Investing in art for St. Louis’ sake

St. Louis American
By Kenya Vaughn

“Artists always think that they have to leave – to go to Chicago, New York, L.A., anywhere but St. Louis to have a career,” said Felicia Shaw, executive director of the Regional Arts Commission. “But what we are trying to do is keep some of that homegrown talent right here in St. Louis – so that the rest of the community can benefit from their creativity.”

One of RAC’s methods for retention is through its Artists Fellowship Program, which invests in individual artists. The 2015 class of RAC Artist Fellows were introduced at a special reception the Friday after Thanksgiving. Now in its third year, the program awards $20,000 fellowships to 10 artists in the St. Louis region.

The 2015 fellows were whittled down from 235, the largest applicant pool to date, in creative outlets ranging from dance, film, literature, music, visual arts and more. Of the 10 awarded, there were four artists of color. They are familiar names to the arts community: Afriky Lolo founder Diadie Bathily, visual artist Cbabi Bayoc, musician Dwayne Bosman and filmmaker Denise Ward-Brown.

“St. Louis has a wealth of great creative talent, and the recipients of the grant are truly representatives of the people who live here,” Shaw said.

The overwhelming feedback from the artists was naturally appreciative, but there was also the spirit of paying it forward. “This award means that I can compensate those who have given their time and talents to help me create, Ward-Brown said.

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