Creativity and Culture Abound in Saint Paul

By Barry Kempton

I’m going to deviate this week from Schubert Club activities this week to talk about our City of St Paul; and specifically St Paul’s Cultural STAR Board. Last week I spent the best part of a day and a half serving on this Board. St Paul’s tagline is “The Most Livable City in America” and for many of us, one of the principle factors in living here is our arts and culture.

The City supports arts and culture by allocating a small share of sales tax for cultural projects. The primary focus is on activity in St Paul’s Cultural District though a percentage of the overall funding pot is available for projects throughout the City. Further details are indicated here.

The Cultural STAR board meets twice a year, and last week was my second time involved. Though it’s a significant commitment of time, one of the great things about serving on this Board is that I get to read the applications. This time there were over 50 applications – applications from an extraordinary variety of organizations and individuals, large, small and just about every size imaginable in between. Every applicant is invited to meet the Board and we have exactly 10 minutes to ask questions and to clarify any elements of the applications we feel necessary.

Certainly it’s intensive work, but it’s also fascinating. Projects proposed by applicants this time around included music (of all genres), theater, film, dance, book arts, visual arts, photography, cultural festivals and light displays. In fact I can’t actually think of an art form which was not represented among the applications. Even more interesting is the range of applicants. Certainly the established cultural organizations figure among the projects as you would expect, but proposals came from a wide, wide array of institutions and individuals from the majority of communities which reside in St Paul. For me, it was enlightening not only to read of all the ideas being generated in the City, but also to learn of all the groups and individuals committed to arts and culture – truly inspiring.

The Board’s greatest challenge was to figure out how to allocate funds to make the most impact. That’s not at all easy when there were so many worthwhile, well thought out proposals competing for the limited amount of available funding.

As we head swiftly towards one of Minnesota’s most distinctive features–winter–I can’t tell you how heartening it is to know that Saint Paul is awash with creative and imaginative residents, that arts and culture continue to figure throughout the City of St Paul and that the City supports culture through the Cultural STAR program.