At town hall, St. Louis artists to push mayoral candidates to show support for the arts | St. Louis Public Radio

At town hall, St. Louis artists to push mayoral candidates to show support for the arts

Feb 27, 2017

As the St. Louis Mayoral Race heats up, a group of artists are insisting candidates address how policy makers will make sure that the city makes the arts a priority.

Artist and educator Pacia Anderson's life revolves around the arts — from her friends to her work life and projects with civic leaders.  “There’s so much overlap between arts and policy, just when I wake up in the morning,” she said.

And yet, Anderson thinks politicians don't address the intersection of the arts and policy enough. To make sure that happens in a new city administration, she and other members of Citizen Artist STL have organized tonight's Mayoral Town Hall on Arts and Culture, where candidates will be pressed on how their policies and administration would focus on the arts and the support creative people need.

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The non-partisan Citizen Artist STL aims to ensure that candidates in the mayoral race recognize artists as a legitimate constituency and address their concerns through direct policy. Other artists involved in the effort include Kristin Fleishmann, MK Stallings, De Andrea Nichols, Sylvester Brown Jr. and Shira Berkowitz.

Anderson said she got involved with the group because she didn’t see candidates relating policy and cultural issues to the arts in the way it plays out in her life.

“Sometimes, when you’re talking about education, they’ll talk about the arts," she said. "But when we’re talking about transportation, or gentrification, or vacant houses, all of that is wrapped up in the work that I do but it seems to be missing from the conversation.”

Ahead of to the town hall meeting, the candidates were given a questionnaire on topics, ranging from how economic development affects nonprofits to how the candidates have been affected by the arts.  Their answers are available online.

To highlight the interplay between arts and other social concerns, Nichols cites the Regional Arts Commission’s Artist Count Survey, which notes how creative industries can help develop additional economic opportunities in St. Louis.

“To have a city leadership join in with us to really prioritize some of these goals and visions that many artists are setting forth in the city, that is a very beneficial and strategic place for mayoral candidates to positions themselves,” Nichols said.

Stallings said he hopes mayoral candidates also address how the city can better support artist’s efforts to develop neighborhoods through creative actions. He said he hopes the meeting will help politicians and their constituents better recognize the power of art in the community.     

“Unfortunately we’re not seeing these civic leaders aren’t seeing art as a way to transform lives and conditions,” Stallings said.  

The group's members stresses that they are open and welcome other artists. As Nichols said, the goal is to ensure mayoral candidates truly prioritize artists and their cultural influence.

"Not just see the arts and the artists as these beautifiers of space but also influencers and to put a collective voice around that so that all these needs and desires and visions that we know exist within the arts community can actually be prioritized on that civic scale,” Nichols said.

The Mayoral Town Hall on Arts and Culture takes place at 7 p.m. tonight at The Luminary 2701 Cherokee St.

Follow Willis on Twitter: @WillisRArnold