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ArtsKC Debuts Five-County Plan To Increase Support For Arts In The Region


Asserting that there's a “vital missing ingredient” in Kansas City's current arts renaissance, ArtsKC on Friday rolled out a five-county, two-state plan its leaders hope will fill that gap by providing “a shared vision for coordinated cultural development of the region.”

The sixty-page OneArtsKC Regional Cultural Plan comes after 18 months of town hall meetings, surveys, and other fact-finding efforts to assess arts needs in communities throughout the metro. ArtsKC leaders say more than 1,800 people participated, including private citizens as well as representatives from arts and cultural organizations and local governments.

It identifies five priorities for the region:

  • Arts education from kindergarten throughout adulthood;
  • Communication about each county's arts and cultural offerings;
  • Creation of more places where people gather to participate in the arts;
  • Support for and collaboration among arts organizations across counties;
  • A role for ArtsKC in connecting the counties.

ArtsKC leaders say the plan is ready for its first phase of implementation, including adoption by the governments of Clay, Jackson, Johnson, Platte and Wyandotte counties.
Acknowledging that it “will and should evolve as artistic and cultural needs evolve,” Allan Gray, who chaired the 29-member steering committee that oversaw the process, said in a news release that the plan “provides opt-in strategies and services that everyone can engage with and use for their needs and interests.”

The document contains survey results showing arts participation and desires in each specific county — and, notably, support for tax spending on the arts. Surveyors asked: “How favorable are you to spending $15, $10, $5, or $0 annually (per person) if it went directly to supporting arts and cultural activities?” Support for the $15-per-person option ranged from 76 percent in Platte County to 84 percent in Jackson County.

“The survey results are a combination of both random and stakeholders participating," ArtsKC President and CEO Harlan Brownlee told KCUR. "Many individuals who responded were reached through community organizations like neighborhood associations, chambers of commerce, and the individual counties emailing their constituents. Our goal was to get a broad range of responses from individuals representing a wide variety of sectors and interests. We reached out to many organizations who represented community interests outside of the arts and their constituents responded.”

Credit ArtsKC
The OneArtsKC regional cultural plan includes charts and graphics with the results of county-by-county surveys, including this one showing "What residents want."

“Some planning participants expressed a future interest in exploring a community wide tax initiative for the arts or for broader quality of life purposes,” the plan reads. “While the idea of regional tax dollars being used outside of local counties remains controversial, various funding approaches have been adopted, and often reauthorized by the voters, in many other regions.”

The plan also recognizes the region's challenges around diversity.

“Planning participants expressed concerns associated with cultural equity,” it reads. “These concerns acknowledged that cultural equity is linked to broader issues of equity in education, race, gender, and socioeconomic status. Participants commented on the need for ongoing support and recognition of diverse cultural expression and the opportunity provided by the arts in providing common ground for increased understanding, celebration, and tolerance.”

ArtsKC leaders call their plan “a framework to address regional cultural needs (that) identifies specific strategies.” Details for actual implementation in all five counties, however, will be up to local leaders.

“We invite every Kansas Citian to become more engaged and more invested in Kansas City’s potential,” ArtsKC Board Chair Becky Blades said in a news release.

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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