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The Arts of St. Louis History

The Arts Wrestles with Financial Troubles

By George Palmer

            The Arts of St. Louis, a monthly publication devoted to the visual and performing arts in St. Louis, has been in deep financial trouble since June. At this writing it is uncertain what kind of backing publisher John Fitz-Gerald can put together to keep the paper afloat.

            Fitz-Gerald began printing Curtain Call, an arts calendar, in 1972. He approached the Arts and Education Council in 1978 and proposed that he publish the Council’s art calendar and include it in each issue of the new and expanded Arts of St. Louis. The idea appealed to the Council and an agreement was struck.

            From June 1979 to May 1980, the Arts and Education Council paid Fitz-Gerald $1,200 per month to print the calendar. Those who contributed $15 or more to the Council received a free subscription to The Arts.

            In the spring of 1980, realizing that he was not taking in enough money to cover the cost of the calendar, Fitz-Gerald sought to change the terms of his agreement with the Council.

            The Council subsequently agreed to pay Fitz-Gerald 18 cents for each Arts copy sent to Council contributors free of charge. As a result, during the 1980-81 fiscal year Fitz-Gerald received $25,600, an average of $2,133 per month.

            Later, however, according to Comptroller Earl Mulley, the Council decided that it was spending too much. In the future, Fitz-Gerald would be permitted to offer Council contributors a 25 percent reduction in the price of an Arts subscription and the calendar would still be prepared and offered for inclusion in the paper. But the Council would provide no more funds.

            When the Council shut off the money, The Arts fell into financial distress. Assistant editor Eileen Kidwell was laid off, editor Regina Engelken began working as a Kelly Girl and the September issue of The Arts was not published to enable the paper to “broaden [its] financial base.”

            At this point, publisher Fitz-Gerald , with the help of members of the Council staff and board of directors, is trying to organize the Arts structure to ensure its financial viability. One possibility being considered is turning the paper into a non-profit organization.

            After a successful career in business, Fitz-Gerald retired to devote his full attention to creating greater artistic interest in the St. Louis area. In addition to The Arts of St. Louis, he publishes Arts Start, an art paper for children distributed through the schools.

            (Originally published in the St. Louis Journalism Review 11/1981).