One of the many reasons Rachel and Matthew Fernandes love living in St. Louis is the accessibility the city affords them to so many of its arts institutions. As eclectic arts consumers, they like that they can get from their Tower Grove Heights home to Powell Hall, or Edison Theatre or Jazz at the Bistro in relatively no time at all, and that the cost to attend performances at these venues and others is so reasonably priced.

Rachel, 43, is the events director at Third Degree Glass factory, and Matt, 45, is the community outreach coordinator for Metro/Bi-State Development. The couple recently upped their commitment to the arts, and A&E in particular, by joining the organization’s Young Friends of the Arts group.

Recently, Happenings spoke to the couple about joining Young Friends of the Arts and why they are so committed to helping the arts in St. Louis continue to grow and thrive.

Why did you decide to become Young Friends of the Arts members?

Rachel: We had been wanting to get more involved with the arts for some time because we enjoy going to concerts and performances and I work for an arts organization. Young Friends of the Arts  had a kickoff event at Third Degree Glass factory and that’s when we joined. I like that A&E incorporates and supports so many arts groups in the region. And I wanted to be able to network with like-minded people.

Matt: I’ve been supporting A&E through workplace giving at Metro, and have known how important A&E is in terms of supporting so many arts organizations; so becoming part of A&E’s young friends group was a natural extension.

What’s been most gratifying about becoming a member of the Young Friends of the Arts?

Rachel: Well it just kicked off, but the first cocktail party was really fun. I’m excited to see what A&E does for the organizations it supports and I’m looking forward to helping with fundraisers.

Matt: I’m totally psyched about being part of this group. I like that A&E has its roots dating back to the 1960s and it’s an established funding organization. I also like that it supports more than 70 arts and arts education organizations in town. For me, it was a no-brainer because by supporting A&E, we are supporting so many great arts organizations and don’t have to pick one.

How do you rank the arts in St. Louis?

Matt: St. Louis is definitely a city where you have a little bit of everything. Maybe not a lot of everything in terms of genres, but there’s always something for everyone and the arts, in general, are very accessible to the community. St. Louis also provides an opportunity to get to know the various players and artists on a personal level in a way they couldn’t in Chicago or San Francisco or New York.

Rachel: I agree -- the arts here are so accessible and well-rounded. And tickets are a lot cheaper than so many other cities.

Matt: Especially since we have A&E’s ARTS card. It pays for itself just when we attend Opera Theatre (of St. Louis), let alone everything else, with discounts like two tickets for the price of one.

What is a great night out for the two of you?

Rachel: Tonight is a good example. We are going to try a new restaurant, and then go to Powell Hall for a Gospel Christmas show. We try to plan something for mid-week about once a month. Sometimes we will go to Jazz at the Bistro or the Black Rep or Dance St. Louis or whatever sounds really interesting to us at the time.

Anything else you want to add about the benefit of being a Young Friend?

Rachel: If you’re a busy young professional and don’t have a whole lot of time but want to be involved in the arts, I would pick this group. You can do so much good for so many organizations by just joining this one.

Matt: We live in a country where arts funding is in jeopardy. Volunteering for an organization such as A&E is a way to take an active role in advocating for the arts.

To learn more about A&E’s Young Friends of the Arts, visit http://keeparthappening.org/yfa. For upcoming ARTS Card events, visit http://keeparthappening.org/arts-card-calendar.