© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Fort Gondo Arts Compound Receives $70,000 Grant

Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

The Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts on Cherokee Street will triple its operating budget next year thanks to a new grant from The Warhol Foundation. Director Jessica Baran says the award points to the strength of Fort Gondo’s programming.

“I think that we’ve built up over this long period of time ... is recognized at this point as deserving of some kind of funding along these lines,” she said.

The Warhol Foundation grant consists of $70,000 that will be executed in the form of two annual payments of $35,000.  Fort Gondo ran on a budget of $9,000 in 2014. Baran says the grant money will help pay arts space employees and make improvements to the building. The director hopes to improve heating in the building and install new lighting, improving visibility for art on display. Baran said she was pleased to receive the recognition, especially after such a productive year.

“We’ve worked really hard this year, doing probably twice as much programing,” she said.

Fort Gondo and its next-door sister space Beverly held 22 shows this past year featuring work that ranged from sculptural (current show ) to linguistic (past show). The grant is the product of an extended conversation between Fort Gondo and The Warhol Foundation, which included site visits to the arts space by Warhol Foundation employees. When Baran first learned of the award, her relief manifested unexpectedly.

"My initial reaction was I think to feel a little ill. I’ve been waiting for this news for quite a while,” said Baran, “it’s nice to get this recognition.”

Fort Gondo was founded in 2002 but only became a 501(c)3 registered nonprofit three years ago. The artist compound is run primarily by Baran, her husband Galen Gondolfi, and their assistant director Cole Lu. They sayFort Gondo is the only fully functional arts organization with their level of programing without paid staff.

Baran said appropriately compensating staff in the future will allow some staff to focus more on the arts space and less on their day jobs which in turn will provide stronger attention to detail and free up planning time. She also hopes to stretch some of the grant to include providing additional financial assistance to exhibited artists and poets who participate in the Fort Gondo seasonal poetry series.

“We’ll see how we can make it all work,” she said, laughing.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.