Editor’s Letter, March/April 2017

Photo by Mark Berndt

The best way to ensure the future of a healthy arts scene is to invest in artists.

Over the past 20 years Kansas City has radically expanded its support for area artists in the form of grants and residencies. The Charlotte Street Foundation, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has been an undisputed leader on this front.

As of 2016, the Foundation had awarded $748,000 in Visual Artist and Generative Performing Artist Awards to 106 artists, including five awards of $10,000 each in 2016.

The Foundation also helps put money in artists’ pockets through Rocket Grants, which awarded $60,000 to 11 grant recipients in 2016. Rocket Grants, funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, are a program of the Charlotte Street Foundation and the Spencer Museum of Art.

In 2016, CSF also paid out $28,950 in artist stipends for exhibits and events, bringing the total amount disbursed to artists in 2016 to $138,950. That’s 20 percent of the organization’s operating budget, according to its Executive/Artistic Director Amy Kligman.

ArtsKC also funds individual artists. Its granting arm, the ArtsKC Fund, annually awards 5 percent of the fund’s monies directly to artists; the other 95 percent goes to arts organizations. Representing roughly one-third of the organization’s budget, the ArtsKC Fund raised $519,000 in 2015 and awarded $59,782 to 49 artists.

That’s more than the usual 5 percent, thanks to a $50,000 ArtsKC Fund contribution earmarked for grants to KC artists from the City of Kansas City, Missouri.

Another source of funds to artists is the Kansas City-based Lighton International Artists Exchange Program. Now entering its 15th year, LIAEP provides travel grants to local, national and international artists from various disciplines. Of the more than $27,000 in LIAEP grants awarded in 2016, $11,665 went to three artists from Kansas City.

Training the artists of the future is also key to maintaining a vibrant arts scene, as Susan Schmelzer points out in her current column about the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance and the Kansas City Art Institute. And a noteworthy development on the artist training front is in the works at Johnson County Community College. Julius A. Karash reports on a new studio building that will give art students their own working space near the Nerman Museum and further the development of an “arts neighborhood” on the east side of campus.

KC’s performing arts organizations invest in artists by providing opportunities for exposure and experience.

The Kansas City Ballet’s KCB II emerging professionals program gives young dancers a chance to perform as part of a touring community company, KCB II, as well as with the ballet’s company. The Lyric Opera’s Young Artists Program offers young singers opportunities for performance experience, even, in some cases, roles in the mainstage productions. Partnering with the Coterie Theatre and the UMKC Composition Department, The Lyric also brings writers and composers together with professional singers through its Words + Music program. KC Rep supports local and national playwrights through its OriginKC Monday Night Playwright Series of script-in-hand readings.

Much is made of art as an economic driver. It’s good to remember where it comes from and support the creators.

About The Author: Alice Thorson

Alice Thorson

Alice Thorson is the editor of KC Studio. She has written about the visual arts for numerous publications locally and nationally.

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