Each January, the Arts and Education Council presents the St. Louis Arts Awards where we gather to celebrate the individuals and organizations whose contributions to our artistic community make the bi-state region more vibrant.

Proceeds from the St. Louis Arts Awards help A&E invest in the people and organizations that create diverse performances, exhibitions, workshops, art education programs and so much more for 1.6 million adults and children in our community each year.

At the 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards, we’ll celebrate seven honorees, including Arts Startup of the Year Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, who encourage our kids to be more creative thinkers, build bridges among cultures, energize our communities, foster our economy and enrich lives.

Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis was not intended to be a festival when it started. In fall 2014, Carrie Houk thought she would just do one production of “Stairs to the Roof”, which had recently been published, but never professionally performed.

Following that successful performance, though, it was clear St. Louis needed and wanted more of its most famous playwright who spent his formative years here.

“The community needed to be reminded how important he is to us,” Houk said.

Houk got to work forming a board, organizing as a 501(c)(3) with help from Sue Greenberg at St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts and applying for funding from the Regional Arts Commission and Arts and Education Council, among others. A&E served as fiscal sponsor and offered incubation space in its Centene Center for the Arts in the heart of Grand Center. By May 2016, Tennessee Williams FestivalSt. Louis launched its first season.

Since then, the organization has attracted thousands of attendees to the readings, panel discussions, concerts, art exhibitions, productions and playwriting contests celebrating the art and influence of Tennessee Williams. The Festival has also offered educational outreach programs for underserved students to read and see plays and partnered with many St. Louis arts organizations to create lively, multi-faceted programming honoring the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

Now, Houk and the board have set their sights even higher for the organization, with plans to expand programming year-round and grow their team.

“Tennessee Williams is one of the jewels of St. Louis,” said board president Jill McGuire. “It’s very exciting to be part of a startup that you really feel is important to our city.”

The Arts Startup of the Year Award is sponsored by PNC. 

Tickets for the 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards start at $300 and are on sale through Saturday, January 19 at 6:00 p.m. Learn more about the event here.

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