The National Endowment for the Arts announced this week more than $27.7 million in grants for 1,126 projects across the country. The first round of NEA funding in this fiscal year provides tens of thousands of dollars for arts initiatives in Kansas and Missouri.
Two grants were awarded in Kansas, including $50,000 for the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas to support the exhibition Temporal Turn. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2016, the exhibition includes works from artists across Asia, exploring different approaches to the future, as well as a site-specific installation. The Spencer Museum remains closed for renovations until mid-2016, although it continues to provide events off-site.
In Missouri, 19 grants were awarded across the state, for a total of $385,000. In the Kansas City metro, recipients included the Coterie Theatre, Kansas City Design Center, Kansas City Symphony, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and William Jewell College's Harriman-Jewell Series.
The Coterie Theatre received funding to produce a new play, Imaginary Friends, by longtime collaborator Laurie Brooks. The work is adapted from a short story by Brooks' brother, fantasy fiction writer Terry Brooks, about a young teen with a serious illness who battles a demon. The award-winning playwright has authored 16 plays and nine of them have been produced by the Coterie, some as commissions or world premieres.
The Harriman-Jewell Series received support for its Discovery Concerts, free recitals from emerging classical musicians. Clark Morris, executive and artistic director, says NEA funding provides an endorsement for a program that's been crucial for outreach.
"They have allowed us to really reach out to the community members who haven't previously been in the concert hall, to invite them in," says Morris. "Our premise in doing the Discovery Concerts was that the biggest barrier to participation was price. And with the Discovery Concerts, we removed that barrier."
Sometimes that barrier can be financial or psychological. But, says Morris, the concerts have reached new patrons, young and old.
"It's very similar to the other concerts that we put on, in that it's a professional artist. And that the performance is not watered down in any way, it's a full classical performance," says Morris. "And the audiences just go crazy for it. So it's been just a thrill just to participate in."
Here are all of the NEA's awardees in Kansas and Western Missouri (project descriptions edited for length):
Hesston College, $10,000, Hesston, Kansas. "To support the presentation of the choral group Chanticleer, a male a cappella ensemble, whose projects will incorporate performances by local choirs."
University of Kansas Center for Research, Inc. (On behalf of Spencer Museum of Art), $50,000, Lawrence, Kansas. "To support an exhibition of artists from across Asia whose work explores issues of globalism and identity. A site-specific commission component will feature projects by artists from India, South Korea, and Japan."
Curators of the University of Missouri at Columbia (On behalf of MISSOURI REVIEW), $10,000, Columbia, Missouri. "To support the publication of "The Missouri Review" in print, electronic, and audio formats."
Ragtag Film Society, $60,000, Columbia, Missouri. "To support the 13th True/False Film Fest and other curated film series. Through partnerships with elementary and high schools in Columbia, Missouri, the festival will offer free screenings and educational activities to as many as 1,200 students."
Pro Musica, $10,000, Joplin, Missouri. "To support a free public performance by the Project Trio and musical outreach activities for local underserved middle schools and an assisted living center, as well as a women's shelter."
Coterie, Inc. (aka The Coterie), $10,000, Kansas City, Missouri. "To support the development and production of 'Imaginary Friends' by Laurie Brooks."
Kansas City Design Center (aka KCDC), $10,000, Kansas City, Missouri. "To support the development of a creative placemaking plan for downtown Kansas City, Missouri ... to activate public spaces in the Downtown Kansas City Central Business District through art installations and programmatic activities."
Kansas City Symphony, $15,000, Kansas City, Missouri. "To support premieres of new orchestral works written about and to loved ones with related educational activities. The new works include a violin concerto by composer David Ludwig written for violinist Bella Hristova in celebration of their marriage and composer Jonathan Leshnoff's Symphony No. 3, which uses text from letters from World War I soldiers sent to loved ones."
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, $10,000, Kansas City, Missouri. "To support the Future Stages Festival. The festival will include performances by youth-oriented arts organizations, as well as performances by resident companies, including the Kansas City Ballet, Lyric Opera, and Kansas City Symphony."
Kemper Museum Operating Foundation (aka Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art), $40,000, Kansas City, Missouri. "To support the group exhibition 'A Whisper of Where It Came From,' with accompanying adult and youth educational programming. The exhibition will coincide with the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts' 50th anniversary conference in Kansas City, Missouri."
William Jewell College (On behalf of Harriman-Jewell Series), $10,000, Liberty, Missouri. "To support the Harriman-Jewell Series' Discovery Concerts, free recitals by emerging musicians."
Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter, @lauraspencer.