The Centene Center for the Arts opened in 2005 as the region’s first arts incubator with 18 tenants.  Over a decade later, A&E and the Centene Center continue to incubate and accelerate 19 arts and arts education organizations of varying budget sizes, programming longevity and genres.  In addition to providing administrative spaces at below-market cost, A&E’s Centene Center also provides tenants with the invaluable benefits of rehearsal, event and performance spaces at no additional cost.  A&E also saw the need to provide critical technological infrastructure like fiber optic internet services and server capacity to tenants as well. 

And now, inspired by the new ways in which arts organizations go about their work and driven by a community transition, the Arts and Education Council will build within the Centene Center a place for gathering, collaboration, learning and exchange of ideas – the Catalyst Innovation Lab.  The Lab will become reality thanks to an extraordinary $250,000 grant from the Centene Charitable Foundation and Centene Corporation to fund the renovation, furnishing and initial programming within the 1900 square foot Lab.

The Catalyst Innovation Lab will be located on the first floor of A&E’s Centene Center for the Arts.  Street-level presence for the Lab ensures accessibility and visibility for this unique space.  The lobby of the building that includes the Arthur and Helen Baer Foundation Galleries will also be renovated allowing for greater use of the visual art display space and an additional gathering space for Lab attendees and participants.  Architectural firm, HOK, provided the initial plans, renderings and design services to A&E at no cost.

The Lab will include modular furniture and mobile walls allowing the space to be configured in multiple ways to accommodate broad programming needs – from traditional board room settings to lecture styles to fully free-form interaction space.  A&E’s program goals for the space include creating opportunities for cross-sector engagement (i.e. business and arts or technology and arts) with speakers and activities that invite conversations and forge understanding between sectors as well as expanded professional development training and capacity-building exercises.

As communication and collaboration needs of arts organizations continue to evolve and changes as rapidly as any other business, A&E stands ready and committed to ensuring arts organizations have access to 21st Century tools and training at the Centene Center for the Arts and in the Catalyst Innovation Lab.