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Artists have trouble scratching out a living but St. Louis event aims to help

Clockwise from left: "Scout (Blue-Tailed)" by Mary Sprague, "Slanted Pavilion (Marquette)" by Michael Jantzen, "Fury" by Josh Svoboda

The difficulty of making money while making art will be discussed at a Tuesday night gathering.

Roseann Weiss, the Regional Arts Commission’s community arts manager, is on the panel. She wants to let artists know that local as well as national grant money is available, and encourage them to be diligent about going after the funds.

“Somebody told me the other day she applied for 100 grants and she got a couple of them — and that’s a good percentage,” Weiss said. “You have to be persistent.”

Nearly half of all local artists earn less than $25,000 a year, according to a 2012 Regional Arts Commission survey released in 2013.That figure includes money they make from their art as well as assorted jobs.

Regional Arts Commission director of community art Roseann Weiss
Credit Regional Arts Commission
Regional Arts Commission director of community art Roseann Weiss

Weiss said many people don’t realize that when artists get funding, it creates a ripple-down effect.

“If you are a visual artist and you’ve got a show coming up, you might pay someone to help you stretch those canvases, right? You might pay someone to help you hang that show,” Weiss said.

Also on the panel are UrbArts founder Mk Stallings, Venture Cafe executive Travis Sheridan and Luminaryfounder James McAnally.

The editor of “All the Art” magazine Sarah Hermes Griesbach will host the discussion, which is sponsored by the Critical Mass for the Visual Arts organization at the Magnolia Café at KDHX radio in Grand Center.

Griesbach wants to focus on three questions:

  • What support is available for local artists and where is it lacking?
  • Why do some artists get support but not others?
  • What are some good models to explore from other cities?

One of the broader questions that puzzles Griesbach is, “Why don’t we perceive ourselves as a vibrant art community?”
While artists struggle to make a living, the arts funnel a significant amount of money into the St. Louis area, according to another 2012 study involving the Regional Arts Commission.

Among other facts, the report found:

  • The arts bring in $582 million a year to the region.
  • The arts provide the equivalent of 10,000 full-time jobs.
  • There were more than 11 million visits to arts events, more than the combined numbers for Cardinals, Blues and Rams games.

Weiss said a vibrant arts community is like a magnet for regional growth.
“It’s like the pebble in the pond, where the culture itself makes other things happen,” Weiss said. “Because it’s exciting to be around and it’s thoughtful and it brings up issues and sometimes it’s just about beauty and that’s what we need.”


‘Critical Conversations — Art and Money in St. Louis”

Where:  Magnolia Café and The Stage at KDHX, 3524 Washington Ave., 63103

When: 7-9 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 1

How much: Free

Information: Critical Conversations Facebook page

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.