Regional Arts Commission March 2021 Town Hall Webinar and Q&A Session

April 1, 2021

Categories Newsroom RAC News

Thank you for your continued support of the Regional Arts Commission. We hosted our first Virtual Town Hall of 2021 on March 31.

During the live webinar, we discussed the key issues facing the local arts and culture sector in St. Louis and the pivotal steps RAC is taking to remain relevant and responsive to the needs of our community.

More than 250 people attended the Town Hall. The collective presence of all who joined us is a clear indicator of the strength of our arts community and the collaborative spirit needed to ensure a full creative life for every St. Louisan!

Watch the webinar to find out what we’ve learned, what we’ve done, and what our plans are to support local artists and arts organizations in 2021.


Vanessa Cooksey, President & CEO
Mont Levy, Chairman, Board of Commissioners

Moderated by:
Andrea Purnell, Secretary, Board of Commissioners


You may also read the Q&A’s from the event:

Pre-Submitted Questions

Q: Will artists’ grants and fellowships continue and if so, when?
Yes, artists’ grants and fellowships will continue. Our plan is to start accepting applications for both in January 2022.

Q: What will the theatre and cultural institution safety guidelines look like when the public is allowed to return?
While RAC is not directly involved in the implementation of safety and health protocols, we do support the Missouri Arts Safety Alliance. We encourage you to visit their website for the latest resources. It is also a good practice to visit the venues website for specific information.

Q: Will RAC open up the grant program to non-arts organizations, such as churches, schools or public service organizations that have art programs?
RAC will not have a formal grant process in 2021. As our revenue begins to recover this year and beyond, RAC will support a variety of organizations that have arts programs.

Q: Will RAC continue hosting exhibits and if so, who is the best contact person to submit a proposal to?
Due to financial and staffing constraints, the Gallery and Cultural Resource Center remains closed to the public through 2021.

Q: Can the General Operating Support grant criteria be extended to include additional overhead expenses such as rental/leasing payments?
We will take this into consideration as we are reviewing the 2021 reporting requirements. We will communicate with existing grantees once finalized.

Q: How will RAC provide better operational support for cultural practitioners and art founders?
RAC is committed to advancing capacity building and arts administration training through its grants and programs for artists. We welcome recommendation and will share more information about our 2022 program at a future Town Hall event.

Q: Are there term limits for members of RAC’s Board of Commissioners? If so, what is the duration of their service?
Each Commissioner is appointed either by the Mayor of St. Louis or the St. Louis County Executive and serves a four-year term or until replaced by the appointing leader. Our bylaws recommend a limit of two consecutive terms.

Q: Granted that RAC’s Board of Commissioners provides requisite oversight to RAC’s staff and operations, who or what branch of city/county government is the Board of Commissioners beholden to?
RAC Commissioners are accountable to the Mayor of St. Louis and the St. Louis County Executive, along with serving in the best interest of the arts community throughout the region.

Q: When provided, how does RAC plan to distribute funds obtained by the American Rescue Plan Act to rebuild the arts and culture sector in St. Louis?
We are excited about the potential this stimulus will have on the arts sector. The arts are vital to our region and we will partner with all of our regional elected officials to help move St. Louis forward full steam ahead. RAC will focus on grants and programs, public art, and cultural tourism.


Submitted Questions Answered During Live Session

Q: Will RAC consider adding an artist-representative to the Commission?
Appointments are made by the Mayor and County Executive. RAC is grateful to have a diverse board, many of our commissioners have either professional training in the arts, are working artists themselves, and/or have worked directly in the arts sector.

Q: Why did the leadership role change from Executive Director to two positions of President & CEO? What is the difference? What is the benefit? How does this impact tax-payer-funded compensation?
Increasingly across the country, arts funders are led leaders with the President & CEO title. At RAC, there is no functional or authority difference. There is both a sense of responsibility and esteem that goes along with the titles that is beneficial for RAC and the arts community. Compensation is commensurate with the role.

Q: Why were staff layoffs necessary?
This has been a very difficult time for the organization and those affected by the pandemic. Given the lengthy recovery period for hotel/motel sales tax revenues, and the decrease in RAC’s revenue, the organization had to implement additional efficiency measures to meet our statutory 15% limit on administrative and staffing expenses.

Q: Do you believe you can continue your current staffing until the funding returns?
RAC is operating in an agile environment, but we have the right team in place. We are adjusting our operations and work to focus on our core mission.

Q: If RAC is seeking local grant sources, will RAC be competing for funding with RAC grantees?
RAC’s plan is to start with national grant sources, particularly with the American Rescue Act, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and other local sources in a non-competitive way. Ensuring that we do not compete with our RAC grantees is a top priority.


Submitted Questions Not Answered During Live Session

Q: When will there be a new cohort of Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute fellows?
RAC will host a new cohort of fellows for the Community Arts Training Institute in 2022.

Q: Will you have another capacity building class?
The current Capacity Building: St. Louis program is a two-year pilot program, which ends in August 2022. Based on feedback from program participants and the arts community, we will determine how best to move from the pilot program to a permanent offering.

Q: Might facilities rental not provide a net revenue source? Why commit to keeping the building closed (even if the pandemic relents) for 2021?
Staffing and operational expenses required to open the building exceeds the current budget allocations for 2021.

Q: From a bookkeeping perspective, many of us have pledges from FY21 that were understandably not able to be met, based on the loss in hotel/motel tax revenue. Over the rest of 2021 and 2022, will funds received by arts organizations be designed to complete the fulfillment of those earlier pledges? Or will any support be considered a new gift? (In other words, should organizations write off as bad debt the balance of any FY21 pledges that were not received?)
The 2021 and 2022 grant amounts are still unknown based on RAC’s current revenue situation. We recommend following your regular internal accounting policies.

Q: What are commissioner qualifications?
Information on commissioner qualifications for St. Louis City Boards and Commissions may be found on the city’s website here. Information on the St. Louis County Boards and Commissions may be found on the county’s website here.

Q: When will grantees know what is expected in paperwork for this year?
RAC will communicate grant reporting requirements in June 2021.

Q: Once the new application process begins in January of 2022, will the grant cycle be a one-year cycle, or a two-year cycle?
We are not sure yet. We are considering several best practices as we revise our grant guidelines and implement a new Grants Management System. We will align our grant cycles to best meet fiscal needs of RAC and our grantees.

Q: Considering that social justice is an urgent and necessary movement in our STL community, going forward, what exactly is the future for the nationally recognized Community Arts Training program in terms of RAC support?
We agree! Equity is an urgent, necessary priority. The Community Arts Training Institute is a very important legacy program for RAC, and we plan to continue evolving the program in 2022 to meet the needs of the community, including addressing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Q: Will the STL Art place initiative still be in place to build homes for artists?
Yes, that initiative is led by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation and RAC is an active partner.

Q: How does RAC plan to navigate all the institutional knowledge lost from layoff of your senior staff and turnaround of Board Members? Could you possibly consider bringing on laid off staff in a consultancy capacity?
RAC still has from several commissioners and team members who have long tenures with the organization. We also worked very diligently to ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities and institutional knowledge prior to team departures. As the need arises, we may connect with former commissioners and team members to support our work.

Q: Will the remaining staff be staying on or are future lay offs planned?
At this time, all staffing decisions are aligned with RAC’s revenue and meeting our 15% statutory limitation on administrative and staffing expenses.

Q: Will there be similar grant levels for artist grants when they open up again?
RAC is committed to investing in artists and art organizations. Grant levels will be consistent with RAC’s revenue.

Q: Vanessa mentioned artists AND arts organizations when touching on the Artist Relief Fund in the presentation. Will arts organizations be eligible to apply for this relief fund? Also, when will that application be available?
Yes, the plan is to support both artists and art organizations. RAC is working with the St. Louis Community Foundation to identify how the relief fund process will work in 2021 and will communicate when the application is available.

Q: Our non-profit organization is a drum & bugle corps that performs at family venues throughout the summer. Can we form an information-sharing partnership, and allow RAC to address the thousands of families during our events?
RAC is willing to partner with art organizations and programs. Please reach out to us directly with more information about your request by emailing If you would like to promote your event, please visit RAC’s event page on our website.

Q: Would you expand on your plans for public/outdoor art? Will we be able to use grant funds for maintenance and upkeep for vital public art pieces?
In addition to our Downtown Public Art Plan, RAC is currently working to rebuild the public art administration function within the organization. More information will be released in the third quarter of this year.

Q: I have a friend who is in dire straits due to job loss. Can you post on the website any emergency relief solutions?
Thank you for this suggestion. We are working to update our website. In the meantime, we recommend visiting the Volunteer Lawyers And Accountants For The Arts (VLAA) website. The Blog section provides information about COVID-19 resources for artists of every discipline and career level, nonprofit cultural organizations and small arts-related businesses.

As we all work to move the region forward full STEAM ahead, a thriving arts and culture sector benefits all of us — and needs all of us. We ask that you stay engaged by supporting the arts in St. Louis and check our website for the latest news and announcements.