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Arts & Life

UMKC's Downtown Campus For The Arts Gets Funding Boost, $10 Million More To Go

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Foundation on Friday announced a fundraising boost of $4.5 million for the proposed downtown campus for the arts. The first phase of the project calls for re-locating the students, faculty and staff of the Conservatory of Music and Dance from the Volker campus to downtown.

But the clock is ticking.

To request matching funds from the state of Missouri, the university will need to raise a total of $48 million dollars in private funds before the June 30 deadline. To date, $38 million dollars has been raised. 

The three recent gifts pledged for the project include $3 million from an anonymous donor, $1 million from the R. Crosby Kemper Charitable Trust and Foundation, and $500,000 from the Francis Family Foundation. This last gift is contingent on the matching state funds. 

"We're very grateful for the gifts that we've received thus far," says Peter Witte, dean of UMKC's Conservatory of Music. "And we're making progress on that next $10 (million) and we are confident that we're going to hit the goal." 

In 2011, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce named the downtown arts campus as one of the city's "Big Five" civic priorities. The Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation in 2013 helped jumpstart the project with a $20 million challenge grant. And in 2014, anonymous donors assembled a city block of real estate for the site, between Broadway and Central and 17th and 18th streets just south of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. 

"We know that as visible as that is, the heart and soul of this community is what makes this project so exciting," says Witte. "Our connections with the jazz district, our connections with the Crossroads District, our connections certainly with the Kauffman Center, and each of the resident arts organizations. Those parts of the story are as compelling as the location." 

He adds, "We're grateful and determined and we see great things ahead."

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

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