When the Arts and Education Council was founded in 1963, the St. Louis arts landscape looked very different than it does now. Over the last half century, St. Louis has transformed from a city with a handful of well-regarded arts institutions into one of the most vibrant communities in the country, home to arts organizations of all sizes and disciplines and millions of arts supporters from all walks of life.

A&E believes that a region rich with arts and cultural experiences is critical to creating and sustaining vibrant communities. There are any number of ways the arts make this region a better place to live, but here, we focus on five elements of a vibrant community that the arts promote.

1. First, the arts spark innovation. St. Louis businesses from small startups to multi-billion dollar companies compete globally to recruit the best talent. They need workforces that think creatively and can solve 21st century problems with fresh perspectives. Our city’s innovative and expansive arts scene attracts that creative talent, as well as visitors and businesses to the region, generating more than half a billion dollars in economic impact. David L. Steward, co-founder and chairman of World Wide Technology, explains the arts’ power to spark innovation in this video.

2. The arts energize communities. They forge connections between us and deepen our roots. Arts organizations and centers serve as vital gathering spaces for neighbors to embrace each other and their stories, enhancing the vibrancy of neighborhoods. Belleville’s Art on the Square has turned the Metro East community into a destination and enhanced the area’s civic pride through its annual art fair and related programming. And through Shakespeare in the Streets, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis (an A&E grantee) is empowering St. Louisans to share their stories and those of their neighborhoods with each other and with the larger community.

3. The arts inspire our kids. The arts have the power to transform education both by improving learning of core curriculum and by teaching 21st century skills like creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. Teachers and schools across the bi-state region are bringing the arts into their classroom to inspire their students with programs like this STEAM camp at Collinsville High School or this stop motion animation project at Maplewood Richmond Heights Early Childhood Center, both funded by a grant from A&E.

4. The arts build bridges between cultures. St. Louis is an exceptionally diverse region in just about every sense of the word. We each have a different story to tell and perspective to share. When the arts reflect and celebrate that diversity, they promote cross-cultural understanding among residents. Webster Arts, an A&E grantee, is just one example of an organization that understands and harnesses this power in their arts programs. And A&E's Katherine Dunham Fellowship ensures the next generation of arts leaders includes more diverse voices and perspectives to help shape our understanding of each other and our community.

5. And, finally, the arts bring us joy. It’s also important to remember that the arts are fun! The fun that we have making or supporting art enriches our lives and develops a stronger, more positive connection to the community. Just look at the joy Bill Koch gets from singing with Gateway Men’s Chorus (an A&E grantee).

In short, the arts spark innovation, energize communities, inspire our kids, build bridges between cultures and enrich lives.

A&E is committed to investing in programs and organizations that promote these elements, so that the ripple effect of the arts is felt and celebrated by the entire community. To join us in that investment, make a gift to A&E today.

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