Performers from across the creative spectrum in St. Louis will hold a telethon-style benefit concert to help artists who have suffered a financial blow during the coronavirus crisis.
Organizers hope Arts United STL will raise $250,000 from 1,000 individual contributors. Funds raised during the May 31 concert will support the Regional Arts Commission’s Artist Relief Fund for creative professionals who lost work because of cancellations.
RAC established the fund in late March and has already run through its initial pot of about $140,000. It has closed applications, pending additional fundraising.
The fund offers artists grants of $500 or $1,000.
RAC chair Mont Levy said it is designed to help workers in the arts sector with basic expenses like rent, food and medication.
“The very nature of an emergency relief fund hopefully speaks to those amounts being able to provide relief to an immediate emergency,” Levy said.
RAC also is raising money for the fund with a series of videos recorded by artists who have received grants.
The pandemic-related stay-at-home orders and restrictions on public gatherings caused an instantaneous loss of income for people who depend on live performances to make a living. Performances at all St. Louis venues are on indefinite hold.
Artists “were among the first who started losing their jobs” once the pandemic hit, said Tom Ridgely, artistic director of St. Louis Shakespeare Festival and producing director of Arts United STL.
At least 16 organizations will offer remote performances tailored to an era of social distancing. RAC has also reached out to all of its current grant recipients to solicit additional material, including testimonials about the importance of the arts and its current financial crisis.
“What we’ve asked everyone to do is really come up with something that’s new and responds to the moment that we’re in and not just pulling something out of the can, however great it may be,” Ridgely said, noting how drastically the arts landscape has changed during the pandemic. “May 2020 is not March 2020, and so the work needs to be of this moment.”
Participating organizations painstakingly created several performances by editing together individual contributions artists recorded of themselves. Andrea Purnell, an actress, writer and arts administrator, will host the show from an otherwise-empty Powell Hall.
The Black Rep assembled six artists — J. Samuel Davis, Drummond Crenshaw, Tyler White, Amber Rose, Alexis Mason and Charles Creath — to perform Fats Waller’s “Black and Blue” from the National Blues Museum.
Actors at the Muny will perform a song on the sidewalk outside their theater, in a performance that also celebrates the organization’s technical staff.
Andrew Jorgenson, general director of Opera Theatre of St. Louis, created the concept for Arts United STL and Opera Theatre is producing it in partnership with Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. Local firm Switch is donating production assistance for the webcast, which will be streamed on Opera Theatre's Youtube channel.
“I think it’s going to be astonishing to realize how much is happening here,” Ridgely said, “how many artists live and work here, the range of work that they’re doing and how good it all is.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article msistated the name of the fundraising event.
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