need for like-minded people to gather and collectively shift spaces for the better. Furthermore, I didn’t know there were people like me to congregate with. Events sponsored by this group of my self-assured peers offered comfort through similarity.
Though Made Monarchs and many of the pioneers of the St. Louis art scene have moved forward, their mark has been left on the city. After Ferguson, after St. Louis began to rise from the ashes of atrocity, artists have been fearlessly creating and sharing their ideas. Because of the pioneers, venues are willing to work with creatives from many different backgrounds. People are comfortable searching through their imaginations for meaning, and sharing the images associated with these thoughts. Individuals exhibit bravery and connectivity by congregating to produce work that stirs the soul. Because of the pioneers, the joy that was once contained in small spaces is now widespread.
If I were the divine and creator of all things, death would not have been the catalyst that led to this newness. It would not have required a sacrifice of flesh and spirit for the intrinsic shift to affect an entire population. But change happens when it is supposed to. Change presents itself when we are tested and have a chance to accept what is required of us. Change, be it cloaked in death or disguised as birth, is the only consistency. And through the collective change St. Louis is beginning to exhibit, each work produced is able to intercede for the voiceless and embolden the dull spark present in each person. Because if nothing else, Ferguson reminded us we’re in this shit together. #314