By Laurie Burstein
Cynthia Prost, an experienced and very successful leader and organizer of arts events in St. Louis, has been named as the new president of the Arts and Education Council. She succeeds Jim Weidman, who announced his retirement after six years with the Council.
Prost served for 11 years as executive director of Cultural Festivals before assuming her new role at the Arts and Education Council at the end of June. Beginning in 1997, as executive director of the Saint Louis Art Fair, Prost grew the organization into the Cultural Festivals organization. Cultural Festivals is a nonprofit arts organization that specializes in presenting unique community festivals and special events. These include the nationally- ranked Saint Louis Art Fair and the award-winning Saint Louis Jazz & Heritage Festival, as well as The Big Read, celebrating authors and promoting literacy.
As president of the Arts and Education Council, Prost will lead the organization, which provides funding to more than 80
arts organizations in a 16-county region
in Missouri and Illinois. Founded in 1963,
the Council has raised and distributed over $95 million in support of the arts and
Outgoing President Jim Weidman says, "Cindy Prost is the right person, at the right time to lead the Arts and Education Council.Ê Her proven fundraising abilities will help
the Council move forward with its five-year strategic plan. The plan includes a major focus on increasing workplace giving campaigns, which are integral to our fundraising success. As the foundation of our fundraising, workplace giving helps the Arts and Education Council keep art happening for everyone."
Commerce Magazine asked Prost a few key questions just as she was starting her new role.
What will be your immediate responsibilities and goals?
The A&E Board of Directors approved a five-year strategic plan last fall. So, my immediate goals have already been mapped out, which is a nice way to start a new job. There is a goal of increasing donations by 15 percent this year and raising awareness of the role of the Council in the St. Louis community. Ambitious goals, yes, but during my years at Cultural Festivals we had the same kind of ambitions, and succeeded in building a world-class event, the Saint Louis Art Fair and adding new events to build on our success.
What attracted you
to this job?
I am attracted to the mission of the organization and impressed by the collaborative arts leadership that made the Centene Center for Arts and Education a reality.
It is a chance to work with an organization that is dedicated to ensuring the arts are here for everyone to enjoy. I know how crucial it is to raise money for the arts and how important the arts are in our community. Whether it is entertainment or art classes, or a program to help young people overcome obstaclesÑthe arts are a part of our lives. It is a wonderful opportunity to reach out and help the arts in St. Louis.
What are your
To continually increase the funding the Council provides to sustain the arts in
St. Louis and also to fund more organizations that will continue to provide a great variety of arts, arts education and arts outreach programs.
Why is it important to make sure funding for the arts remains strong in St. Louis?
The Arts and Education Council has been funding the arts in St. Louis for 45 years now. Just imagine what kind of community we would live in if it weren't for the Council's efforts to keep art happening through the years. No matter what else is happening in the world, the world of the arts is there to entertain, educate and inspire us. And the Council will be there to make sure that will never change.