It was the right idea, maybe just the wrong time.
The online arts and culture journal KCMetropolis.org announced this summer that it is ceasing operations. The site will remain operational as the principals figure out a way to archive the more than 7,000 articles generated over the last decade.
“It was a hard decision,” said “KCMetropolis” executive director and publisher, Marcy Chiasson. “We just haven’t been able to increase the funding over the years. Except for one year — it was more like six months — I’ve always had another job. It became apparent that we weren’t going to find the funding to keep us sustainable.”
Chiasson said she and tenor Nathan Granner hatched the idea for a Kansas City arts and culture site in 2008, shortly after “The Kansas City Star” eliminated the jobs of several in the arts and features department. At the time, the future looked bleak for print copies of anything, be they newspapers, magazines or books.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to start this website, because we need to have coverage,’” she said. “In 2008, it looked like soon there weren’t going to be paper copies of anything. And, of course that sort of stepped back to where people are using hard copies of things, which I think is great.”
Over time, however, “KCMetropolis” had a hard time finding funding. Chiasson speculates that some organizations, in the beginning, just didn’t see the times we live in today, where everyone gets content from a device in their purse or pocket. Others made her feel like she was in a bit of a Catch-22: “KCMetropolis” wasn’t large enough to receive funding, but it couldn’t get enough funding to get larger.
Chiasson said she also had to learn to weather the expectations of the audience. Backlash from less-than-stellar reviews sometimes caught her off-guard.
“Early on, I used somebody who had experience in one thing but not another, and it wasn’t a super-positive review and, boy, the people just freaked out,” she said. “Even our second-to-last issue, a dance company was very upset they didn’t get a 100-percent positive review. It wasn’t a bad review. One piece the reviewer didn’t like, and so they threw a fit.”
David Oliver, a member of the “KCMetropolis” board from the beginning, said even though the site couldn’t find its way financially, he was focusing on the positive: “‘KCMetropolis’ tried to be comprehensive in its coverage, the board worked very hard to have a paid staff, they gave good writers a platform and they made it 10 years.
“There were other efforts across the country to do something like ‘KCMetropolis,’ and we lasted longer, I think, than most of the rest of them,” he said. “And that makes me feel good.”
The plan now is to archive content through the Kansas City Public Library. At some performances over the last decade, “KCMetropolis” was the only publication to send a reviewer, which makes a permanent home for its archives an important artifact of Kansas City’s cultural history.
“I do think you’ll look back on this 10-year time period with Kansas City growing in arts and culture, and there’s some significant growth that has been accomplished,” Oliver said.
Chiasson said she’s not sure what’s next for her. “KCMetropolis” has been a big part of her life for the last 10 years.
“Some of my writers were there from Day One, and not being paid a whole bunch,” she said. “There was a lot of dedication, there was a lot of passion, there was a lot of excitement about what we were doing. Some of the nights that I was up at 2 in the morning, that’s what kept me going. But if we weren’t at the point at 10 years where we could have full-time employees, it just was never going to happen.”