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Arts & Life

Mutual Musicians Foundation 'Spruces Up' After Three Decades In Pink

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Laura Spencer
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KCUR 89.3
The Mutual Musicians Foundation, at 1823 Highland Avenue in the historic jazz district, celebrates 100 years in 2017.

If you've been to the Mutual Musicians Foundation or even driven past 1823 Highland Ave. lately, you might do a double take. The formerly bright pink building is now brown. 

"Why keep the pink?" asks executive director Anita Dixon, with a laugh. "We've got a 100-year history ahead of us and we chose a palette that we liked. And it's not really brown, it's kind of beige." 

Established in 1917 as a former union hall for African-American musicians, the foundation has hosted late-night jam sessions since 1930. It's a hub for jazz musicians and music lovers, especially on Friday and Saturday nights after midnight, when the music often goes until 6 a.m.

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Credit Susan B. Wilson / KCUR 89.3
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KCUR 89.3

The foundation is one of only two National Historic Landmarks in Kansas City, Missouri. The other one on the list is Liberty Memorial.

In the early 1980s, a few years after its historic designation, a stucco was applied to the facade and it was painted bright pink. It's been that way until now. 

Dixon says it was time for "a little sprucing up" as the foundation gears up for its 100th anniversary.

"The foundation was really falling apart, really," she says. "Back stairs coming apart, bricks were falling in the front. A couple of shootings that we'd had down there had left marks on the wall." 

Exterior improvements include new landscaping, new stairs and a fresh coat of paint with stark black notes. One side of the building, says Dixon, remains pink. 

This new look will officially be unveiled at a Founders' Day celebration on March 2, 2 p.m. - 7 p.m., with updates on new initiatives such as a low-power radio station slated to go online this summer, and plans for the 100-year celebration. 

Dixon says it's important to examine the past and look to the future, but to remember that the present is at hand.

"We're in a crucial time in Kansas City," she says. "Even though we're 100 years old, how can we take care of each other now?"

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter, @lauraspencer.

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