The Kansas City arts scene is flourishing, but there is a widening gap between funding and the ability to nurture the artists and art community in KC.
ArtsKC – Regional Arts Council aims to narrow that gap, if not eliminate it. In a press conference on Wednesday with Mayor Sly James and Harlan Brownlee, the president and CEO of ArtsKC, the council shared its vision for the future of the art community in Kansas City: to create a landscape of creativity and make art available for everyone.
“We all benefit from the arts, for two reasons,” Brownlee says. “It helps economic development by creating galleries and theaters which bring people together, and it builds community. We get to learn from each other and see the world from someone else’s perspective.”
The plan to bring this vision to fruition? Simple. Help Kansas Citians realize the necessity of a strong artistic community and how it is our job to help nurture it. “If we all give, we can all participate,” says Kate Forristall, the ArtsKC fund director. “If each person in Kansas City gave just $10 annually, which is the price of two lattes,” she reminded the crowd, “that’s 20 million raised immediately.” And while some people might shrug this off as “not their thing,” Forristall begs to differ. “If you’ve listened to music this year or seen a public piece of art…it’s your thing.”
Over the last seven years, the ArtsKC fund has raised $2.7 million and given out 600 grants. Compared to other cities, such as Cincinnati, which has raised $12 million in its most recent year alone, it is obvious that Kansas City is falling behind in public support of the arts. The collective perception is that there are a few prominent families in Kansas City that are helping to keep the arts alive, a perception that is untrue. “We all need to become ambassadors to the arts,” Mayor Sly James says.
Enrique Chi, a local musician and ArtsKC grant recipient, is grateful for funding that helped him record his first demo but explains that there is a huge demand that still needs to be met. “Art is something you have to do everyday. Like a Led Zeppelin album, or a painting from 500 years ago, to be great, you have to do it every day. If I had to get a ‘real’ job, my art would suffer.” He explains that he has been lucky enough to tour nationally, but that KC isn’t seen as a launchpad for creativity. He and his band have decided that if they can’t get to the next ‘level’ in six months, they’ll have to relocate.
With individuals helping ArtsKC grow, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to the different ways that everyone in the community can be part of the arts, whether it is awarding more grants to artists or helping seniors on a fixed income not only attend the opera, but have their transportation costs covered. “This adds a new octave to the song ArtsKC has been singing for years,” James says of the new approach. After finishing his speech, he made the first contribution to the fund, handing Brownlee a $10 bill.
ArtsKC will kick off its first ever ArtsKC Week with special events from May 31st to June 6th. On June 4th from 6AM-8:40PM, ArtsKC will host its second annual digital day of giving, when they hope to meet their fundraising goal of $20,400. Individuals can pledge $10 to support the fund via social media and online giving platforms by using the hashtag #timetogive.
Check out the full calendar of events for ArtsKC Week at www.artskc.org/allforart. —Kathryn Greene