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Kansas City Mayor's Arts Festival Now Envisioned As Two-Month Event In 2018

City and arts leaders on Monday announced a new two-month city-wide arts festival called Open Spaces 2018: A Kansas City Arts Experience

"It’s 60 days of city-wide visual and performing arts debuts on a scale previously unseen in the city," Mayor Sly James said at a press conference at the KCAI Crossroads Gallery in the Crossroads Arts District.

James said he expects the event will foster the city's reputation as an arts destination. 

"I firmly believe that Open Spaces can bring together the people of Kansas City and the surrounding region in a way that can put our city on the map as an arts and culture center," he said.

An arts festival has been in the works since 2013, when it was listed as one of 10 goals of an arts convergence plan adopted by James and the City Council. In June of this year, James announced the city was postponing an event originally envisioned as a three-day festival and scheduled for this September. 

The city's Office of Culture and Creative Services is now working with philanthropist Scott Francis, as well as KC Creates and O'Neill Marketing & Event Management. Fundraising is underway for an expected budget of $3.5 million. The city's contribution totals $500,000 from neighborhood tourism tax dollars. 

Dan Cameron, a curator who has organized exhibitions and biennials in museums from New York to Beijing, has been tapped as artistic director. He'll select the more than 80 local, national and international artists to create new performances and art installations across the city. According to ArtNet.com, artists such as Nick Cave, Ebony Patterson, Jennifer Steinkamp and Nari Ward have already signed up. 

"The title [Open Spaces] evokes the broad plains of the American Midwest," Cameron said at Monday's press conference. "Swope Park will serve as an open-air environment that will celebrate a diverse range of artistic practices."

The city's largest park, Swope Park will host an Arts Village (on the site of the Ethnic Enrichment Festival) and serve as a hub for weekend performances. Arts organizations and cultural institutions, such as the Kansas City Art Institute, will also provide venues. 

"This will create a world-wide buzz that something is happening in Kansas City that is not happening in Australia, it’s not happening in Venice, it's not happening anywhere (else)," said Art Institute President Tony Jones. "It’s happening here."

Open Spaces is slated for August 25 through October 18, 2018. A call for artists is open through January 31. 

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

Laura Spencer is staff writer/editor at the Kansas City Public Library and a former arts reporter at KCUR.
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