Government & Politics

KC Council approves $250,000 in public funding for a new city arts festival

Mayor Sly James has laid out a plan for a giant city arts festival, and the City Council approved $250,000 to get it off the ground at its meeting Thursday.
Mayor Sly James has laid out a plan for a giant city arts festival, and the City Council approved $250,000 to get it off the ground at its meeting Thursday. jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

The Kansas City Council voted 11-2 Thursday in favor of spending $250,000 in neighborhood tourism tax dollars for a giant new city arts festival.

The funding would support a vision that Kansas City Mayor Sly James recently laid out for a signature arts festival that would be uniquely Kansas City. It would include visual, dance, music, film, youth exhibitions, tech and other arts activities. If all goes as planned, it would be held over three days next September in Swope Park.

The council approved the ordinance after it was amended to clarify that the Mid-America Regional Council will be the nonprofit recipient of the funds. That was not clear in an earlier ordinance draft.

The ordinance has drawn some criticism over the proposed amount and source of public funds for the event. It would be the second largest Neighborhood Tourism Development Fund grant in at least the past five years, for a project that’s not nearly as well defined as the city’s process usually requires.

Council members Jermaine Reed and Quinton Lucas objected to the spending, arguing that it might sap funding from other worthwhile events that are truly neighborhood based. But Councilman Scott Taylor noted that the festival was a key recommendation from hundreds of participants in the mayor’s task force on the arts in 2013.

In response to the festival ordinance, representatives of several large organizations have said anything that lifts the national profile of Kansas City’s arts accomplishments is welcome. But they said they would need more information and wanted to make sure it won’t limit resources for their own events. They also noted that holding an event in September could compete with their own busy event seasons.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

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