On Stage Performances
The music semi-finals for the On Stage portion of Art@Work take place at the Blue Room at 18th & Vine. For a full lineup of performances, check back at artskc.org in early June.
• July 24, 7 p.m.
• July 25, 7 p.m.
• July 29, 7 p.m.
Art@Work Finals and Awards
Both the final “On Stage” performances and the Art@Work awards are given at the Gem Theater at 18th & Vine on Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. For a sense of what to expect, watch 2011 performances at artskc.org/artwork.aspx.
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When the Arts Council of Metropolitan of Kansas City started Art@Work, its citywide corporate challenge for art, the program was focused on visual art. But it soon grew to include performing arts as well by popular demand.
“The music component was added in 2009. We had two years of just music, then added dance” in 2011, says Kelly Seward, the Arts Council’s director of business programs. “It’s all employee-driven. We’ve had people approach us saying they were really interested in film.”
The Arts Council heard from so many, in fact, that this year the performing arts segment, “On Stage,” will add film to its roster. The new category will allow employees to enter five-minute shorts in three categories: narrative, animation (in either 2D or 3D) and documentary. In both music and dance, employees still have the option to perform solo, in a group or in a group that features that company’s employees only. Performances in music can be vocal and/or instrumental.
Maybe most enticing for performers is the fact that the finals at the Gem Theater (see our sidebar for details) are manned by pros, with American Jazz Museum CEO Greg Carroll serving as guest artistic director and local musician Darren Story as master of ceremonies. For many of the participants, it’s their first shot at a professionally produced performance.
“We work with all of the sound and lighting crew at the Gem,” Seward says. “It’s neat that they give the associates the same level of attention that they do for the big names that appear on that stage.”
Perhaps some of Kansas City’s performers will go on to become big names themselves. We’ve profiled participating employee/artists in the next few pages, so read on. You never know if you could be sitting next to the next Scorsese.
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It’s not every day that you get selected to do a flash mob for work, and it’s even rarer that dancing in one leads to your winning a People’s Choice award for Best in Show in Dance in a citywide competition. But for Maria Turner, who works in the bank card settlement department at UMB, that’s exactly the evolution of her experience with Art@Work.
“We did a flash mob at our job to the song ‘Footloose.’ They were picking random people to do it,” says Turner of the 2011 promotion in the middle of a company meeting. “They said Art@Work is coming up, and they wanted to have the flash mob in the [Gem Theater] program. And that if you have your own talent, you can do that as well.”
And did she ever have a talent—little did the flash mob organizers in UMB’s marketing department know that Turner had done both modern and praise dance for the past 10 years. She decided to showcase her talent individually.
“Normally I just do a lot of praise dancing at church or if someone invites me for a women’s prayer retreat. This was my first time actually competing,” Turner says. “It was funny–I didn’t know the audience was going to be voting because I didn’t even get a program. I was just doing it for fun.”
Imagine her delight, then, when Turner found out she’d won for People’s Choice.
“I was so excited,” she says with a laugh. “It was even more priceless because I was clueless.”
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Lead singer, Arts Council Band
Arts Council Development Director Kelly Ellison was having lunch with Kelly Seward, the Arts Council’s director of business programs, when Seward floated the idea that the Arts Council needed to start its own band.
“So Kelly and I are having this conversation, and I said, ‘Well you know, my husband plays guitar and we sing, so maybe this would be fun,’” Ellison recounts.
After meeting at Seward’s house and pulling in Seward’s husband, Arts Council President Harlan Brownlee, a board member and an intern, “We kind of had this little jam session,” says Ellison. “I walked out of there and said to my husband, ‘What just happened?’”
What happened was that an Arts Council band was indeed born. Though the band doesn’t compete in Art@Work, it has performed the last two years as part of the finals program at the Gem (typically at intermission or at the end), and the benefits have been numerous—something that as the development director both participating in and selling Art@Work, Ellison sees firsthand.
“The benefits are just countless,” Ellison says. “It’s very intangible, but you feel it. You’re excited to go work every day. You’re excited to be a part of something in the community that really inspires people.”
“In an age of economic downturn, businesses can face serious crises. But it’s also important to have fun at work,” Ellison says. “Not only that, it’s good for the bottom line.”
“The Art@Work program is bringing innovation, creativity, and fun to the workplace. That’s OK to do that. There is profitability in that,” says Ellison. “Your employees are going to want to come to work. They’re going to know that not only does the company nurture them from a career perspective, but from a creativity perspective as well. And people who know how to think creatively have the capacity to look at things in different ways and find new solutions to problems.” l