Money for the arts can help fuel Kansas City’s economy

02/23/2014 9:58 PM

02/23/2014 9:58 PM

How great a difference a decade-plus makes for the arts in Kansas City.

In 2002, local film and production workers mourned the loss of a city-funded Kansas City Film Commission. City coffers were too strapped. Mostly volunteer efforts have tried to pick up the slack ever since.

People recalled those struggles Saturday, filling an auditorium to plead with and praise the City Council for how they may vote. The meeting was the second of three hearings on the upcoming budget, due to be passed in March.

Funding for a Film Commission is back in the budget proposal, supported by a comprehensive arts plan that can lead for decades, far beyond what the old commission managed. The Kansas City Film Commission is slotted for $50,000, ArtsKC Fund for $75,000 and new Office of Cultural and Creative Services for $200,000.

The proposals are likely to pass. Only a few council members are lukewarm to the allocations. They can be reassured by this shift: Accepting city funding for arts now means agreeing that there will be a return on the dollars to the local economy.

“I see the arts as a key part of economic development to this city,” Mayor Sly James said, laying out his administration’s commitment to the arts. James emphasizes monetizing the arts, that city funding must return significant revenues in artistic and cultural tourism. James created the Mayor’s Task Force for the Arts, which in turn produced the

KCMO Arts Convergence plan

.

The Convergence plan, chaired by Mike Burke, reiterates a fact that Kansas City cannot afford to ignore. Cities that nurture, teach, value and attract creative talent will blossom in coming decades. The plan is a strategy toward those goals.

James stresses the formula of the arts fueling business, which brings the tax revenues to fund basic city services. That’s vital. Among concerns within this budget is the elimination of six codes officers. Out of 50 officers, that means increasing the caseload of the remaining workers from about 175 to 250 cases each.

Harlan Brownlee, president and CEO of the ArtsKC-Regional Arts Council, welcomes the challenge to the arts community. So much so that he’s ready to launch a regional study similar to the city’s Convergence plan.

Residents of the Kansas City metropolitan area, he notes, have a far greater percentage of participation with the arts than New Yorkers do.

That fact alone indicates opportunity for continued growth — and revenue.

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