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Kansas City Art Community's 15 Wishes For 2015

Courtesy of Phil 'Sike Style' Shafer

In a departure from the predictable journalistic exercise of looking back on the year that’s about to end, we decided to ask various people in Kansas City’s turbocharged arts community what they’d like to see happen, artistically or otherwise, in the metro in 2015. In their responses, themes emerged – as did random cool ideas.

Here, in no particular order, are 15 things local culture makers wish Kansas City would do in 2015:

1. Lock arms
“I’d like to see us take a smaller, deeper, broader approach to things, and have the local arts community be way more collaborative than it already is. I think the arts are moving in that direction, with the (Kansas City, Mo.) Arts Convergence Plan and the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs. But I’d like to see more locking of arms.” — Sean Starowitz, artistwhose projects include Fresh Bread, BREAD! KC and Byproduct: The Laundromat

2. Stop with all the divisiveness
“There is a habit of division and competition that puts up resistance to cross pollinate. I see opportunities to collaborate and grow in strength through mutual support. Once the Local Arts Index study conclusively proved the interdependent, systemic nature of our regional arts, which run throughout the surrounding counties, why then are the divisions still so strongly held?” — Nicole Emanuel, founder and executive director, InterUrban ArtHouse

“My wish would be that we may work to make use of knowledge, and realize the principle of inter-connectedness and make personal and community decisions accordingly. I fear there is a great balkanization among our many communities and across our state line. More could be done by all of us to place mutual interest and benefit above the minutely personal.” — Christopher Leitch, community relations coordinator, Johnson County Library

3. Devote public money to arts and culture organizations
“My number-one wish would be a dedicated portion of the hotel-motel tax go to arts and culture organizations.” — Mary Kennedy, chief executive officer, Mid-America Arts Alliance

4. Put up more murals
“I’d really love to see the city embrace more mural projects. Whether it’s funded privately or from the mayor’s office, I feel like there are so many blank spaces that can be creatively used that would give our already beautiful city another visual layer. There are mural projects in the works already through Mattie Rhodes and the Art in the Loop Foundation, so I guess I'd just like to see more of it and expand all around the city east and west especially.” — hip-hop artist Phil "Sike Style" Shafer

5. Embrace the east side
“I’d like to see our urban development really start embracing a move eastward and making Troost an integral part of the city’s overall redevelopment not just islands of development on Troost. Also, a hope that has become more of a reality: I’d like to see the continuing the influx of residents downtown. That’s happening but it’s not checked off the list because still needs to continue to grow. To become a true American city, downtown needs to grow east, Brookside needs to grow east, etc.” — Butch Rigby, founder and owner, Screenland Theatres

6. Embrace a regional plan for the arts
“We have been collecting community feedback and this spring will roll out our first-ever regional cultural plan, One ArtsKC. It comes from years of collaborative work of our five-county region. The plan’s success is dependent on its adoption and implementation and we hope that every county and city within the KC metro as well as each individual, from our emerging artists to our beloved arts patrons, will take a piece of the plan into their own communities and networks to build a more connected and ultimately more successful arts community for each of us to enjoy.” — Harlan Brownlee, president and CEO, ArtsKC

7. Help the publishing industry be more diverse
“I hope that in 2015 that the big book publishers and book buyers heed the call of the #weneeddiversebooks campaign and take action on getting more diverse Kid Lit books published and into the hands of more readers. I hope that my work can be one of the many voices for this cause.” — Angela Cervantes, author of Gaby, Lost and Found

8. Be more worldly
“I hope to make my work more nomadic and international! The Fishtank Studio is my brick and mortar that allows me the space and audience to create, edit and debut new ideas. I also hope to expand my footprint in the neighborhood and make improvements to my studio to make it more user friendly and able to accommodate artists from around the world.” — Heidi Van, curator, The Fishtank

9. Launch a print publication covering the arts
“Over the last 15 years, in a time time of tremendous growth for arts facilities in Kansas City, Review Magazine came and went, and The Pitch and The Star shrunk. I feel like the one thing Kansas City could really use is some kind of hard-copy documentation of the KC art scene. I hope we in Kansas City figure out a way to better document this incredible art scene here.” – Mo Dickens, gallery assistant, Belger Arts Center

10. Become the Hollywood of the Midwest
“Think on what we could be, not what we are now: In 2015, Kansas City is the hub of film, TV and digital media production in the Midwest, with a vibrant and innovative workforce and solid infrastructure. We establish programs that attract and support film, TV and media production. The KC Film & Media Office assists 100 productions, makes connections with 100 filmmakers/producers/location scouts local and non-local. In 2015 we embrace our creative culture and open ourselves to the good that is on the way.” — Stephane Scupham, commissioner, KC Film & Media Office

11. Experience more art
“Charlotte Street Foundation and the rest of us who work in the arts are always working to engage more people. My hope for 2015 as it is for every year is that in every day of the year a few more lives are changed by their interactions with artists, personal engagement with art making and experiences with works of art.” — Julie Gordon Dalgleish, Executive Director, Charlotte Street Foundation

12. Stop saying jazz is dead
“We hope jazz artists can stop questioning the art form’s relevance and just keep pushing it. 2015 may bring an explosion of interest in jazz. It seems far-fetched, we know, but we think we're starting to see it happen. A lot of people are beginning to learn that the kind of jazz being played today by the immensely deep talent pool in Kansas City is nothing like what they’ve come to think of as ‘jazz.’ It’s a visceral, immersive experience. We hope that more of the city’s artists and performers will feel emboldened to take chances, try something new that seems a bit weird. At the very least, collaborate with someone new on some part of their work.” — Lori and Doug Chandler, co-owners, Take Five Coffee + Bar

13. Lead on diversity
“City’s a great town. But we talk around things sometimes — we talk around the issue of diversity. I want us to have more meaningful dialog about what that means and how you get there. There’s a bit of a spotlight on us, so I’m hopeful that there’s an opportunity for us to show leadership on how to talk about tough issues, such as race, class, gender differences.” — Tyrone Aiken, executive director, Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey

“I wish this city would get serious about ending segregation here, would implement metro-wide mass transit, and would stop hounding the homeless.” — Howard Iceberg, singer-songwriter, Howard Iceberg & the Titanics

14. Be part of the fabric, everyone
“My hope is that people realize how important they are to the tapestry of life and value the time they have on this side because nothing is promised for tomorrow.” — Sonie Ruffin, artist and visiting curator, American Jazz Museum

15. In very poetic terms, appreciate what we have
“I wish for Kansas City great universities of the arts, with a faculty of poets and novelists, where other writers could visit from all over the world; and I wish our town had an award-winning literary magazine and literary publishing house, and also a thriving community center for the literary art a place for writers and a public library system in which hundreds of people gathered every week for free lectures and discussions on every conceivable topic. I wish an expansive and generous culture that encourages artists, where foundations and individuals help support our institutions, with a great art museum and ballet, and repertory theater company; and I wish we could set aside one night a month for all the art galleries to open their doors for everyone to join the celebration. I know this must sound crazy, to wish us peace and a safe place to dream. Wouldn’t we be lucky?” — Robert Stewart, editor, New Letters magazine, New Letters on the Air, and BkMk Press

A free press is among our country’s founding principles and most precious resources. As director of content-journalism at KCUR, I want everyone in our part of America to know we see them and we’re listening. I work to make sure the stories we tell and the conversations we convene reflect our complex realities, informing and inspiring all of us to meet the profound challenges of our time. Email me at cj@kcur.org.
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