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Pat Jordan On The Future Of Arts In KC

The co-chair of the Mayor’s Task Force for the Arts is a woman who’s been a formidable presence in Kansas City’s art scene since the early 90s. 

Pat Jordan is best known for leading the revival of the 1912 Gem Theatre on 18th and Vine.   She’s also opened galleries and organized arts programs for youth. The Missouri Arts Council recently recognized Jordan’s contributions by awarding her the “Leadership in the Arts” award.

To hear more about her decades of work and her vision for the future of Kansas City in the arts, KC Currents’ Susan Wilson caught up with Pat Jordan at her office in the Vine Street Gallery, which opened in the current location in August.  

Interview Highlights

On getting involved in the arts as a child:

That takes me back to my childhood when we lived on Agnes [Street], and I was in grade school.  And I was actually one of those kids that always getting other children in the neighborhood together.  I remember putting together the first neighborhood play, and actually writing down what each person should do and having rehearsals.  It was a lot of fun, and that kind of experience never leaves you.  And here we are today, some years later, still involved as arts.

On multicultural arts programming in Kansas City:

I think, historically, the majority audience has not paid attention to minority artists and minority talent. I think that one of our challenges is to make sure that these artists are exhibited and that as many people as possible find out and begin to understand that they are here and that they are talented and that they need to be recognized.

On barriers for African American artists:

One of the primary barriers is the fact that artists, not just African America artists but artists in general, and really very talented people really want to practice their craft and they don’t want to market themselves.  What are we having to do is figure out ways that we can instruct them to market themselves better, and how it is that we can assist them in doing that and doing this for them.

On arts incubators:

There’s plenty of room on the East Side. That’s one of the reasons why I’m getting involved in housing and community development more, because I think that artists of color, women artists, need to be located in our neighborhoods and I would love for them to contact me so we can talk more about having studio space and live/work space east of Troost.

On obstacles to achieving her vision for arts in KC:

Getting people to believe that east of Troost is a place where folks need to invest their dollars and their resources. For various reasons, I think some of them racial, and some of them geographic, those who could have not invested.... The problems and challenges we face east of Troost are not that different than other cities: St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago. However, I think we are at a fabulous place and time in Kansas City. I think we have the leadership and the capability to tackle some of these problems in unique ways and make sure that our children and our children’s children will not face some of these same obstacles that we are dealing with today.

This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KCCurrents podcast.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Susan admits that her “first love” was radio, being an avid listener since childhood. However, she spent much of her career in mental health, healthcare administration, and sports psychology (Susan holds a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Bloch School of Business at UMKC.) In the meantime, Wilson satisfied her journalistic cravings by doing public speaking, providing “expert” interviews for local television, and being a guest commentator/contributor to KPRS’s morning drive time show and the teen talk show “Generation Rap.”
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