Greetings, and Welcome to the ARTS & Next Steps Blog!


We have completed the series of stakeholder working group meetings begun back in February when we launched the second phase of the Regional Arts Commission’ cultural planning process — ARTS &: Next Steps. This second blog is to update you on the progress of the three working groups that have been meeting since January to “unpack” the priorities identified in the cultural vision document, “ARTS &: A Creative Vision for St. Louis.” Their goal has been to brainstorm strategies that align with the priorities and suggest ideas that could strengthen RAC’s strategic planning efforts currently underway.

It is our goal to keep you informed of our progress, every step of the way. So, take a minute and use this latest blog to stay in the know.

Much thanks to members of the St. Louis arts and culture community who have been attending meetings facilitated by our consultants Amy Rome and Jennifer Drake Fantroy of the Rome Group:

We are on track to share the results of their work at a public gathering on May 30, 2019, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Blvd.

We look forward to seeing you in May!


Work Groups: March Meeting Themes and Notes

Cross-cutting themes

Arts education across the lifespan: Participants cite the importance of ensuring that arts education is available to people of all ages across the region; this is especially important since we know many adults did not have quality arts education when they were in school.

Storytelling/marketing: The sector needs to collectively tell its story about the arts and culture offerings in St. Louis, the way that we as a region prioritize creativity, and how the arts plays a key role in many aspects of life and work for residents across the region.

Central hub or convener: Arts leaders recognize the importance of existing intermediary organizations/institutions in the arts and culture sector (e.g. RAC, A&E), and at the same time, believe that many of the areas where we have not made progress as a region are areas that these institutions have not invested in systematically. This has created a gap in resources for artists and organizations, as well as in leadership on important topics.

Integration: In order to achieve the goal of ensuring that the arts are valued and celebrated in St. Louis, participants recognize that investment in other sectors or nontraditional partners may be necessary. Some examples include partnering with the state department of education on arts integration, media outlets and journalists to ensure quality coverage of the arts sector, and credentialing and professional development bodies that can support training of teaching artists.

Arts Education

  • What challenges exist for implementing quality arts education for residents in our region (that were not discussed in previous meetings)?
    • Implementation of arts education in schools
    • Keeping track of the many resources in our region (e.g. arts education programs, organizations that prioritize arts education, arts camps for youth, etc.)
    • Shortage of teaching artists
    • Providing programming in an equitable, accessible manner
  • Given that we are doing so much well, why do you believe these challenges exist? (e.g. lack of focus, lack of capacity/resources, lack of interest, structural barriers, etc.)
    • Challenges working at schools persist because of feedback loops: schools that need help providing arts education have few resources, lack of resources lead to challenges that stress administrators, this stress makes it difficult to partner with educators and outside groups, and without those partnerships, students do not get quality arts education.
    • While we recognize the need for arts education for adults, life circumstances (e.g. raising children) and scheduling challenges can make it difficult for them to engage in available opportunities.
    • It’s also the case that grantmakers and foundations who support arts education more often than not prioritize youth in the opportunities and programs they support.
    • Organizations lack the necessary funding to do outside evaluation, which could provide the data that would help them better make a case for their programs and attract more funding (another feedback loop)
    • St. Louis has many small organizations doing arts education, and a few large organizations that dedicate a portion of their resources to education, but without an institution prioritizing it, the resources to support efforts on the ground can be sparse.
    • This disinvestment over time has led to a lack of leadership, advocacy, and collaboration for the arts education field.
  • What would contribute to progress? How can we ensure that these challenges are addressed?
    • Advocacy: promoting the value of the arts in raising healthy, successful humans to school districts and administrators (recognizing their limited capacity to focus on arts education)
    • Funding to support teaching artists: enabling more education for artists to learn pedagogy and other skill that make them effective educators
    • Storytelling: using the experiences of those who have received arts education to demonstrate its value and importance
    • Data: marshaling existing data to demonstrate the value of arts education, tied to both the academic benefits for youth (e.g., improved test scores and literacy), social-emotional learning, and the intrinsic value of creativity in work and life
    • Connecting with parents: using adults in students’ lives to influence teachers and administrators to support arts education
    • Centralized database: a one-stop shop to learn about all the offerings available in arts education for our region (similar to Blueprint 4 Summer)
    • Arts Integration: prioritizing the integrations of arts into educational curricula broadly, including both training and support for classroom teachers of other subjects and system-wide efforts and partnerships at the state agency level
  • What do we want arts education in this region to accomplish? What’s the ultimate goal of our efforts?
    • The development of a creative workforce that will result in more leaders understanding the value of arts education in future years
    • People embracing creativity in everything that they do
    • In addition to its ties to academic progress, a better understanding of arts education’s connection to social-emotional learning, the development of self-esteem, self-efficacy, a sense of hope, and civic engagement
    • Youth can find success in the arts, even if they do not have academic success in other areas
    • Making art and participating in the arts will be a source of joy for all who have the opportunity to do so

Arts & Economic Development

  • What challenges exist in arts and economic development (that haven’t been mentioned in previous meetings)?
    • Messaging: “Arts and Culture” as a catch-all doesn’t translate with the general public. Artists identify by discipline, and there may be some benefit to differentiating by “micro-sectors (e.g. music, dance)
  • What would contribute to progress? How can we ensure that these challenges are addressed?
    • RAC’S role: this institution is well-situated to ensure that arts and culture are represented in broader conversations about cultural tourism, the sector in general, regional efforts and plans that should include the sector, etc.
    • Infrastructure: efforts to elevate the sector need an institutional home; the addition of an Arts Czar in city government, or within another “neutral” entity that can represent the whole sector might be a good start
    • Storytelling: prioritizing marketing and public relations to invest in telling the story of our sector like other cities with rich, cultural offerings
    • Arts Education: promote arts education because of its benefits to society and the workforce, including creativity, work ethic, and discipline among individuals who receive it (evidence-based and anecdotal examples)
    • Bridging the arts-entertainment divide: leaders, especially in the corporate sector, inherently understand the monetary and societal value of “entertainment” offering; the sector could benefit from a concerted effort to market these offerings and venues as arts-focused
    • Center of innovation and incubation: in many sectors, including art, St. Louis is a region that tried things here that people don’t do anywhere else
  • What do we want to accomplish by focusing on arts in economic development? What’s the ultimate goal of our efforts?
    • Ensuring our economic future makes us a place where people want to live
    • St. Louis is a place where creative people are welcome – we are an arts destination and a place where people can come partake in many experiences

Arts & Working Artists

  • What challenges exist in St. Louis for working artists (that haven’t been mentioned in previous meetings)?
    • St. Louis Catch-22: While the sector recognizes the benefits of living and working in St. Louis (i.e. affordability, opportunities to exhibit, etc.), it can be difficult to attract artists here because the market isn’t comparable to places like New York and Los Angeles.
    • Many STL-based artists work in other cities: artists are finding a way to connect to opportunities outside of St. Louis, which is necessary to make a living, but they don’t often receive recognition for their work here in their home city
    • Storytelling: we have fewer reporters and writers focused on arts and culture at media outlets, and the perception is that support for local writers and photographers – from philanthropy, through fellowships, and more – is scarce
      • Nonprofits focused on writing don’t often have the support they need to do the writing and promotion that could boost the sector, but isn’t tied to any particular program (e.g. newsletters, book reviews, other critical writing)
    • No Central Hub: there’s no central resource for working artists to find out about opportunities, access artists/arts services that can help with capacity and development, or is a significant resource for all aspects of being a working artist
    • Prioritizing St. Louisan artists in opportunities: the sector doesn’t have systematic ways to incentivize and support the promotion of local artists
  • What would contribute to progress? How can we ensure that these challenges are addressed?
    • Ideal ecosystem: to be a region that helps working artists thrive, we must focus on the following to make St. Louis a place where artists succeed, and they have choices:
      • Creating opportunities for local artists to work locally
      • Supporting artists’ ability to work in other markets
      • Building a culture and environment that makes St. Louis a place where artists from other places want to work here
    • Coordinated hub: providing a coordinator and convener to provide artists opportunities to interact with each other and build relationships
    • Commission program: creating the conditions under which people can create new wor
    • Residencies: in addition to providing opportunities for artists who are based in St. Louis and throughout the county, they can create reputation of a desirable, prominent arts culture
    • “Losing” vs. “exporting” talent: we should recognize that it is normal and healthy for artists to launch their careers in smaller markets, and move to larger ones; we should embrace the narrative or St. Louis as a place that exports talent to other places, not lament that we “lose” talent
    • Celebrating our success: the sector could do more to ensure that we are celebrating what’s working, including the ways in which we’ve created an arts “scene” and the economic impact of the arts on our region
  • Who needs to partner with whom to accomplish this?
    • Universities: Our region has 15 institutions where arts are being taught that could be an important way to begin to teach artists what it means to work and make a living doing art
    • Social issues and social justice: we can support ongoing efforts in our community to advance social issues by integrating our work into other institutions and organizations
  • What is the ultimate goal of our work on this priority? In five years, what do we want to be able to say about our region and how it supports working artists?
    • Artists of all disciplines live and work in St. Louis and are valued (which enables them to live & work here). When artists are valued, they are supported and celebrated.
    • The region is more equitable, innovative, and interconnected
    • Increased quality of life for all
    • All communities have access to arts & culture