RAC unveils five-year strategic plan to bolster St. Louis arts, culture communities

    By: Christina Chastain

    The Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis (RAC), the area’s largest public funder of the arts, announced yesterday its five-year-plan to further strengthen St. Louis’ reputation as a thriving cultural hub.

    The plan, titled Advocate, Partner, Catalyst: A Strategic Plan to Strengthen RAC’s Leadership Role in the St. Louis Region, outlines its priorities to build capacity; increase exposure to arts education; and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion within the arts and cultural sectors of St. Louis.

    “We are focused on bold new initiatives that are designed to address issues long-affecting the arts and culture community,” said Mont Levy, chairman of the board of commissioners at RAC. “The plan is the culmination of years of research and community engagement that led us to clearly defined priorities and an implementation strategy to drive progress in the region.”

    In 2017, RAC launched EVOKE, the first-ever comprehensive cultural planning process for the region. Through EVOKE, RAC conducted individual interviews with community leaders and facilitated dozens of community discussions, gathering input from artists of all disciplines, leaders of arts and cultural organizations, arts funders, community organizations, and the people of St. Louis.

    Six community priorities were identified through the EVOKE process, known as ARTS &: A Creative Vision for St. Louis, published in 2018:

    • Arts Education for All
    • Advance Equity Through the Arts
    • Amplify Arts as an Economic Engine
    • Invite All St. Louisians Into Creativity
    • Increase Support to Local Artists
    • Forge New Partnerships and Collaborations

    RAC commissioned research studies and convened working groups, RAC grantees, individual artists, and other community stakeholders to engage around these priorities and provide feedback to inform the development of the strategic plan.

    The working groups concluded that the St. Louis region has a strong arts and culture sector that can be made even stronger with the implementation of strategies that address:

    • Building a stronger foundation for arts education through support for teaching artists; equitable school and community-based programs; centralized resources for the public; and advocacy for funding to help ensure equity.
    • Engaging the arts with other sectors of the community, including government, to collectively develop a more creative economy by providing leadership and marketing, including data dissemination on the benefits of the arts, as well as support for organizations.
    • Developing a more robust environment for working artists by connecting, promoting, and supporting them in a variety of ways, we well as promoting St. Louis as the thriving arts environment that it is.

    After receiving this input stemming from the EVOKE and ARTS & phases, RAC synthesized these ideas into their strategic plan.

    The strategic plan outlines four main priorities to respond to some of the most critical needs in the arts and cultural communities, identified by EVOKE and ARTS &:

    • Grow and Develop Capacity of Artists and Arts Organizations

    This strategy will focus on arts management training for small-budget and mid-sized nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, as well as individual artists. Goals of this strategy include creating healthy, growing organizations that achieve a diversity of revenue source and supporting individual artists to build strong and sustainable creative practices.

    • Advance the Education of Young People Through the Arts

    The goal of this strategy is to meaningfully increase exposure and access to arts education for every child, in every school, through collaborative programming.

    • Increase Equity in the Arts Through Leadership and Collaboration

    This priority focuses on supporting arts and cultural organizations in a variety of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and providing targeted management and infrastructure support for organizations of color.

    • Strengthen Key Organizational Infrastructure

    The goal of this priority is to focus on strengthening RAC’s internal organizational infrastructure to support the five-year plan, including grant making, technology, and data, and management and governance.

    “We believe we can make St. Louis an even stronger cultural hub, bridge communities, advance economic development, and creative an inclusive common ground, where arts and cultural advance equity and make St. Louis a better place,” said Levy.

    RAC will remain a key grant maker in the arts. Revisions will be made to the annual grant making program to ensure that it aligns with its strategic priorities.

    Efforts will also be made to forge joint ventures and collaborations among arts institutions.

    “We can’t do this alone. Over the next five years, we will need you to work together with us, to create a more vibrant, diverse, equitable arts and culture sector for St. Louis,” said Andrea Purnell, secretary of the board of commissioners at RAC. “Community partners will be instrumental in helping the strategic plan achieve its success.”

    To find out how to get involved and to download RAC’s full strategic plan, click here.

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