‘Doing more with less’: Fuller Dome carries on Buckminster Fuller’s mission and legacy

Benjamin Lowder, Director of the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability (right), extending gratitude to Ethel Shanklin, President of the Meridian Society (center), along with two other members from the Meridian Society (left), on April 15, 2023

The Center for Spirituality and Sustainability presented an exhibition filled with belongings donated from the Fuller Estate in a gallery made possible from a grant by the Meridian Society. The exhibition included several tools and belongings of Buckminster Fuller. 


Tovia Black, manager of the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability, said Buckminster Fuller has a long history with this region of the country. Black said that history is something the center wishes to promote as much as possible. 


“Buckminster Fuller created the design for the geodesic dome in 1971,” Black said. “He was a humanitarian and an activist, and he was very passionate about helping people understand their connection to the Earth and to each other.”


Ethel Shanklin, president of the Meridian Society, attended the Buckminster Fuller exhibit on April 15 to receive a public thank-you from members of the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability board.


“The Meridian Society is a nonprofit organization, part of SIUE,” Shanklin said. “What we do is send out applications to secure funding for organizations who need it. We assisted in funding the art gallery, as well as the stereo system they have, so I’m here for them to thank us today.”


The Buckminster Fuller exhibition was set up in part to extend gratitude towards the Meridian Society for their grants, demonstrating the extensive usage of the gallery they funded. The center has also hosted an exhibition on vessels and pottery in the recent past. 


The exhibition was made possible in part by the Buckminster Fuller Estate, which recently donated a plethora of Fuller’s belongings to the center. 


“We recently acquired … original drafting tools, a drafting table, some books, different things affiliated with Buckminster Fuller that he held in his hand, ideas that were printed out in his own handwriting,” Black said. “If you look in the exhibit, you’ll see some posters and some ideas and the handwriting is Buckminster Fuller’s. It’s a look inside his mind.”


Benjamin Lowder, Director of the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability, agreed with Black that the center was excited about this donation in particular because of the close affiliation Fuller had with these objects. 


“They have a resonance almost as talismanic objects he invested a lot of talent with,” Lowder said. “These are the ways he communicated his ideas, his genius. That’s how he got his ideas out of his head and into the world.”


Lowder said the Fuller Estate has been donating to the center since 2017. The center runs on donations and fundraisers, as the building is not actually owned by SIUE, instead owned by the building’s board. 


“[The Fuller Estate] knows that we’re going to get it out to the community,” Lowder said. “If you give it to a larger institution maybe that has tons of different things, it just becomes one of the many things like that warehouse in Indiana Jones. That’s not here, and I think that they appreciate that. They’ve also identified this region as the most important region in the world for structures that Bucky actually built.”


Tom Kinsella, a board member of the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability, said the Dome would be undergoing a “greening campaign” in the near future. 


“We’d like to make it a net-zero, carbon-neutral building,” Kinsella said. “We’re going to explore it and see what we can do. We’re looking at donations from the town, from the state, from the planet, really. The building is that important.”


Kinsella said the board tries to keep the Dome as updated as possible, not only to keep up with the times, but also to emulate Fuller’s mission. 


“We look at this building not so much as a museum piece to honor Buckminster Fuller, but more as a living organism, and we try to treat it the way we think he would’ve treated it,” Kinsella said. “He would want to keep up with the time and science and technology. He wasn’t a static kind of guy.”


Lowder said Fuller’s ideas are becoming more important with each passing news cycle, and that part of the center’s mission is to promote his ideas of cooperation. 


“Definitely as the global population keeps growing and growing, his ideas of cooperating with each other to share resources, smart grids, these were things he was working on decades ago,” Lowder said. “It’s something that we’re all going to have to come to terms with, advocating for cooperation and abundance over competition and scarcity.”


Lowder used as an example Fuller’s “World Game,” a simulation in which people would have to cooperate to share resources instead of going to war over them. If conflict arose, the game was lost. 


“We just get hijacked by people who want to make money by doing things the old way, or keep power by doing things the old way,” Lowder said. “It would be nice if the human species was proactive instead of preventative, but where we’re at now in the timeline, we’ll probably adopt his ideas out of necessity of survival rather than preventing disaster. It’s a legacy that becomes more important day by day.”

For more information on the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability, visit its website.

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