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Four neighborhoods chosen for Kresge 'embedded arts' help

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 12, 2012 - The data have been tabulated, the options debated and the results are in.

The steering committee of the Kresge St. Louis embedded arts grant has agreed on the four neighborhoods to receive help in discovering programs and funding that can be set up specifically for each area. The committee chose Old North St. Louis, Midtown, the Garden District and the Loop in part for their mix of existing arts organizations, high walkability and economic and racial diversity.

Over the next few months, the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation, in tandem with the Regional Arts Commission and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis, will direct research in each neighborhood. The goal is to determine what programs and partnerships could be developed specific to each area to help spur the community revitalization, the development of effective health and human services and a growth in grassroot arts movements.

Defining terms

Embedded arts: cultivating the arts from within communities (rather than bringing in and planting organizations from outside the community) to increase social cohesion and vitality within neighborhoods.

The St. Louis based Dicentra Client Solutions will lead the next step, which includes forming focus groups from each neighborhood.

Greater St. Louis Community Foundation Director of Community Partnerships Diane Drollinger said these focus groups would be made up of "residents and community stakeholders" as they seek out a "representative sampling" of each community. Focus groups will focus on feedback from current residents.

The drafts of the areas to be focused on are rough and widely drawn. The focus groups will survey the potential to create partnerships, work with existing artists and help boost pre-existing assets, all with the ultimate goal of bringing uniquely crafted programming. Thus, the specific area of arts funding could change, according to a document from the Community Partnership Foundation: “The area boundaries could change if during the focus groups it is determined that residents have a different mental map of their community.”

Drollinger said that concrete plans would likely be ready for further grant applications by the end of this coming March.

"After March, the planning process will be complete and what we'll have is a proposal to go back to the Kresge Foundation and other potential funders with whatever the proposal will be," Drollinger said.

In other words, the process is designed to result in specific, well researched proposals for funding.

The four areas of focus are 


Includes the Grand Center and Locust Business District commercial corridor and portions of the Grand Center, Midtown and Jeffvanderlou neighborhoods. Runs from the eastern edge of the Central West End at Vandeventer to the western edge of Downtown West at Jefferson.

Includes several arts institutions and venues (Contemporary Art Museum, Grandel Theatre, etc.), the offices for the Beacon and Saint Louis University’s main campus in the western portion, several RAC-funded organizations, with reutilized industrial corridors to the east and residential areas to the north.

The Loop

Includes the Skinker-Debaliviere and West End (note: the West End is a separate neighborhood from the Central West End) neighborhoods of St. Louis  and portions of southeastern University City.

Borders Washington University main campus, includes Washington University investment, the RAC offices, several RAC funded organizations and all of the 1+ mile Delmar Loop entertainment district and the proposed Delmar-Debaliviere trolley line, includes a mix of multi-family, single-family and mixed-use structures.

Within its borders, includes both sides the famed “Delmar Divide"), and the 145-year-old north-south city/county line; includes the highest-category market strength and lowest-category market strength housing.

Old North St. Louis

Boundaries based on neighborhood boundaries of Old North St. Louis, located one mile north of downtown St. Louis.

Includes two “community development organizations,” including the prolific Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, high amount of historic rehab tax credits, largely residential.

The Garden District

Comprised of five neighborhoods -- Forest Park Southeast (The Grove), Shaw, Tiffany, Southwest Garden and Botanical Heights (McRee Town).

Includes the Grove business district on Manchester, the Botanical Garden, large amount of "poverty-professional areas" (areas with high proportions of residents working professional jobs and poor residents, largely multi-family and single-family residential with commercial corridors and an industrial sector).

Largest of proposed arts districts, stretches from Hampton Avenue to Grand Boulevard.

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