Citizens to have voice in KC arts future

This “word cloud” shows ideas for the future of the arts in Kansas City. These preliminary priorities came from a recent small group discussion which helped to kick off a new examination of what kind of arts policies and programs Kansas City residents prefer.

Many may not know it, but Kansas City has a long history of promoting the arts and it intends to build on that.

Maybe the beginning was the creation of Midtown’s Kansas City Art Institute 1885 or the start of the Municipal Art Commission in 1926. Wherever it started, the Mayor’s Task Force on the Arts wants to look toward the future of the arts.

The goal is to get citizen input, assess where the arts are at now and where they will go in coming decades – a program they call “The Festival of Ideas.”

There will be a series of public meetings in January and a report to the city council by next summer, Porter Arneill, art commission director and public administrator, reported to the commission at its Monday meeting.

Part of it may amount to some bragging about where the arts have been, he said after the meeting.

“For a Midwestern city, it is much more visionary than people realize,” he said.

The days of Pendergast and jazz and lavish architecture fed an interest in arts that is as much part of the city as its many fountains.

That interest surged in the 1960s and laid groundwork for the 1986 one percent for art program that has by now resulted in 38 works of public art citywide, Arneill said.

But the last time the city’s arts-related policies were examined was 1997, and the mayor’s task force effort is an attempt to set the ground for the arts moving forward, Mayor Sly James said in a press release this year.

“Now is the ideal time to further capitalize on the arts to keep Kansas City on the forefront of furthering our reputation as America’s Creative Crossroads,” he said.

Arneill said citizens can attend the January meetings and consider questions about art in the city and its future.

“Anybody who wants to have a voice can have a voice,” he said.

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