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Kansas City Council Candidates On Public Art And Future Of The Crossroads

Laura Spencer

The Kansas City Council will look very different after Tuesday's election.

Six current members of the 12-member council will be forced out due to term limits — opening up the body to new and fresh ideas regarding the city's approach to supporting the arts.

Fourteen City Council candidates turned out late Thursday afternoon to discuss the arts at a forum hosted by ArtsKC—Regional Arts Council in the Crossroads Arts District. 

ArtsKC president and CEO Harlan Brownlee asked for the candidates' thoughts onthe regional arts convergence plan's proposed boost in funding for the one-percent for art program, tax abatement and gentrification in the Crossroads, and Kansas City's role as a cultural leader in the region. 

Several candidates, such as Jermaine Reed (running in the 3rd district against Jamekia Kendrix) and Quinton Lucas (in the 3rd district at-large race against Stephan Gordon), had to leave shortly after opening remarks for other events. 

Here are some of the responses from the other candidates, edited for length and clarity: 

On commissions for local artists and increasing funding for public art

  • 1st District At-Large: Scott Wagner and Jeff Roberts (did not attend)

Scott Wagner: "The reality is that in order to get people ready from Kansas City to do large projects, you have to be able to scale them up ... Once we figure out how to deal with that scale, then we begin to understand what's the proper way to get it done. Do we do a 1.5 percent, do we do an expanded number of projects? But at the end of the day, we need to give people an opportunity to work their way up. And we can do that in a number of different ways, but let's figure out what our goal is and then we can create all the mechanisms to make it happen."  

  • 4th District At-Large: Jim Glover and Katheryn Shields

Katheryn Shields: "I also would support an expansion and again, I'm just so excited to hear all these positive comments about the art because I tell you when I was first on the council and proposed the one-percent-for-art (program), my colleagues basically were humoring me ... so to see that it has caught on and carried on ... is a wonderful thing for this community. And that will strengthen it into the future. I think we could do a one and a half percent. I think we could broaden the category of construction that it applies to." 

  • 4th District: Jolie Justus and John Fierro

Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR
Fourteen city council hopefuls including 4th district candidates John Fierro, at far left, and Jolie Justus (standing), attended the ArtsKC forum on Thursday.

 John Fierro: "I certainly support expansion of the 1 percent arts (program). For me, one of the first things I want to do is to sit down with our local artists. If you look at this program, the tendency is for outside artists to submit proposals and be selected to provide the art, which is fine. But I feel like we need to have more of a balance. We have talented people who are trying to make a living here in Kansas City. And I want to ensure that if we're going to be spending dollars, that a good lion's share of those dollars go into the pockets of the artists here in Kansas City." 

Jolie Justus: "When I moved back to Kansas City, it was 1995. One of the first things that happened when I got here was watching the awesome 'Sky Stations' coming in, being put on the top of Bartle Hall. And then, my first day at my law firm — we were at 12th and Main — U2 is in town filming a video because they wanted the 'Sky Stations' as part of their video. So if you ever have any question whether this is an economic engine, it is definitely. As far as expanding it, as far as looking to new ways to bring in different projects, I absolutely agree with what I'm hearing today. And what I really want is more information from the community on how we can make that happen." 

  • 5th District At-Large: Dennis Anthony and Lee Barnes (did not attend)

Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Dennis Anthony: "I like the slogan that I coined back in December: 'One point five keeps the arts alive.' You know, the arts are so important, as soon as I'm elected, the first six months, I want to convert everything in the city to an Art Deco style. I'm just fully supportive for arts. It just enriches the character of our city, it enriches our citizens, and the more we participate, the better off we are." 

  • 6th District: Kevin McManus and Terrence Nash

Terrence Nash: "We need to focus on using this 1 percent, that it stays in Kansas City. I see too much of this being spent not by local artists. I do support the streetscape idea of art ... I'm always in favor of trying to improve the appearance of the city, so getting rid of billboards and things like that. So if we could replace billboards with art on streets, it would be much more of an improvement." 
On renewing and updating the tax abatement plan for the Crossroads 

  • 2nd District At-Large: Teresa Loar and Jay Hodges (did not attend)

​Teresa Loar: "You can't argue with success and that's exactly what's happened down here. We are being recognized all over the country as to what we are doing in our urban core here. Again, I will say the majority of that is due to the arts community ... I was on the council from '95 to '03 and we argued constantly on even continuing the 1 percent for art ... the few of us that were on the council had to fight hard to make sure that not only did it stay in place, but that we continued to try to expand on that."

  • 4th District At-Large: Jim Glover and Katheryn Shields

 Jim Glover: "I worked with the Council and with the Crossroads (community) when we first passed that plan. And I supported it then, and I support it now. And I do recognize that there are other places that can use that type of help to become artist communities — the West Bottoms, Troost, and of course, East Crossroads. We can work together and plan where that next step should be." 

  • 5th District: Alissia Canady and Ken Bacchus

Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Ken Bacchus: "In addition to the renewal and expansion, I think we need to look very carefully at what it's doing now to make certain that artists in the area who really need the support of the tax abatement, for example, that the benefit actually gets to them and allows them to stay. And any expansion, perhaps, ought to make certain that it takes the whole Crossroads area ... and we need to find ways for connectivity between both the Crossroads district and the historic 18th and Vine area in a way that benefits all of the geography of what I consider the expanded Crossroads." 

On 60 percent of cultural assets in the five-county Kansas City area

  • 5th District: Alissia Canady and Ken Bacchus
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Alissia Canady: "When you talk about the culture of the arts, like what you see in the Crossroads, this is organic ... I'd like to see us utilize that in a broader capacity ... The question becomes, how do we duplicate this in other parts of the city to create a vibrancy where people want to come, where it is a destination, where you can begin to grow ... I represent the future of Kansas City. When I left here in 2008 for law school and came back in 2010, it was a different Kansas City in that short period of time. That just speaks to what the youth and the vibrancy was doing." 

  • 6th District: Kevin McManus and Terrence Nash

​Kevin McManus: "We're the majority shareholder of the arts in this area, we are the trustee, really, is probably a better word. And with that comes a responsibility. And I think as a city, as residents, we have to be not only be using it to be inclusive and figuring out a sustainable plan, but figuring out how to leverage it to create value, not just for our city but for our region ... and I think the Crossroads is a great example of that. You don't have to think back too far to remember what it was like before that happened. But there's no question that it's created value. It's created value in very tangible terms for the property owners, but it's created more of a community value for our city."
On looking at arts not just in economic terms 

  • 6th District At-Large: Scott Taylor (unopposed) 

Scott Taylor: "A city is not a city without the arts, in my mind. You probably heard Kansas City was recently ranked number four as the most cultured city. That shows a lot of improvement over where we were before that. The economic development part of this is real ... We can go back to the question of how this impacts individuals. And I will just tell you through the eyes of my 11-year-old son, who's an artist in many areas, what I see as a parent is the impact the arts has had on not only him but all the kids who are involved. They learn to excel. Getting arts out to all our kids, as quickly as possible, as much as possible, is a good thing for Kansas City." 

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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