St. Louis’ Regional Arts Commission awards $1 million in 5th round of fellowships | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ Regional Arts Commission awards $1 million in 5th round of fellowships

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Visual artist and RAC grantee Ellie Balk works on a mural. She hopes to use some of her RAC fellowship money to create a workbook to demystify the process of creating public art.
Credit Michael Toolan

The Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis has reached a major milestone in a program supporting local artists.

In 2013, RAC began awarding $20,000 to 10 Artist Fellows. Today, the group announced its fifth round of grants, bringing the total to $1 million.

A panel of arts professionals, community members and RAC offiicials chose this year’s recipients from among 176 applicants. As in past years, the committee worked to identify artists who show potential.

“They don’t have to be wildly successful; what we’re looking for is momentum,” said Felicia Shaw, executive director of RAC.

Felicia Shaw is executive director of the Regional Arts Commission. RAC is a major giver to the arts in St. Louis.
Credit Regional Arts Commission

Recipients use the money to buy materials or studio space, or even pay babysitters so they can concentrate on their work.  Some are able to quit jobs that don’t involve making art.

“To allow them to finish that script or to focus more deeply on their craft,” Shaw said. “That is gold for an artist, the idea of time, or space.”

Many become employers themselves, hiring collaborators who’ve long supported their work.

“All those people that they normally have to ask to do things for free, they can now pay them,” Shaw said.

The bottom line is about supporting the vibrancy of the entire arts community.

“Because what we really want to see happen, is artists stay here,” Shaw said.

Here’s the full list of RAC’s newest Artist Fellows:

  • Ellie Balk – Visual
  • Lamar Harris – Music
  • James Ibur – Craft and Traditional
  • Kahlil Irving – Craft and Traditional
  • Edward McPherson – Literature
  • De Nichols – Design
  • Kim Portnoy – Music
  • Justin Reed – Literature
  • Jacqueline Thompson – Theatre
  • Brett Williams – Media

Follow Nancy on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL