• Solitary light bulb shining on a dark stage

The ghost light is a single bulb left burning on a stage throughout the night. We honor artists and arts organizations struggling with loss, cancellation, and closure under COVID-19. | photo, Ellwood jon | CC BY-SA 3.0

COVID-19 and the Missouri Arts Council

Resources, FAQs for Our Grantees, and Creative Moves by the Arts in Missouri

The pandemic of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by a new (novel) coronavirus, is disrupting life worldwide on a scale and at a speed unprecedented in living memory. At the Missouri Arts Council, we are especially concerned with its impact on arts and culture in Missouri. We stand ready to assist our applicants and awardees in the coming weeks and months.

On this page you’ll find this information:

  • Creative moves that Missouri arts organizations and artists are making to continue to shine their lights
  • FAQs for our grantees about how we are handling our grants during the pandemic.
    NEW, 3/26 | We will convert Project Grants for arts organizations to Operating Support.
  • Resources we have found especially useful for the arts

The COVID-19 situation is evolving hour by hour. We are closely watching local and national developments. Our office is following the guidelines stipulated by the Centers for Disease Control, Missouri public health officials, and the governments of St. Louis City and St. Louis County.

Missouri arts find creative ways to cope with COVID-19 closedowns

Missouri artists and arts organizations are using all their skills and smarts to keep the arts going in this time of the social distancing so crucial for slowing the spread of COVID-19. Here are the initiatives we know about so far. What’s happening in your community? Ping us at moarts@ltgov.mo.gov.

Virtual Exhibitions

The Hannibal Arts Council is creating an online exhibition, and everyone’s invited to submit images of artwork. “If you create art, send in pics. If you collect art, send in pics.” There are no restrictions on how old you are or where you live. Send images to the Council by April 1.

The Saint Louis Art Museum walks you through special exhibits both past and what would have been present with online audio guides illustrated with images of the artworks being explored. Originally scheduled to run from February 16 through May 17 (we can but hope) is Millet and Modern Art: From Van Gogh to Dalí, about 19th-century French painter Jean-François Millet and the artists he inspired. There are also guides through 17th-century Dutch paintings, ancient Egyptian sunken cities, American folk art, Parisian hats and more. Also in this virtual museum are videos highlighting the collection, such as curators talking about their favorite pieces and musical performances inspired by artworks.


March 29-April 2 | Shakespeare Festival St. Louis is performing live readings as Facebook Events. On March 29 through April 2, in five installments over the five nights, they’ll go all the way through Albert Camus’ 1947 novel The Plague, about “an epidemic’s effect on a community and the small acts of heroism that give it meaning.”

April 1 | The International Center for Music of Park University in Parkville will broadcast a piano recital by artist-in-residence Behzod Abduraimov. The award-winning pianist had been set for a solo live concert, but instead videotaped a one-hour version of his program, complete with his own commentary on the music. Details for accessing the concert will be made available here.

Big Muddy Dance Company of St. Louis is streaming classes and performances on demand. You can study ballet and jazz, and watch original dances like Worlds of Wonder by artistic director Brian Enos. Streaming for free is their new Living Room Series, where their dancers lead resources they’ve made for sheltering in place, from exercises in mental toughness to a Pilates workout.

St. Louis performing artists are among those across the world who are turning to livestreaming. In a March 25 article, STLtoday.com talks with several artists, such as blues singer and guitarist Marquise Knox and spoken-word artist Corey Black, and lists dozens of others you’ll find online.


The Springfield Regional Art Council has free downloadable Art Kits for children – PDFs of information and hands-on activities. Using basic supplies you can already find at home, these projects are perfect for children from kindergarten through 8th grade. Among the arts explored are aboriginal bark painting, paper sculpture, and Andy Warhol hand printmaking.

Community Outreach

The Mystery Hour, Springfield’s homegrown late-night talk show, teamed up with Michael Spyres, world-class tenor and artistic director of Springfield Regional Opera, on March 23 to bring music to residents of Springfield nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Mr. Spyres stood on the lawns outside the buildings and sang to people through their windows. The two-minute highlight video features his performance of the Neapolitan song O Sole Mio – “my sunshine.”

FAQs: How the Missouri Arts Council is handling grants during the pandemic

NEW, 3/26 | We Will Convert Project Grants for Arts Organizations to Operating Support

To help organizations weather the COVID-19 crisis, we are changing our FY2020 annual Project Grants made to Missouri arts organizations into Operating Support Grants.

This change will allow eligible organizations to use their Missouri Arts Council funding for operations as well as for their original projects. If your project was cancelled or postponed past the end of FY2020 on June 30, 2020, you may use the funds towards toward eligible expenses for support of your arts organization.

We are no longer accepting applications for FY202 Express Grant programs. However, our FY2021 grants will occur on the regular schedule, with Express Project Grant applications available later this April. FY2021 is from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

When does this change take effect?
It takes effect immediately for eligible organizations that are funded in FY2020. Applications from arts organizations for FY2021 will be approved for operating funds.

What is the difference between Project Grants and Operating Support Grants?
We fund both projects and operating support. Project funding is focused on a specific activity that is completed in a specific timeframe. Examples are performances, exhibits, and literary publications. Operating support provides stability and sustaining funding to organizations. Qualified arts councils, mid-sized arts organizations, and established institutions receive operating support based on their meeting criteria of long-term quality and viability.

What is an eligible arts organization?
An organization is eligible if it is a Missouri-based nonprofit whose purpose is primarily to present, produce, or serve the arts. You will be notified by your program specialist if your organization is eligible.

What organizations are not eligible?
1) Organizations that do not primarily present, produce, or serve the arts, express grants, partnership grants, schools, universities, government agencies are not eligible. 2) Organizations that already receive operating support including Arts Council Operating, Established Institutions, and Mid-sized Arts Organizations are not eligible.

Does this affect Express Grants?
No, Express Grants are not eligible.

What are eligible expenses?
See the Guide to Grants for information on what we can and cannot fund.

Is the match still required?

When must funds be used?
All funds must be spent within the fiscal year they are awarded. The 2020 fiscal year ends June 30, 2020.

What if the organization already spent the funds?
It will not affect you this fiscal year.

What if the organization already released funds?
Funds released by eligible arts organizations may be reclaimed by the organization by request no later than April 15 as long as funds are available. Contact your program specialist by email.

What if the organization already receives operating funds?
It will not affect you.

What should we do next if we are eligible for operating support funds?

  • If you already invoiced for all of your awards funds, you need not do anything else.
  • If you had to cancel programs due to COVID-19, consider how you may provide similar or alternative programs, virtually or otherwise. This is particularly important if you produce only one program for the public. Engaging your audience or clients, in some way, is important for maintaining your organization’s visibility and public viability.
  • If you have exhausted alternatives, or have already provided other public programs, you may include in your invoice expenses the allowable operating support costs. These may include costs attributed to the cancellation of other events.
  • Keep in mind that a one-to-one match to your award amount is still required in most cases.

Why are non-arts organizations not eligible for this change?
It is within our mission to provide operational support for arts organizations. Unfortunately, we may not provide operational support for municipalities, universities, schools, and non-arts nonprofits.

Does this mean the Missouri Arts Council no longer supports non-arts organizations’ projects?
Absolutely not. We will continue to fund approved arts programs by eligible non-arts organizations via  both Express and Annual grants.

What should my organization include in our FY2020 final report?
Communicate any changes to your project, as well as examples of creative or effective responses to the COVID-19 challenge.

What if I have other questions?
Don’t hesitate to contact Executive Director Michael Donovan directly at michael.donovan@ltgov.mo.gov .

General Questions

Will my FY2021 application be reviewed on schedule?
Yes. The application review process is virtual. Panelists work and meet remotely. The staff conduct panel reviews through our electronic systems and can do so both at our offices and remotely.

What if we need to make a change to our project, whether or not as a result of COVID-19?
Applicants should notify your Missouri Arts Council program staff of any significant changes in your project. Our staff will work with you to determine the appropriate course of action. This may include significant modifications or doing all or part of the event virtually.

May we invoice for costs relating to cancelling or postponing events relating to COVID-19?
Unfortunately, neither state nor federal funds that we grant may be spent on programs that do not occur. You may wish to contact your vendors, even if the sale was “not refundable,” as many have relaxed policies in the wake of COVID-19.

Will cancelling or postponing events impact our relationship with the Missouri Arts Council?
Absolutely not. Your organization should do what is necessary for the well-being of your organization and constituents.

What options do we have if we cancel or postpone all or part of our project?
Unfortunately, we are unable to fund projects past the end of our fiscal year on June 30, 2020. You can request a change in the scope of the grant project. If you anticipate there will be funds you do not spend, please notify us with the amount to be released.

Am I be able to contact Missouri Arts Council staff?
Yes. Although we are all as of March 24 working remotely, our staff is available to answer your questions.

Any question we haven’t answered?
Contact Executive Director Michael Donovan at michael.donovan@ltgov.mo.gov.

Resources for the impact of COVID-19


For Arts and Culture Organizations

For Individual Artists

For Both Organizations and Artists

  • New listing, 3/30 | Artists at Risk Connection, Resources for Artists, Art-Related Professionals, and Organizations – list of relief funds, legal resources, webinars and more