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PNC Bank to give $1 million more in Arts Alive grants over next 4 years

Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company
Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company performed as part of Dance St. Louis's 2013 season

PNC Bank will distribute $1 million over the next four years to help fund arts groups in the St. Louis region.

The grants, part of PNC's Arts Alive funding initiative, have a larger focus than just keeping organizations afloat in the short term.  They aim to inspire lasting programs that reinvigorate arts organizations.

Since 2011, the Arts Alive program has distributed $2 million to established theater companies, museums and dance companies. Recipients include Dance St. Louis, Opera Theater of St. Louis and The Muny. 

“We realize that a thriving arts and cultural scene brings a significant economic value to our community and if organizations continue to do the same thing that they always have without making changes eventually that will become irrelevant,”  PNC's Assistant Director of Client and Community Relations Sarah Rouland Bowman said.

To qualify for the grants, institutions must have an operating budget of more than $150,000 and proven 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. Rouland Bowman said the requirements were put in place to ensure no organization becomes dependent on the funding for survival from year to year.

The Arts Alive funds can be used for forays into technology or audience expansion. Some recipients have focused on developing programing and outreach to patrons with limited accessibility, Rouland Bowman said. 

“They’ve been able to increase attendance through multiple groups with students, or low income families or people with health challenges,” she said. “So we’re really proud of the impact that we’ve been able to make.”

Dance St. Louis has received funding almost every year since 2011. The organization uses the grant to commission new work by nationally recognized choreographers to be performed by local dancers in a “New Dance Horizons” program.  They are performed during a weekend-long festival, to be held this year in March.

Executive Director Janet Brown said the funding presents new opportunities for local dancers to really stretch and expand their repertoire.  Last year Dance St. Louis expanded the work to include jazz performances and an art exhibit as part of the festival’s theme, “A Celebration Inspired by St. Louis' Legendary Black Artists.”

Brown said the Arts Alive-funded program excites a significant number of Dance St. Louis students.

“Some are more excited about seeing New Dance Horizons than some of the more prominent dance companies we’ve presented only because they’re aware that these are local companies that they might dance in some day,” she said.

Rouland Bowman said the funding program's central goal is to push the boundaries of cultural offerings in St. Louis to help improve the region’s economic viability.

The deadline for PNC Arts Alive applications is Oct. 28.

Follow Willis Ryder Arnold on Twitter @WillisRArnold