ST. LOUIS – When stay-at-home orders went into effect, St. Louis stages went dark. Suddenly, the livelihood of area artists was gone.
”Artists have seen cancelation after cancelation and even with the expansion of unemployment benefits, artists are facing major emergency needs,” says Andrew Jorgensen, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ General Director.
So, Opera Theatre and the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival decided to get some friends together to put on a show.
“I think I got the email and one minute after nine and replied all capital letters 30 seconds later YES,” says Mike Isaacson, Artistic Director & Executive Producer of the Muny.
Sixteen area arts institutions will take part in a virtual fundraiser, Arts United STL, on Sunday, May 31. The goal is to raise more than $250,000 for the Regional Arts Commission Artist Relief Fund, which provides emergency aid to St. Louis working artists whose livelihoods were halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Arts institutions and particularly individual artists don’t have big reserve funds. They don’t have…It is a gig existence. So, the Regional Arts Commission has had this fund and it was completely used in the first two to three weeks of the pandemic,” explains Isaacson.
“Jazz St. Louis, The Rep, The Black Rep, COCA, the St. Louis Children’s Chorus…everybody was enthusiastic about how they could help,” says Jorgensen
Jorgenson says that St. Louis has more than 19,000 full time jobs in the arts sector.
“Their insight in seeing this great community need, how we needed to help our colleagues and friends in the community as well as this space and this time where we could all work together as a group was just fantastic,” says Isaacson.
Using their creativity and modern technology, local organizations have come up with amazing performances despite social distancing concerns. Every dollar raised will go towards helping artists.
“As a relatively new St. Lousisan, I’ve been overwhelmed by the quantity, the quality, the virtuosity, and support for the arts in this community,” says Jorgensen. “And that’s what this is all about. Celebrating that vitality and doing what we can to ensure on the far side of this crisis artists and art will be able to thrive again.”
The Arts United STL Fundraiser is Sunday, May 31, at 7 p.m. You can watch it online at EXPERIENCEOPERA.ORG/ARTSUNITED, on Opera Theatre’s YouTube Channel, or on HEC-TV. You can donate to the Regional Art Commission’s Artist Relief Fund at racstl.org/covid19/relief2020/.