RAC To Give Nearly $4.5 Million in Grants

June 14, 2023

Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis To Give Nearly $4.5 Million in Grants to Local Artists and Arts Organizations

One of the Largest Grant Allocations in RAC’s History

The Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis (RAC) will award a total of $4,489,944 in grant funding to 350 individual artists and organizations in St. Louis City and County, one of the largest grant allocations in RAC’s history. This significant increase in grantmaking and the return of several of its programs like the Community Arts Training Institute is another milestone for RAC, the largest public funder of the arts in the St. Louis region, and a welcome boost for the local creative community following the stifling COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, June 14, Vanessa Cooksey, RAC President and CEO, and Andréa Purnell, RAC Commission Chair, led the announcement from Central Print, one of RAC’s nonprofit grant recipients based in the Old North St. Louis neighborhood.

“The last three years have felt like a roller coaster ride of ups and downs for our team,” said Cooksey. “Our board and staff made some tough decisions at the start of the pandemic to secure our long-term organizational sustainability. We consistently reduced our operating expenses and are exploring new ways to diversify our revenues. Our sacrifices and commitment to innovation is paying off! RAC is well-positioned to grow our grantmaking efforts and have even greater community impact year-over-year.”

In 2022, RAC provided $1.15 million in grants to 85 individual artists and 90 arts programs. The increased level of funding in 2023, which will be distributed to 181 individual artists, 129 arts programs, and 40 arts and culture organizations receiving general operating support, is also more than the average annual pre-pandemic award amount of $3.5 million.

“This is a significant, celebratory moment for artists, arts organizations, and all of us who embrace the artist within. St. Louis creatives have always been a major driving force for building the economy and community,” said Purnell. “We are energized by our investment in a local arts and culture sector that continues to enrich so many aspects of our daily lives and bring visitors to our uniquely artistic region.”

A more efficient application process, enhanced opportunities for technical assistance, and a focus on widespread outreach efforts contributed to reaching a higher number of total eligible applicants, which also highlights the increased need for arts and culture funding. Nearly 80% of eligible applicants that applied will receive funding. 2023 recipients can expect to receive their grant award by mid-July this year for an annual grant timeframe that will last through June 2024.

“Engaging in the RAC Artist Support Grant program has profoundly enhanced my capacity to transform my creative aspirations into reality,” said Ryan Marquez, RAC Artist Support Grant recipient. “The invaluable financial and professional development resources offered by RAC have laid a solid groundwork for my exponential growth and advancement as both a music artist and a savvy entrepreneur.”

“Program Support from the Regional Arts Commission provides our whole community with access to presses and type and printmaking instruction, helping us achieve our artistic mission to engage participants on a path of creative self-expression through print,” said Marie Oberkirsch, Executive Director of Central Print.

RAC ensures a diverse community of stakeholders and perspectives are included in the grantee selection process. Based on experience and interest, St. Louis City and County residents nominate themselves or others for the opportunity to receive an honorarium for reviewing grant application submissions, intentionally encouraging community involvement. This year, there were 63 community grant reviewers that scored nearly 400 applications, alongside RAC’s staff and commissioners.

Since RAC was founded in 1985, the organization has provided more than 7,000 grants worth over $100 million. Nearly all RAC’s revenue comes from the hotel/motel tax earned in St. Louis City and County. RAC also recently received $10.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding as a result of the passage of Board Bill #66, which received unanimous support from the City of St. Louis’ Board of Aldermen in late 2022. Eager to put these additional resources in the hands of artists and arts organizations, RAC will begin communicating later this summer about the application process for the new ARPA for the Arts funding.