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Kansas City Friends Of Alvin Ailey CEO Steps Down, Turns Focus To STEM

courtesy Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey
Harlan Brownlee was one of the speakers at the Race, Place and Diversity Dinner in 2017.

The CEO of Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, Harlan Brownlee, will leave that role at the end of this year, but it won't mark the end of a 35-year career in arts education and administration. Instead, Brownlee says, he's going back to his roots. 

"I'm integrating dance and movement and using that to help teach different science concepts," he explains.

Brownlee plans to turn his focus to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), mentoring teaching artists and developing curriculum. He'll collaborate with Kansas City Young Audiences, and Project Lead the Way, an organization working with about 10,500 schools across the country. And he says he's been tapped by The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to take on a greater role in its arts integration work. 

"Recognizing that this is a true love and passion that I have, I thought to myself, it's probably a good time now to go ahead and really go back full-time to the arts integration work," he says.

Brownlee joined KCFAA in 2015 in a newly created position as CEO, sharing leadership with Tyrone Aiken, who moved from executive director into a new role as chief artistic officer.

"I just want to let people know how grateful I am," Brownlee says. "It is, without a doubt, the most diverse arts organization in the region. It's really changed the way I look at things and the way I view issues of diversity and racial equity."

Previously, Brownlee served aspresident and CEO of ArtsKC-Regional Arts Council from 2009 to 2015; he led Kansas City Young Audiences as executive director from 2005 to 2009; and for 13 years, he was one of the artistic co-directors at City in Motion Dance Theater. 

A dancer and choreographer, Brownlee also designed and leads classes at Community School #1 in Mission Hills, Kansas, combining music and movement in the curriculum. 

Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey has named Melanie Miller, who has a background in strategic leadership and philanthropy, as interim CEO. A permanent replacement is likely to be announced in the next three to six months. 

"Melanie has the qualities and the passion needed to enhance the mission of the organization," Debbie Brooks, the incoming board president said in a statement. "We thank Harlan for his outstanding leadership and wish him well in his future endeavors."

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

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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