ST. LOUIS – With the help of the city, artists can now apply for a grant totaling $3 million, the ARPA funds, made possible through the Regional Arts Commission.

There is a program that is benefiting both arts organizations and local artists. This grant has been made possible due to the Arts Revenue and Income Replacement Grants, which are a part of the American Plan Rescue Act.

“It could make the difference between whether or not our doors are open, or whether or not our doors are closed,” said Jacqueline Dace, executive director of St. Louis ArtWorks.

It’s an arts organization that allows youth the opportunity for a paid job-training program. It provides a platform for young people aged 14 to 19 to express themselves while also earning a living.

Dace’s fear is shared by many others, especially given the decline in funding for local artworks. It’s not just those putting paintbrush to paper who have been suffering.

“There are a lot of our sponsors, a lot of corporations have redirected our funding,” said Karol Stewart, director of marketing and communications for the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis.

Local museums and non-profit organizations were compelled to do so for this very reason.

“In a moment, we had to pivot,” Stewart said.

That came after a major loss in visitation and viewership.

“There is not an art organization in the country, in the world that wasn’t affected,” Stewart said, who has spent her career in the arts around different parts of the country.

It’s visuals that speak volumes, but those behind it,

“We are small, low-budget organizations. That are doing monumental work,” Dace said.

Dace and St. Louis ArtWorks have overseen the involvement of over 3,800 young artists in numerous city-wide projects, which is a remarkable achievement for a small organization. Dace stated that they do it to enhance the community’s vibrancy.

“Can you imagine what the community would be like without art?” she said.

Dace further explains that a significant aspect of the initiative is to encourage young people to express themselves and explore their creativity.

“It’s access and opportunity that is the difference between some youth and others,” she said.

More opportunities are now available for organizations and artists in the area who are still dealing with pandemic issues, thanks to a $3 million grant from the Regional Arts Commission.

“Whether it’s through the visual arts or it’s music or any other type of art form, we have some wonderful artists here in St. Louis,” Dace said.

The grant program provides assistance to artists from various disciplines, with a particular focus on those residing in lower-income neighborhoods. The eligibility criteria for the grant include individuals where 50% of income falls below 60% of the Area Median Gross Income or communities with a poverty rate of 25% or higher. While the program prioritizes individuals in need, all artists are welcome to apply. Applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Many individuals who have experienced significant challenges often express their stories through art, which allows for a more vivid and impactful portrayal.

“They tell stories, and these are stories that relate to our community,” Stewart said.

Many of them, both through CAM’s exhibits, and St. Louis ArtWorks, where the artwork is for sale, are crafted by youth.

“They came up with names, depictions, they looked at artists throughout our history,” Stewart said, in one of the exhibits made entirely by St. Louis school students.

Still recovering, Dace said it’s funding like the RAC’s helping to pave the path.

“We’re still building out of some of the challenges, that we had,” she said.

Dace said that receiving grants from the arts commission has made a significant impact in the past. Every allocation makes a world of difference.

“Art is therapeutic, art is hope, art inspires,” Stewart said.

As many art organizations still struggle to survive, she explains that they are trying to improve, but more assistance is required.

‘In order to become more engaging, to connect more with our community, … we need funding to do that,” Stewart said.

More information on the grant and the application are available on the RAC STL website, which is now open for applications.