ArtsKC Unveils City’s New Cultural Plan

ArtsKC’s new plan outlines idea for arts collaborations throughout the region to take advantage of KC’s cultural riches.

Story by Lauren Rutherford

After an 18-month process, ArtsKC unveiled the OneArtsKC Regional Cultural Plan, a region-wide study and plan to make the most of the arts in Kansas City. This is the first cultural plan ever created for the Kansas City region.

It’s a way to link people, organizations and the community with the arts, says Allan Gray, OneArtsKC steering committee chair and a Lee’s Summit city councilman.The plan strategizes how the Kansas City’s five counties and two states can work together to take advantage of KC’s offerings.

“It makes sure that every person in Kansas City gets to enjoy the arts and benefit from the arts,” ArtsKC Board of Directors Chair Becky Blades says. Creating the plan was really about finding out what’s available now and what kind of opportunities people want in the future, she adds.

To accomplish this, the Regional Cultural Plan outlines five priorities, such as “greater access to and availability of arts education experiences,” and six strategies, including “improving public access to information about the region’s cultural offerings through coordinated marketing and promotion.”

For example, Blades says one potential outcome of the plan is a shared arts event calendar, a one-stop shop to know what’s going on in the region. A family in Olathe could be better informed about arts events in the region and feel like they’re a part of the arts scene. If there was a comic book exhibit in Independence, they’d know about it and be able to attend.

“It’s putting art and culture into the DNA of the community,” Gray says. “It’s creating an environment where one begins to question when the arts aren’t present.”

Other priorities set forth in the plan include advocating for the arts, creating places for people to gather to create and collaborate, supporting economic development of the regional creative economy and strengthening the capacity of the cultural sector to deliver services to their communities.

Gray emphasizes that the plan also provides an opportunity for leadership and citizen involvement in helping shape the ever-evolving document.

“The cultural plan will always be reshaped and remolded according to what the needs are and what the future expectations of our community are,” Gray says.

Now that the plan has been unveiled, ArtsKC will work on getting it approved in each county. Implementation will depend on community priorities, Blades says, but adopting the plan is the first step. ArtsKC will be the guiding force and central collaborator focused on carrying the plan forward.

“We are a big city. We are a very far-flung city,” Blades says. “If we can act as a city and have some unifying efficiencies of acting as a city, that’s going to benefit everybody, that’s going to make our dollars go farther. That’s going to make the benefits of the arts reach more people.”

Gray says he believes Kansas City is a launchpad for cultural explosion. The Kansas City community is going through a metamorphosis and is in the regional, national and international spotlight.

“The arts bring out both our differences and our similarities. I think the arts help us to create that common vision that strengthens our community and our ties, and it helps us to dream,” Gray says. “It helps us to step outside of ourselves to see possibilities we could not without conversations with our neighbors, family, churches and government. The cultural plan brings all those pieces together.”