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Arts

Two Winners Named In Contest For Innovative Arts Startups

Jennifer Gartley, left, is spearheading an effort to offer discounts to arts organizations to food stamp recipients. Robert Stumpf is founder and conductor of Black Tulip Chorale, which describes itself as St. Louis's only "all identity" chorus. 4/25/19
Jennifer Gartley, left, is spearheading an effort to offer discounts to arts organizations to food stamp recipients. Robert Stumpf is founder and conductor of Black Tulip Chorale, which describes itself as St. Louis' only "all-identity" chorus.

The winners of the third-annual stARTup Creative Competition are St. Louis-based Black Tulip Chorale and the EBT Culture Card, a yet-to-be-launched initiative to make discounts to arts organizations available to St. Louis and St. Louis County residents who receive government food assistance.

The winning organizations will each receive $10,000, a year of work space in Arts and Education Council’s arts incubator at the Centene Center for the Arts in Grand Center, and other logistical support.

The competition, run by the Arts and Education Council and PNC Foundation, recognizes groups that fill an unmet need in the arts economy.

The effort to create an EBT Culture Card is still in its nascent stages, said Jennifer Gartley, artistic director of Chamber Project St. Louis. Gartley, who is spearheading the project, said it is based on a Massachusetts plan launched in 2017.

“It doesn’t solve all of the barriers to arts access. It’s not going to solve transportation; it’s not going to solve work schedules. But at least it’s an invitation into the party,” said Gartley, also outreach director for Washington University's Department of Music.

The details still need to be fleshed out, but Gartley said she’ll likely begin with a limited pilot program with hopes to launch the program in full next year. She’s begun to reach out to arts organizations to gauge their interest and is optimistic that many will choose to offer discounts.

“I know that arts organizations will step up to the plate and embrace this as something that could be really transformative and important for St. Louis,” she said.

The Massachusetts effort, on which Gartley plans to base the program, offers discounts to recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. The Electronic Benefit Transfer card associated with that program qualifies recipients for discounts. Gartley likened the process to students showing their school identification cards to qualify for student discounts.

Black Tulip Chorale describes itself as the only “all-gender, all-identity” chorus in St. Louis. It launched last year.

The group is notable for its inclusion of singers of all gender identities, unlike traditional choruses which are frequently restricted to singers identifying as male or female.

“We don’t cram people into ‘this is what you appear; this is what you may present; this is what you must be.’ Everybody is there to sing the part that their voice reflects, rather than trying to slam people into cookie cutters,” founder and conductor Robert Stumpf said.

He said Black Tulip Chorale will use the prize money and office support to commission some original arrangements, rent instruments so as to perform in some non-traditional spaces, and build up its marketing and fundraising efforts.

“There are a lot of trans and queer folks who don’t specifically feel safe in other musical spaces,” Stumpf said.

Chorus members “can be entirely, authentically their own self without fear of needing to hide things or ‘pass,’” he said.

Last year’s winners of the stARTup Creative Competition were Shayba Muhammad’s The Makers Program, which offers guidance to artists of color who are setting up small businesses, and the Who Raised You? Listening Collective, a group led by Treasure Shields Redmond and Karen (Jia Lian) Yang that records and documents oral histories.

Jeremy can be found on Twitter @jeremydgoodwin.

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