Missouri Arts Council | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Arts Council

File photo. Artist Solomon Thurman painted this piece of two African-American men, a police officer and a man wearing a Hands Up Don't Shoot shirt after Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown.
File | Provided |Solomon Thurman

The Missouri Arts Council is honoring three St. Louisans and one local hot spot with its 2018 annual awards.

The council chose Solomon Thurman for its Individual Artist award. Thurman is perhaps best known for a piece air travelers see every day: the 51-foot-long “Black Americans in Flight” mural at St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport. He created the work in 1990 with his mentor, the late Spencer Taylor.

(L to R) Michael Donovan, Robert Lynch and Sherry Sissac
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

In Missouri’s big cities and in its rural area, the arts have a big impact – not only for their inherent value – but economically as well.

“It’s a billion dollar story [in Missouri],” said Michael Donovan, Executive Director of the Missouri Arts Council, an organization that has funded the arts in communities across the state for more than 50 years.

Donovan along with Robert Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, and Sherry Sissac, Deputy Director of the Regional Arts Commission, joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Friday.

Continuing the Legacy COCA 2015
Provided by COCA

When folk artists die, their craft can be lost. To make sure their work is preserved, Lisa Higgins, director of the Missouri Folk Arts Program at the University of Missouri in Columbia, helps preserve those techniques.  That way, when an artist dies, it’s not the end of their expertise.

“There’s a bit of joy in there also, it’s bittersweet, to know that through the program they have been able to sit down and pass that tradition onto someone else who’s invested in it and plans to carry it on,” Higgins said.

(Courtesy: St. Louis Symphony)

The Missouri Arts Council is giving away $4.2 million in grants in the coming year. The funding is slightly less than last year’s allotment. According to the council’s executive director Michael Donovan, the lower amount is the result of static funding from state government.

“We were also spending money down that was in a cultural trust, and this is at the request of the legislature. So this year, since that money’s been spent down over the years, we didn’t have as much this year to spend down as we did the previous year,” said Donovan.