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Celebrating young authors and a quarter-century of an arts group

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 5, 2010 - We’re coming up on two arts celebrations worthy of a mention. Time to break out the champagne -- or sparkling cider in the case of the first event that features the under-18 set. 

StudioSTL, the literary arts organization that teaches students writing and gives them an opportunity to publish, is holding its end-of-year author party May 13 from 6-9 p.m. at the Centene Center for Arts and Education in Grand Center. Beth Ketcher, executive director of StudioSTL, said she expects roughly 400 guests at the free event, including more than 150 of the young authors.

"The bottom line is to show off students' work and to motivate more writing," Ketcher said.

Students will unveil a magazine that is a collection of writing submitted by 12- to 18-year-olds across the city, including those who attended StudioSTL's Saturday workshops. Also on display will be the work of the youngest authors, age 6 to 11, who made superhero trading cards and submitted travel writing, among other projects. Students from Eskridge High School in Wellston will present their video storytelling project that involved documenting their community for two semesters.

Meanwhile, the Regional Arts Commission is preparing for its 25th anniversary celebration. The party -- RAC Rocks On: Celebrating 25 Years of Supporting Arts & Culture -– is free and open to the public. It takes place from 6-8 p.m., Fri., May 21 at RAC's headquarters, 6128 Delmar Blvd. It's going beyond the usual hors d'oeuvres and music, however, as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts – St. Louis' own – Rocco Landesman will be speaking at 6:45 that evening.

The party marks Landesman’s first appearance as NEA chief at a public event in St. Louis, according to the commission. He is on an Art Works Tour across the country to see the ways in which the arts factor into community life. 

As Landesman said in a press release, “St. Louis is where I was born, and where my love of the arts began -– certainly at the Crystal Palace, which my father and uncle ran, and also in Aunt Fran’s music, and in my brother Knight’s fascination with the visual arts. I applaud RAC’s work in helping ensure the region’s next generation of artists and arts lovers.”

The Regional Arts Commission got early funding support from the NEA, which has continued to look favorably on RAC grant applications. Its base funding comes from 4/15 of the hotel/motel room sales tax collected in St. Louis city and county. It also works with foundations, corporations and the Missouri Arts Council. In 2009, it granted awards totaling $3.41 million to 207 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations.

RAC has been a force in supporting the arts. From neighborhood and suburban arts councils to dance troupes, festivals and historic preservation, the commission's support can be seen throughout the area.

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