ArtFul Living: St. Louis Area Fine Arts, Crafts & Performing Arts

Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky, Arts Editor

The ARTS Are Important, In Many Ways!

Much of what we know about earlier cultures comes to us through the art left behind by those peoples. Art speaks to us from across the centuries. Today, we enjoy plays, concerts, dance performances, exhibitions, museums, festivals and everything else that falls under the broad umbrella of “the arts.” But the arts don’t just happen—they can’t happen without support, and that support translates to “funding.”

Annually, the Missouri Department of Revenue collects approximately $35 million in new funds from the Non-resident Athletes and Entertainers tax. This is an income tax imposed on professional non-resident athletes and entertainers who work in Missouri. For example, when Lady Gaga or the Chicago Cubs come to town, Missouri collects personal income tax from each of them. Known as A&E Tax, the money is designated by statute (Section 143.1833 RSMo) to be distributed among the five Cultural Partners: Missouri Arts Council Trust Fund (60%), Missouri State Library Networking Fund (10%), Missouri Humanities Council Trust Fund (10%), Missouri Public Broadcasting Corporation Special Fund (10%) and Missouri Historic Preservation Revolving fund (10%). The lion’s share of the funds goes to Missouri Arts Council which, in turn, distributes funds (in the form of grants) to more than 500 art institutions, organizations, and the many other entities that present the arts in all forms to the public. Such public funding assures equal access to the arts throughout all of Missouri’s communities.

It’s a good plan: to collect money from non-Missourians who make money within our state, and return some of that money to the culture of our state. The catch in this plan, however, is the fact that the release of these funds must be voted on each year by Missouri state legislators, because the income and release of those funds are part of the Missouri State Budget. Hmmmm, it’s getting a bit complicated…

Step in, Missouri Citizens for the Arts! This statewide nonprofit group advocates on behalf of the Cultural Partners and serves as a watchdog so A&E Tax funds don’t get misappropriated. It’s a big job, an important job, to continually educate and remind legislators what the state’s arts industry does for Missouri.

Annually, the National Endowment for the Arts studies how the arts industry impacts the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). The most recent report revealed that the production of arts and cultural goods added more than $698 billion to the U.S. economy, and that 4.7 million Americans are employed in the arts industry, earning $334.9 billion in salaries and benefits (Source: “The 2014 Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account: 1988-2012,” National Endowment for the Arts, 2014). Impressive? Important? YES!

So, here’s the point: On February 11, Missouri Citizens for the Arts hosts Citizens’ Day at the Legislature in Jefferson City, and YOU are invited!! It’s an art-filled day in the state capitol, with arts advocates from across the state convening to remind our legislators that the arts are important!! The reality of securing public funding for any issue is that advocates must present a consistent, focused message year after year so that elected officials give serious consideration to funding.

A special guest speaker from Americans for the Arts will travel from Washington, D.C. to address attendees at 10:30 a.m. There is an hour-long brass ensemble concert performed by fellowship students at UMKC Conservatory of Music; the prestigious Missouri Art Awards will be presented at 2 p.m. In between all of this, there’s time to visit or have lunch with state legislators and to tell them that funding the arts is important. The entire day is free for members of MCA (just $10 for nonmembers). Check out even more details at www.mo4arts.org. Just a 2-hour drive from St. Louis, so bring some friends. I’ll see you there!

Exciting local news:
COCA has a history of preparing dancers for great careers in the arts. It is COCA-alumnus Antonio Douthit-Boyd who has become “the” principal for the Alvin Ailey Dance Company (that’s Antonio you’ve seen doing incredible leaps in all of the ads for the Ailey Company). COCA Director Kelly Pollock announced that, following their final performance in Paris, both Antonio and Kirven Douthit-Boyd will retire to join COCA as Co-Artistic Directors of Dance, pushing St. Louis to the top of the list for dance training.

The St. Louis Classical Guitar Society received $20,000 from The Augustine Foundation of New York City to launch Phase One of the Ferguson Guitar Initiative. “We know that music motivates and prepares students for higher achievement,” said Lawrence W. Larrew, acting superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District. This innovative program, which brings classical guitar lessons to students in the district, began in January.

A link to this month’s ArtFul Happenings can be found on The Healthy Planet homepage.