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National Arts And Letters Competition Deadline Approaching

Michael Lindner
Courtesy of Michael Lindner

For more than 70 years, the National Society of Arts and Letters has sponsored local and national competitions for young artists. This year, the national competition will be in St. Louis.

“(The) organization fosters young people in the arts, bringing them together in their field and providing opportunities for them to compete,” said Peggy Liggett, chairwoman of the competition committee of the St. Louis chapter. “We have some prizes that are very significant.”

“Our first place competition prize is $2,000. The national is $10,000 for the first place, with other significant awards in addition,” said Jeanette Meyers, chairwoman of the competition committee of the St. Louis chapter.

Locally, the second-place winner receives $1,000 and the third-place winner receives $750.

The competition is open to 18- to 25-year-old U.S. citizens or legal residents who are not under contract with an agent — a group of artists that often finds that cash prize helpful.

“We hear often about not-for-profit theaters who have generous donors. Of course we’re thankful for them,” actor Michael Lindner told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter. Lindner won the national competition in 1999. “But we don’t talk much about fostering young artists, and often I think the mentality is ‘Oh, well, if you want to be an artist, good luck. Hope you’re ready to starve.’ And really, that doesn’t need to be the case. It’s definitely a possibility to have a career as an artist. I think that it’s amazing that this organization sees a need to help young people along. Certainly without their help I don’t think I’d be where I am today.”

Plus, the win is “a little feather in your cap, to be sure,” Lindner said. “The other exciting thing is the ability to get together and meet with other young people, other young artists, and sort of build some connections with people who are outside of your local purview. It’s a great network of people that you start to meet.”

Competitors must complete an application for the local contest by Feb. 9. Auditions, which are limited to 6 minutes, will be Feb. 28.

“They’re expected to show the range of what they’re able to do with both classical and modern repertory, and also both comic and serious material,” Meyers said.

“I often joke that the only reason I won the competition was that I was the only one that wore a suit,” Lindner said. “There’s a lot to be said for preparing well and presenting yourself as a professional, not that you necessarily need to wear a suit.”

The national competition will be May 28-30.

The National Society of Arts and Letters also offers scholarships in art and voice for students age 16 to 22. Applications are due Feb. 1

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.