The organization now known as ArtsKC-Regional Arts Council was created 15 years ago, part of an effort to unify the local arts community and promote a bi-state cultural tax. The tax campaign took another direction, and ArtsKC has been refashioning its mission and identity ever since.
One of its ongoing efforts is the ArtsKC Fund, a charitable giving project modeled on an entrenched and highly successful arts-support program in Cincinnati. But while that city’s ArtsWave campaign recently announced a record $12 million in giving during the latest year, the Kansas City fund has never gained considerable traction. ArtsKC’s annual revenues exceeded $2 million only once in the most recent five-year period for which figures are available.
Part of the reason for that relatively modest record stems from a perception in the community that a handful of prominent local families — you know their names — were keeping the arts alive in our town and doing it quite well.
ArtsKC leaders know they’ve got work to do to change that perception, which is a myth. And at the moment, as the organization is about to launch an ArtsKC Week, it seems on the verge of sharpening its focus and clarifying its message.
Although a workplace giving effort hasn’t caught fire, the ArtsKC Fund is aiming to broaden its appeal, making the case that everyone in the community can be an arts philanthropist — every $10 contribution would help — and artists and organizations in all corners of the metro area can benefit from one of the fund’s grant programs.
A recent ArtsKC success was its role in developing the report of the Mayor’s Task Force on the Arts, which helped set city priorities and led to the creation of an office of cultural affairs. ArtsKC has proved itself as a valuable generator of data and champion of the idea that the arts in this community are an enviable and worthy conduit of economic activity. But then what?
It’s now working on a regional cultural plan, trying to link governments, cultural organizations, artists and others to raise profiles and opportunities in the five-county metro area. That shows promise.
And this summer, ArtsKC is planning to move into new space on a highly visible corner in the Crossroads Arts District. That certainly will help with its community outreach and its effort to spread the word — a message with which we heartily agree — that support for the arts, large and small, is a core value of a vibrant city.