Kauffman pledges $20 million for downtown arts campus

Against the backdrop of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Julia Irene Kauffman today announced a major grant to spur a downtown arts campus for UMKC.

The Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation today announced its pledge of $20 million to help create a downtown campus for the arts for UMKC.

Julia Irene Kauffman told a crowd at the Kauffman Performing Arts Center her foundation is pleased to take the lead in supporting the project, which has been talked about for several years.

The grant requires the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance to rise an additional $70 million for the first phase of a move to the Crossroads District.

Kauffman acknowledged the role of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, which named a downtown arts campus as one of its “five big ideas” two years ago.

“Moving the faculty and staff down here will free up what is essentially a landlocked campus,” Russ Welch of the chamber said.

Speakers at a press conference about the pledge said the arts center will not only free up space on the UMKC campus, but also spur continued downtown redevelopment, create synergy with other arts organizations, and encourage UMKC students to make Kansas City their home after graduation.

UMKC said today that the concept of downtown arts center is based on successful performing arts schools and performing arts centers such as Julliard/Lincoln Center in New York and the New England Conservatory/Jordan Hall in Boston.

Mayor Sly James said the effort – which he said is not pie in the sky but will become a reality – will mean Kansas City has “not only the best performing arts center but the best performing arts in country.”