St. Paul City Council awards $1 million for upcoming arts and culture programs

Dancers strike a pose as Ernie Banks’ painting “The Graduate” looms in the background during TU Dance’s 15th anniversary concert. Photo by James L. Stroud, Jr.

The St. Paul City Council recently approved more than $1 million in grants for 34 organizations to fund arts and culture projects as part of the 2018 Cultural STAR Program — an initiative created in 1993 to promote economic growth in St. Paul by strengthening the arts and culture sector.

“We are proud of the diverse art and cultural organizations that bring so much vitality and energy to St. Paul. We are also thankful to the Cultural STAR board and staff for their outreach efforts and support,” said Dr. Bruce Corrie, director of Planning and Economic Development.

This year’s wide range of recipients includes cultural and community festivals like the Twin Cities Jazz Fest, and performances, including TU Dance’s 15th-anniversary concert.

“St. Paul is fortunate to have a thriving arts scene and opportunities for musicians, dancers, artists, cultural leaders, and others to create,” said Chris Widdess, Cultural STAR Program board chair. “These investments help organizations improve their facilities, bring unique events and performances to St. Paul, and strengthen their impact in our community.”

The Cultural STAR Program is funded by revenue from a local half-cent sales tax, of which 10 percent is designated for grants and loans for cultural projects. Eighty percent of grant funds each year are awarded to projects within the Cultural District of downtown St. Paul, defined as an area bordered by Interstate 94 to the north, the Lafayette Bridge to the east, Harriet and Raspberry Islands to the south, and Chestnut Road to the west.

The program also funds capital improvements or equipment purchases needed for cultural projects, as well as special projects and organizational operations. Grants awarded range from $5,000 to $370,000.

Organizations and projects receiving funding this year include: African American Registry, St. Paul Street Team – If Not Now, When?; Brownbody, Tracing Steps; Ka Joog, “Somalia: A Nation of Poets;” Minnesota Landmarks, “Not In My Neighborhood;” Northern Lights MN, Inc., Northern Spark: Rondo; Penumbra Theatre, The Brothers Paranormal, and many more.

The next round of Cultural STAR Program funding will open on Friday, January 11, 2019, with applications due Friday, February 22, 2019. The program will host informational sessions for interested groups in each ward beginning in January. For a full list of the 2018 recipients and more information, visit

—Information provided by the City of St. Paul