KCAC Forum Magazine Summer Issue 1979
A lot has happened this year. Last fall as the art season got underway, there was a stirring of ideas needing to be developed; and today, a day falling close to the end of May, the art community is literally bursting with activity and promises for much, much more to come. As the Greater Kansas City Arts Council poster (and first project) states, it’s truly a Flowering of the Arts in Kansas City!
Probably the most exciting step forward has been the hiring of Herb Haslam, a professional arts management consultant, to come in and assist the community in establishing an arts council. This culminates many, many hours and months of phone calling and meetings by a number of people who were very anxious that this happened. We are most fortunate to receive his assistance considering the national demand for his services.
To go backwards for a minute to describe the existing conditions in Kansas City for all the arts groups, certain words come to mind such as underground, isolated, fragmented, not visible. And, to go back even further, these same words applied to that time before there was a Kansas City Artists Coalition. So, if one wanted to make parallels, and see how far we’ve come and use KCAC’s progress in five years as an example, then it is exciting to think about the next five years ahead for all the arts groups in Kansas City. This unification brings the necessary ingredient, power, that none of us have individually.
To pause for a moment, now, in the middle and contemplate how Herb came to be hired, it is interesting to note that this actually came out of a Coalition meeting last December which Mayor Wheeler and Joan Dillon attended as guest panelists, to listen to the needs of the visual artists. My interest and pursuit in locating studio and exhibition space for KCAC in conjunction with dancers, actors, and musicians, resulted in a request for the City to help us find space; this developed into several meetings in the Mayor’s office over a period of two months whereby we pursued the project with the assistance of various city departments and school board officials. At this time the four groups (KCAC, Kansas City Ballet, Missouri Dance theater, and Mimewock) decided to form an arts alliance in order to speak with one voice. As the city was beginning to dig out of a New Year’s day blizzard, we met the night of January 2nd at the Prospect of Westport. Including other small arts groups, who were showing an interest, we became aware there was a tremendous need for an arts alliance and that there were even more groups in our community who wanted to join. So we held another meeting two weeks later, the group doubling and tripling each time. It became obvious at this meeting that what we should do was to unite with the large groups as well and open it up to everyone, take our time and do it right. To the next meeting (the third) on March 8th, every known arts group within the Greater Kansas City area was invited. This amounted to over 200 groups. The momentum continued and the excitement was overwhelming. During the next couple of months, several meetings of the 15-member ad hoc study committee were held to study questionnaires, plan projects, and research community arts councils across the country. Also during this time, other community supporters were meeting in other parts of the city and they, too had been wanting an arts council. On May 2nd they announced a move in our direction, for which we are all very grateful; they provided the funds to underwrite Herb Haslam’s technical assistance needed to develop a variety of projects – one of them being the workspace for artists.
So, in looking ahead, there are several interesting projects in the works; formation of a Greater Kansas City Arts Council, a Creative Artists Center, a centralized ticket center, and making City in Celebration an annual event. And, to add to this growing list are more plans that stem from the interaction of arts groups. The Lyric Opera is investigating the possibility of using area artists to develop artwork based on the upcoming season’s operas; these artworks produced in limited edition prints (similar to the Metropolitan Opera’s successful program). The Kansas City Ballet has also shown an interest in doing something similar. The Kansas City Chamber Soloists will be performing concerts in the atmosphere of an artist’s studio next year. A major hotel being completed here, is interested in looking at our slide bank and would like to emphasize the artists in the community. The Municipal Art commission, along with Eller Outdoor Advertising, is currently developing a project for this fall which will be an outdoor board art display of local artists. This project involving city government and business in promoting the visual arts is a very exciting one, and we hope it will be an on-going annual event. To end this summary with a rather nice, but curious event, a writer for Art in America was recently here investigating the rumored “activity” in our city. She was very impressed with FORUM, the Artist Choose Artists exhibition at UMKC, our slide bank, the artists she talked with, and the energy she felt. We’ll have the wait and see “how” impressed.
I hope all these exciting developments will generate more public interest, but especially hope all of you will join in and offer your talents and services in making this a bigger and greater achievement so Kansas City can proudly take is cultural place, as it justly deserves, with other cities.