MARSH Cooperative operates as a d.b.a. of Spark for the Arts, Inc., a 501(c)3 not-for-profit recognized by the Missouri Nonprofit Corporation Act and with its primary location in the State of Missouri.
MARSH is a bio-cultural laboratory located in Carondelet, St. Louis, MO. MARSH investigates and directly practices relational, substantive, and creative forms of social, economic, ecological, and cultural composition.
Spark Inc./MARSH’s purpose is to design and explore emergent models of human scaled generative social practices.
The organization achieves its purpose through:
- Creative/artistic projects, practices, performances, exhibitions, collaborations;
- Community engagement;
- Reciprocal education, workshops, conferences, forums, symposia, think tanks;
- Generative processes in the areas of food, energy, art, thought, collaboration, relationships, and physical space.
MARSH divides its practices into three integrated categories.
CULTURE (perfomance, gathering + project space)
MARSH involves practices and projects that perform intentional entanglements between personal, social, political and biotic elements of life. Art, food, labor, shelter, and thought are particularly investigated through integrated creative projects, food and land relationships, and forms of (in)habitation. The performance and gathering space, design-build studio space, the grounds, and apartments are situated for use by neighborhood residents and local, national, and international workers across disciplines. MARSH is home-base to PPL (a thinktank, collective and organizational entity) an annual Bioculturealities Symposium and Performance Festival, and the nomadic platform PERFORMANCY FORUM.
PROVISION (co-operative diner + kitchen, garden site)
MARSH’s fully-licensed kitchen, diner, and food collective are cooperatively organized. A cooperative is legally defined as, “An autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly- owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.” Aspiring, emerging, and professional culinary artists and diner workers as well as non-working public participants collaborate to grow, purchase, prepare, cook, and serve high-quality food. Members may also hold public events, plant and harvest their own ingredients across the MARSH organic garden site and orchard, make use of our guest/residency apartment, and otherwise participate in the MARSH project.
HABITAT (residency, emergency + transitional housing)
MARSH’s guest/residency apartment offers temporary, emergency, and transitional housing to visiting artists, thinkers, and other collaborators. Priority is given to precarious persons and those moving between life situations. Residencies are designed in accordance with individual needs, projects, and interests. Residents may participate in MARSH activities through the kitchen, diner, garden, performance/gathering spaces, and artist studios. Proposals for residency situations and requests for housing are accepted on a rolling basis. MARSH also collaborates with other organizations and institutions to provide shelter and temporary homespace.
Every community owes its existence and vitality to generations from around the world who contributed their hopes, dreams, values, ideals, beliefs, experiences, and energy to making the history that led to this moment. Some were/are brought here against their will, some are/were drawn to leave their distant homes in hope of a better life, and some have lives on and with this land for more generations than can be counted. Many people continue to impose their extractive and oppressive wills on this land and on others. Acknowledgments are critical to building mutual respect and collaboration. We offer this statement as a natal effort to learn about how and why we are standing on the ancestral lands of the Dhegiha peoples, including and related to the Wazhazhe (Osage), Kaw, Omaha, Ponca, Quapaw, Miami, Chicksaw, Illini, Ioway, Missouria, Otoe, and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux) We honor and respect the many Indigenous people(s) still connected to this land on which we gather. We pay respects to elders past and present. We acknowledge the contemporary sovereignty of the Osage Nation. Before, during, and after our actions, we consider the affects, implications, and consequences of our practices and presences. We consider the the (ongoing) legacies of genocide, violence, extraction, displacement, migration, enslavement, and (re)settlement. We pledge to work against white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, ecocide, xenophobia, bigotry, and colonialism and towards a more livable,future for all forms of life inhabiting this land and this planet.
ABOUT THE FOUNDERS/ORGANIZERS
Co-founder Beth Neff was born in St. Louis county and sold her organic vegetable farm to return to St. Louis and found M.A.R.S.H. in 2017. Beth has devoted her career to social advocacy and organizing, primarily in the areas of food justice and sustainable agriculture, cooperative organization, and urban planning. She has been the executive director of two not-for-profit organizations, worked as the produce manager at her local store-front food co-op, organized a growers’ collaborative, founded a year-round indoor farmers market, teaches permaculture design classes, has consulted on numerous sustainable urban planning projects, and spent three years gathering city-wide input and writing the document for her city’s sustainable 10-Year Comprehensive Master Plan. Neff is also the author of the young adult novel, Getting Somewhere (Viking/Penguin, 2012). WEBSITE
Co-founder Esther Neff grew up home-schooled on her mother’s organic goat and vegetable farm in Indiana. She is currently living between St. Louis and Brooklyn, NY as an artist, organizer, and independent theorist. Her work has involved forms of performative institution and organization as well as the making of interdisciplinary performance projects. She is the founder and co-director of Panoply Performance Laboratory (PPL), a flexible ensemble (experimental opera and performance art) and organizational entity. PPL operated out of and as a lab site in Brooklyn, 2012-2018. Esther is also the initiator of the Brooklyn International Performance Art Foundation (BIPAF), PERFORMANCY FORUM, and other collaborative “institution as a verb” projects including thinktanks, conferences, symposia, and other discursive/interactive/dialogic performances. Her work often involves forms of food-sharing in performance, devising and diagramming processes, tours/geographic relocations, and collective-formations. WEBSITE , tumblr/portfolio , IG