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University Of Missouri-Kansas City To Build New Conservatory Of Music And Dance On Campus

Centric Projects/Kansas City Repertory Theatre
University of Missouri-Kansas City has announced it will build a new facility for its Conservatory of Music and Dance next to the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City has selected a site for a new facility for the school's long-anticipated Conservatory of Music and Dance — right next door to its current location.

UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal made the announcement late Thursday afternoon in an email to faculty, staff and students.

"The new home is now planned for a site immediately adjacent to the existing Olson Performing Arts Center and will face Volker Boulevard," Agrawal wrote.

Plans for a new conservatory have been discussed for nearly a decade. 

In 2011, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce included a downtown UMKC Conservatory as one of its Big 5 Ideas. And by 2017, UMKC officials had raised nearly $48 million for the project, anticipating matching state funds.

The Missouri Legislature approved, but then-Missouri Governor Eric Greitens vetoed state funding. And in 2018, the project lost a $20 million pledge from the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation. In September, UMKC officials announced they were scrapping the idea of a new facility downtown and narrowed their scope to proposals within a 2.5 mile radius of the Volker campus. 

"It has become clear that what would be the best in their interest, in the interest of the students, would be to have it closer to the Volker campus," Agrawal told KCUR's Up to Date in an interview in October

The new location for the conservatory, at the intersection of Rockhill Road and Volker Boulevard, features a long sloping hill, dotted with mature trees. Building a new facility for music, dance and theater students there will create "a dramatic, iconic new front door to campus," Agrawal said.

"The time has come for this long-awaited and vitally necessary project to move from the talking and planning phase to the action phase," he said. 

According to Agrawal, next steps include reviewing programming, creating architecture, design and construction teams, and estimating costs and identifying funding. And that challenge remains: Raising $50 million in private donations to match what will likely be $50 million from the state. 

"We’ll have to cobble the support together all over again," Agrawal told KCUR in October. "We will go to our donors, to the governor, to the legislature, to the system."

Officials at UMKC declined to comment. 

KCUR is licensed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators and is an editorially independent community service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Editor's note: Since it was originally published, this story has been updated to include previous comments from Agrawal on KCUR's Up to Date.

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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