Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis Awards $500K to Local Artists in Response to COVID-19 Crisis

August 7, 2020

ST. LOUIS (August 5, 2020) – The Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis (RAC), the area’s largest public funder of the arts, has distributed more than $500,000 to 586 local artists through its Artist Relief Fund. In partnership with the St. Louis Community Foundation, the RAC Artist Relief Fund supported artists whose creative practices and incomes were negatively impacted by the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout.

Established this spring, RAC delivered critical relief by providing financial support to working artists through multiple rounds of funding. In increments of $500 and $1,000 – the grants helped artists cover life-sustaining expenses such as residential rent, mortgage lease or occupancy payments, residential utility bills, groceries and food, medical expenses not covered by insurance, child-care services, car payments or repair, insurance premium payments, and student loans, expenses or tuition.

“The devastating economic fallout of this pandemic has had a significant impact on working artists,” said Mont Levy, chair of the board of commissioners at RAC. “Because one of RAC’s primary mandates is to support individual artists, we worked quickly to establish an emergency fund in collaboration with the St. Louis Community Foundation to provide artists with valuable resources in this most dire time.”
The fund was designed to support artists whose livelihoods have been disrupted due to cancelled events, programming, contracts, or commissions in all artistic disciplines, including teaching artists who have not been able to teach during this time because of cancelled classes and school closures.

Over 73% of the recipients lost more than 75% of their income due to COVID-19. The funds were distributed to a diverse mix of artists representative of the St. Louis community. The following information is based on survey responses.

  • 36% of funding was distributed to artists who identify as Black/African American/African; 47% White/Caucasian; 12% Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/American Indian/Alaskan Native, Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian or of two or more races; and 5% preferred not to answer
  • 43% of funding was distributed to artists who identify as female; 53% male; 2% non-binary; and 2% preferred not to answer

A major fundraising success for the relief fund came in the form of the “Arts United STL” benefit concert, which included 16 arts organizations coming together for a free virtual event produced by Opera Theatre St. Louis, under the direction of St. Louis Shakespeare Festival. The virtual benefit exceeded its set goal of $250,000, bringing in more than $350,000 to RAC’s Artist Relief Fund, including gifts and commitments made during and after the May 31 broadcast.

“During ‘Arts United STL,’ the St. Louis community truly showed the compassion that this industry so desperately needs right now,” said Andrea Purnell, RAC Commissioner and host of the “Arts United STL” broadcast. “We’re thrilled to have been able to raise so much in such a short amount of time, and it’s all thanks to the St. Louisans who responded with vital support for artists across our region.”

To learn more about RAC’s response to COVID-19 and its effects on St. Louis artists and arts organizations, visit racstl.org/covid19.

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Due to the ongoing financial impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) has been working diligently to adjust our annual grantmaking programs to ensure alignment with RAC’s strategic priorities, and in response to feedback from the arts community.

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We have gathered a variety of news, information, and other resources to sustain the health and vibrancy of our arts community.

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As the leading public catalyst for arts and culture in St. Louis, the Regional Arts Commission leverages the power of creativity to strengthen and enrich our community. Read our commitment to diversity, racial equity, accessibility, and inclusion, and see our strategic plan for the next five years.

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Covid-19 has impacted us all. But what it hasn’t changed is RAC’s commitment to finding innovative ways to support arts programming, arts organizations, and individual artists through the pandemic, and to resuming these programs as soon as conditions allow.

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