Art is Long Term, Starting with Grants

Committing to long-term artistic grants allows creativity to strike without the boundaries of a one-year time frame.

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RACSTL
Regional Arts Commission St. Louis

The Regional Arts Commission supports the long-term commitments artists have to their craft.

By providing grants beyond one year, this extended freedom encourages artists to create ideas when they strike.  The grants truly support artists as creative dreamers without the restrictions of one year. Art is not rapid-fire work, but rather carefully crafted pieces.  We sat down with two recipients of Artist grants that were able to execute their creativity because of the funds. One is a documentary filmmaker, the other is a journalist. Both share a passion and eye for storytelling, speaking, and art that intends to shift our culture’s perspective.

Aisha Sultan is a woman of many talents. Journalist. Speaker. Now Filmmaker.

Dan Parris is a Documentary Filmmaker. Educator. Now Founder of a Non-Profit, Continuity.

She had the story synopsis, drive, and with the help of RAC, the crucial funds to make the film.  Aisha had a story to tell that would shift the perspective of culture in a way that was close to her heart, and with the help of the artist grant, was able to bring her vision to fruition. She successfully wrote and produced a live action short narrative film, set and shot on location in St. Louis, which is now in post-production.

Dan was determined to go beyond filmmaking and create Continuity, a non-profit whose mission is “Expanding diversity in media production through skills-based training, mentoring and opportunities for untapped talent.”

Let’s Talk Long-Term Grants

Continuity co-founder and Executive Director Dan Parris behind the camera

Dan shared how being connected to RAC, opened his eyes to how much art actually happens here. “You sit in on meetings and learn about all these great programs that get funded by RAC.”  It’s all about that longevity. Parris explained, “It is really helpful for me as an executive producer. From now on, funds go towards training to filmmakers to learn to make their own films. Without RAC, we could not do our program.” New York, LA, Chicago, St. Louis? It’s true, St. Louis isn’t often among considered a destination for budding filmmakers. “People don’t realize how much filmmaking happens here. I learn about a new production company every week.”

Aisha weighed in on her intent to apply for the grant: “There are few institutions that support individual artists in St. Louis. When I talked to friends about wanting to make a film but not knowing where to start with funding, several mentioned RAC. It was the very grant I received for my short film project and gave me the momentum and encouragement to take on an ambitious project.” How did she specifically use the funds? “I used this money for travel expenses to bring to St. Louis the cast and director based in New York.“

New York-based actors on set of Aisha’s film in St. Louis

Let’s Talk Cultural Shift

Aisha’s passion project packed a lot of impact into a short film. The script itself was only ten pages. “My film looks at the subconscious biases people have about other people and the ways these assumptions play out in every day encounters. I felt like this is a story that unfolds in playgrounds and parties across the country and have a particular relevance here. Our problems around race relations is not unique to St. Louis. This happens everywhere. But, our problems have started a national conversation around these issues. I hope it raises awareness of how the assumptions we buy into about groups of people actually hurt individuals we know and care about.”

Aisha and her son on the set

Dan shares his input on making an impact through arts and education. “I was a co-founder with my Continuity partner, Kyle Montgomery. We previously taught students from St. Louis public schools learning how to make documentaries. We trained 11 students to make 9 films. I loved that program and wanted to continue that. We brainstormed what can we do with a nonprofit. Let’s help adults find careers, jobs, opportunities, especially under-represented groups.

Filmmakers in Continuity’s 2017-2018 class

Let’s Talk Future

Dan shared the possibilities that coincide with planting himself in the Midwest with purpose. He shared, “I feel like there’s a lot of opportunities because of low cost of living, amount of history, and diversity.  It’s my hometown. Instead of being a small fish in large pond, I chose to be a medium size fish in a small pond. It’s easier to stand out here. The arts councils and commissions are small enough where they know you by name and recognize you by face. Aisha lended this insight, “There are so many talented people willing to put their hearts into a project like this because they care about the message. And there are lots of people here who want to advance the conversation and help our region grow and heal across divisions.” That’s what we call community at its finest.

Let’s Talk Evoke

I inquired what comes to mind when they hear the word “Evoke.”

Aisha’s thoughts: “To bring to the fore. To awaken.”

Dan’s input: “Evoke makes me think to incorporate culture and identity in St. Louis through your art. When people see your art, they learn and experience what it’s like to be a St. Louisan.”