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Expanded 'Micro-loan' Program Scores $250,000 For Kansas City Artists

Artists often have limited access to finances but very specific funding needs — such as booking studio time to record a new CD, renting a van for musicians on tour, or replacing stolen equipment.

Megan Crigger is the director of creative services for Kansas City’s Office of Culture and Creative Services. She says an expanded micro-loan program called ArtCap will provide a larger, dedicated loan pool for artists. 

"We're looking to the city and partners to ensure sustainability for artists [so] that they can stay here, talent can be retained," Crigger says. "They help so much with the identity of the city, and give voice to the city." 

The city of Kansas City, Missouri launched a pilot program in June 2015 with $50,000, which, according to Crigger "went very quickly, so that really indicated a need and a demand."

The city’s new partner, AltCap, will provide $250,000 in loans to artists and arts-related businesses.

"This is not to disregard other necessary funding streams," says Crigger. "For example, grants will always be important in the artistic financial ecosystem. 

"But it could help with some of the back-end business needs, that aren't as competitive in the grant process or as 'sexy,' like needing a van or needing equipment, that would then fuel their profitable endeavors." 

The ArtCap program marks a collaboration between the city, the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, and AltCap, a community development financial institution, or CDFI.

Ruben Alonso, president of AltCap, says artists are traditionally part of a group that some banks might find risky to support. But, he says, their approach to lending includes technical assistance and business development programming.

"We want to make sure that they're going to be strong borrowers," he says, "but we also want to sure that their business is going to be strong as well, and they can grow."

For the ArtCap program, Alonso estimates the average micro-loan will likely be less than $10,000. And he says the program defines who can receive a loan very broadly. 

"It could be a musician, it could be a fashion designer, it could be someone in the graphic design industry," says Alonso. "We certainly want to be able to support as many types as businesses as possible."

An information session about the micro-loans for artists program takes place on Tuesday, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Robert J. Mohart Multipurpose Center at 3400 Wayne Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri.

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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