The Chesterfield City Council upped its level of financial support to local arts organizations this year with the aim of increasing their involvement in the community.
At a meeting Wednesday, the council approved disbursements of $100,000 to Chesterfield Arts (up from $75,000 last year); $75,000 to Stages St. Louis, which is based in Chesterfield; and, for the first time, $25,000 to the St. Louis Civic Orchestra.
Mayor Bruce Geiger said the combined total of $200,000 represents the city’s desire to make Chesterfield a hub for arts and culture in the West County area. Although not a negligible amount of money, the investment accounts for less than 1 percent of the budget, according to Geiger, and he said would like to the city do even more.
“There’s a return on investment with arts that I don’t know how you quantify, but I know it’s there,” Geiger said. “I’d like to see us spending triple that.”
The funds were all approved unanimously by the members of the city council. Chesterfield Arts Executive Director Stacey Morris thanked the council members for their support and told Patch that it was important to helping the organization maintain its level of programming through the challenging years of the recent recession.
“What they contribute is huge, and not only from the financial side,” she said. “They have really adopted the vision to understanding how important the arts are to building a community.”
The programs offered by Chesterfield Arts ranges from public pieces like “The Awakening” sculpture in Chesterfield Central Park to hosting art galleries to educational initiatives, like Kaleidoscope, which provides specialized art instruction for children with special needs.
Still, the organization hasn’t come through unscathed. Morris said certain things have been cut or scaled back, such as performing arts programs, invitations for authors to readings in its gallery and staffing levels.
Putting the Money to Use
The contracts approved by the city council include specific stipulations of the services the organizations are to provide to the public as a requirement for accepting the donations but not all of them will be free.
For example, the new addition, the mostly volunteer St. Louis Civic Orchestra, will be required to provide four performances this year at the Logan College of Chiropractic’s William D. Purser Center and one performance at the Chesterfield Amphitheater. Of this, only the show at the amphitheater is asked to be free to the public.
Geiger said the idea is to free up money for the organizations’ to expand their outreach in the community, a sentiment echoed by Raymond Randall, a representative from the orchestra who expressed the organization’s gratitude at Wednesday’s meeting.
“What we could not before is to start outreach into the city by sending quartets and other people throughout the schools and become more known in the city to help the city of Chesterfield grow,” he said.
The contracts for the other arts groups are similar, with some of the community activities and programs designated as having free admission while others should have a “reasonable fee.”