Arts report suggests letting artists homestead in vacant homes

Mike Burke, chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on the Arts, was joined by co-chairs Pat Jordan and Sean Kelley to release the draft plan for helping Kansas City become the greatest creative city in the Midwest. One idea the audience especially liked was allowing artists to homestead in vacant properties in Kansas City neighborhoods.

One big idea coming out of the draft report on the arts in Kansas City  – use the city’s new land bank to create homesteading opportunities where artists can live in neighborhoods, adding to neighborhood vitality.

The idea came out of what’s now being called the KCMO Arts Convergence draft plan. It is a report on the ideas presented by citizens over the past year and a half in a series of meetings to discuss the future of the arts.

Consultant Jerry Allen described the opportunity at a meeting at the Plaza Library last evening.

“We know artists have the power to transform neighborhoods. That has happened in the Crossroads and it can happen in other areas of the city.”

The plan suggests that city “look for opportunities to sponsor the creation of artist communities throughout the city.” Noting that the city has a large number of homes and other properties that are abandoned, it says, “the City can facilitate the use of these properties through artists’ homesteading and the development of artists’ live/work spaces. One possibility is to choose a neighborhood where artists’ homesteading can be linked to an Artists’ Commons facility that provides a sense of community – studios, exhibition spaces and performance venues.”

In releasing the draft report, task force co-chair Mike Burke noted the two greatest areas of consensus among those who gave their input.

“The number one thing that people want is more arts education in the schools. The second top idea is to create more culturally vibrant neighborhoods and areas across the city.”

David Plettner-Saunders, a consultant with the Cultural Planning Group, said “the greatest opportunities for Kansas City are in arts education and neighborhood development.” He said while other cities are trying to figure out how to support artists through tools like live/work developments, no city is really doing it well, and Kansas City has an opportunity to take the lead.

The report contains ten overarching strategies to address the needs and opportunities in Kansas City. They are:

  1. Improve access to arts education for every student and adults of all ages.
  2. Enhance arts and cultural opportunities available in neighborhoods throughout Kansas City, MO.
  3. Facilitate the development and use of facilities, venues and spaces for diverse arts activity throughout Kansas City, MO.
  4. Enhance the existing public art program.
  5. Showcase and develop the creative potential of Kansas City, MO’s new technology platform.
  6. Create a signature festival focused on the region’s artists and cultural organizations, highlighting Kansas City, MO’s arts, culture and creativity.
  7. Increase support for economic development of Kansas City, MO’s creative sector.
  8. Enhance leadership and funding for the arts and culture sector.
  9.  Provide more comprehensive information to residents and workers about available arts and cultural activities and resources.

Read the full report 

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