Citizen Review Panelists
& Discipline Readers

The Regional Arts Commission (RAC) invites knowledgeable members of the St. Louis community to serve as volunteer Citizen Review Panelists (Panelists) and Discipline Readers (Readers) to review grant applications. RAC Panelists and Readers play a central role in reviewing grant applications for arts funding and are entrusted to make important assessments of our community’s arts and cultural organizations and individual artists.

Click to nominate yourself or a colleague.

Citizen Review Panelists

Panelists play a central role in RAC’s annual grant-making process. Each year, RAC invites dozens of local citizens representing a broad and diverse range of artistic and cultural viewpoints, professions, and backgrounds, to serve on panels and assist with the evaluation of grant applications.

Panelists are volunteers who are knowledgeable and informed about our arts and cultural community, have backgrounds in the artistic disciplines under review, and can commit the time and energy to fulfill the obligations of the review process.

RAC panelists commit to the following:

General Operating Support and Program Support Citizen Review Panels

  • Time to attend an orientation and learn how to review the applications according to the guidelines and review criteria
  • Time to read the assigned applications including videos, photos, recordings or other work samples prior to the meeting
  • Time to gather with other panelists to discuss and rate the applications in a one or two-day public meeting

Artist Fellowship Citizen Review Panel

  • Time to gather with other Citizen Review Panelists for a two- to three-hour meeting where they will discuss and rate selected Artist Fellowship applications and to recommend a cohort of 10 artists.

Discipline Readers

Readers are volunteers who are knowledgeable and informed about the arts and culture community, have backgrounds in the artistic disciplines under review, and can commit the time and energy to fulfill the obligations of the review process.

RAC Readers commit to the following:

  • Time to read a training document and learn how to evaluate the applications according to the guidelines and review criteria
  • Time to read and rate the assigned applications, including videos, photos, recordings, writings and/or other work samples

Nomination Process

Panelists and Readers are nominated to serve as reviewers through a public process. An individual may self-nominate to serve or recommend others by completing a simple application process. RAC staff reviews the nominations and makes selections according to need, talent, and the panelists’ availability to serve. To ensure that there is always a steady pool of talented panelists from which to choose, panelists may serve up to three years.

The “RAC Citizen Review Panelist Handbook” (click here to download) provides an overview of panelists’ roles and responsibilities as well as the grant review process. RAC staff manages the application process and providse panelists with online access to the applications and work samples several weeks prior to the panel meeting or when the Reader’s ratings are due.

Conflict of Interest Policy

To ensure that Panelists and Readers are reviewing each application fairly, they are required to declare any conflict of interest with organizations or individuals that are applying for funding. In the event of a conflict of interest, Panelists reviewing organization grants are required to recuse themselves from the discussion and voting on that application during the panel meeting. If a Reader has a conflict of interest, the applicants will be assigned to another Reader.

Citizen Review Panel Meetings

General Operating Support and Program Support

Panel meetings are open to the public, and applicants are encouraged to attend. Although they are not allowed to address the panel during the deliberations, they are present to hear the comments panelists make regarding the merit of their applications. This is an important learning process for the applicants as they can receive valuable feedback on their organization or program from individuals with expertise and diverse backgrounds.

After the panelists participate in a group discussion of each application using the review criteria as a guide, they are each asked to render a numerical rating, using a four-point rating scale, that they feel provides an overall assessment of the application’s merit. The ratings are then totaled and averaged to arrive at a final rating. This numerical rating is part of the formula that determines the amount of funding an applicant will receive.

Artist Fellowship Citizen Review Panel

After the discipline readers have reviewed and rated the applications, the top-rated applicants from each discipline are reviewed by the Artist Fellowship Citizen Review Panel. Applicants who have made it to the second round of review will be notified. The Artist Fellowship Citizen Review Panel will then review all selected applications, regardless of discipline and select the ten Artist Fellows to be recommended to the Grants Committee and approved by the full Commission.

Special Circumstance Review

Please note, the following is for organization grants only:

RAC staff may determine (on a case-by-case basis) that an application should be pulled from the evaluation process and referred to the RAC Grants Committee for a separate review. This would only occur during extraordinary and rare circumstances and is typically reserved for when significant organizational changes occur after an application is submitted but before the proposal is reviewed.

 Appeals Process

Please note, the following is for organization grants only:

In addition to reading applications and serving on the panel, panelists may also be asked to participate in the appeals process. After applicants receive their organization’s panel comments and final ratings, they have the right to appeal if they believe that an error was made during the review that adversely affected their final rating.

Applicants must have solid grounds for an appeal for it to be considered. Dissatisfaction with a rating or denial of an award is not sufficient ground for an appeal. Solid grounds for an appeal are based on a misstatement of fact made during the panel meeting that is evidenced by written information found in the application. New information not originally included in the application can’t be offered as evidence of the misstatement. Staff reviews and approves all requests for appeals, which must be submitted by the applicants in writing.

When there are appeals to be considered, staff will ask that the individuals who served on that applicant’s panel reconvene to discuss the appeal and determine if it has merit. If the appeal has merit, the panel will be instructed to increase the applicant’s final rating.

The panelists are sent the written appeal in advance of the meeting, which is typically held as a conference call unless there is a compelling reason for the panelists to convene in person. The meeting is conducted using Robert’s Rules of Order. A majority of panelists must vote in favor of approving a change to the final rating in order for it to be increased. The results of the meeting are shared with the applicants immediately following the meeting.