As “KC Studio” marks its 10th anniversary with the May/June 2018 issue, we look back on an extraordinary decade for the arts in Kansas City.
It began in the depths of a recession, following a 2007 that saw the opening of the new Bloch Building at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the addition of a stunning new contemporary art museum on the campus of Johnson County Community College.
A year earlier, in 2006, groundbreaking occurred for the project that would dominate the decade to come: The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which opened on Sept. 16, 2011. The state-of-the art facility designed by leading international architect Moshe Safdie not only provided a performance home for the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera and the Kansas City Ballet, but soaring evidence of Kansas City’s commitment to the arts.
As the recession eased, the money flowed: The Kansas City Art Institute received a $25 million gift from an anonymous donor; KC Rep completed a $5.5 million capital campaign to renovate the Spencer Theatre; the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures completed an $8 million renovation; and the Kansas City Symphony completed a $55 million endowment campaign. And it doesn’t stop. Earlier this year, following completion of a $1 million endowment campaign, the Folly Theater announced a lead gift of $775,000 from the William T. Kemper Foundation in support of a major renovation campaign.
Funds and enthusiasm fueled an explosion of brick and mortar projects that made 2008-18 a decade to remember. In the East Crossroads, The Lyric Opera opened its new Richard J. Stern Opera Center in 2011, the same year that the Kansas City Ballet opened the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity just west of Union Station. The Crossroads consolidation continued with Mid-America Arts Alliance renovating its building in the Crossroads Arts District and ArtsKC moving its offices to Southwest Boulevard.
Projects and improvements occurred citywide: The Kansas City Museum in the historic Northeast neighborhood broke ground for an ambitious renovation. Kansas City Young Audiences got a new home on Main Street, and the Kansas City Art Institute opened a high-tech Fab Lab, the David T. Beals III Studios for Art and Technology, in the heart of the campus. Karbank Real Estate Company opened three performance halls in its renovated Karbank Buildings on Shawnee Mission Parkway.
The move toward bigger and better arts venues crossed the state line with the opening of the new Kansas Focus Gallery at Johnson County Community College’s Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, the renovation of the performance halls at the school’s Carlsen Center and the opening of the Johnson County Art and Heritage Center in the former King Louie building in Overland Park. In Lawrence, KU’s Spencer Museum of Art completed a major renovation.
Kansas City’s theater community caught fire with the launchings of the Fishtank, Spinning Tree, KC Melting Pot, The Living Room and the Black Repertory Theatre of Kansas City. KC Rep inaugurated “Origin KC,” Kansas City Actors Theatre put down roots in Union Station, Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre bought the old Warwick Theatre, the Unicorn bought its forever home at 3828 Main St. and Musical Theater Heritage added two new venues in Crown Center. The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary by breaking attendance records with its production of “Hamlet,” starring Nathan Darrow. The Coterie, too, broke attendance records in 2016-17.
It was also a decade of notable exhibitions, beginning with the prescient “Black is … Black Ain’t” at H&R Block Artspace. The Central Library’s “Shakespeare’s First Folio” exhibit drew record crowds and the Kemper Museum’s “Magnetic Fields” show of African American women abstractionists attracted the museum’s first Andy Warhol Foundation grant. On the heels of its unveiling of the new Bloch Impressionist galleries, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art presented the city’s first major Picasso exhibition. The American Jazz Museum’s “The Legacy Plays On!” mounted in conjunction with the museum’s 20th anniversary was one of the decade’s dozens of events celebrating the staying power of KC’s arts institutions.
Artists were honored, audiences grew, dynamic new leaders replaced departing ones and big plans were made. Readers can watch the decade unfold in the following pages, a timeline of cultural milestones submitted by more than 50 Kansas City arts organizations.
A Decade of Cultural Milestones
The Charlotte Street Foundation launches its Generative Performing Artist Awards as a parallel program to the Visual Artist Awards, awarding $141,500 to 19 Kansas City performing artists through 2017.
UMKC Theatre collaborates with the Kansas City chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to create the historical drama “Quindaro” under Tony Award-winning director Ricardo Khan.
Park University International Center for Music student Behzod Abduraimov, 18, wins the 2009 London International Piano Competition.
The Truman Library Institute commemorates Harry S. Truman’s 125th birthday with a year of celebrations, including special museum exhibitions, a congressional reception and community events.
The H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute presents “Black Is . . . Black Ain’t,” a prescient exhibit exploring issues of race, curated by Hamza Walker.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art hires Julián Zugazagoitia as Director/CEO. His energy and commitment to community partnerships grow museum attendance to more than a half-million annually.
The Charlotte Street Foundation, in collaboration with the Spencer Museum of Art, becomes one of only four arts organizations in the country to be selected by the Andy Warhol Foundation to receive regrant funds, creating Rocket Grants.
Founders Rusty Sneary and Shawnna Journagan open The Living Room Theatre, focusing on new works by Kansas City playwrights performed by Kansas City actors, at 1818 McGee in the Crossroads Arts District.
“Diana: A Celebration” draws more than 105,000 people in a span of 15 weeks, affirming Union Station Kansas City as a premier location for large, world-class, international touring exhibitions.
Zhou Long, Distinguished Professor of Music Composition at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, wins a Pulitzer Prize in Music.
Kansas City Ballet celebrates the opening of the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, 500 W. Pershing Rd., as the home of the dance company and ballet school and as the creative center for the dance community.
On September 16, Kansas City gains worldwide attention with the opening of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, designed by award-winning architect Moshe Safdie. The center is the new home for mainstage productions by its resident arts organizations: the Kansas City Symphony, the Kansas City Ballet and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.
The Kansas City Symphony plays the first nights of the newly opened Kauffman Center, accompanying Placido Domingo and Itzhak Perlman.
The Lyric Opera of Kansas City opens its new home, the Richard J. Stern Opera Center at 1725 Holmes St., which includes the Beth Ingram Administrative Building and the Michael and Ginger Frost Production Arts Building.
Starlight Theatre celebrates the 10th anniversary of its ongoing Blue Star Awards, recognizing achievement and excellence in high school musical theater, with 46 participating Kansas City area high schools producing 48 musicals in the 2011-12 school year.
The Folly Theater holds a “Light the Lights” Gala celebrating the installation of a new marquee sign.
Lyric Opera of Kansas City appoints a new General Director and CEO, Deborah Sandler, who creates the Resident Artists Program and brings in top operas including “Dead Man Walking” and “Everest.”
Featuring a modified boxcar in a field of prairie grass, “Prairie Logic,” commissioned by Kansas City’s one percent for art program from New York artist Janet Zweig and KC’s el dorado inc., is installed on the sixth-floor roof of Block 110 Garage at 10th and Walnut Streets.
KCPT premieres PBS Arts: “Homecoming: The Kansas City Symphony Presents Joyce DiDonato” to a national PBS audience.
Frommer’s cites the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art as one of the most significant cultural attractions when the publication lists Kansas City as one of its top 10 world travel destinations for 2012.
The NAACP (Olathe, Kansas, branch) cites the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art as Diversity Advocate in Education of the Year.
Mary Kemper Wolf, daughter of Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art founders Crosby and Bebe Kemper, is named chairman of the museum’s board.
A spacious new changing exhibitions gallery joins the ceramic and printmaking studios at Belger Crane Yard Studios, 2011 Tracy Ave.
Mid-America Arts Alliance celebrates the purchase and subsequent 2013 renovation of its building in the Crossroads, an outward expression of the permanence of the organization.
As of December, more than one million visitors had experienced an event at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, with visitors coming from all 50 states.
Narong Prangcharoen, who earned a Doctor of Musical Arts in composition from the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance in 2010, is awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Spinning Tree Theatre produces the Kansas City premiere of the Broadway musical “Hello Again” and hosts five-time Tony Award-nominated composer/lyricist Michael John LaChiusa at a sold-out performance and talkback.
The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art marks its 20th anniversary.
The Kansas City Symphony plays at Kauffman Stadium for Game 6 of the World Series, Giants at Royals.
The Linda Hall Library was the only cultural institution in North America to recognize the significance of the Panama Canal’s centennial in 2014 by mounting a major exhibition and year of related programming.
The Center for Arts and Letters at Rockhurst University celebrates 25 years of providing a unified calendar of cultural programming to Kansas City, from visual and performing arts to presentations from the world’s top intellectual and literary figures.
After a multi-million-dollar campaign, Unicorn Theatre purchases its current home at 3828 Main Street, creating a forever home for the arts in this midtown KC neighborhood.
ArtsKC Regional Arts Council moves its offices to the heart of the Crossroads at the Northwest corner of Baltimore and Southwest Boulevard to amplify its mission to unleash the power of the arts for the benefit of our region.
Union Station celebrates its 100th Anniversary with a “Kansas City Celebrates at Union Station” event, including a spectacular digital mapping projection by Quixotic showcasing 100 years of Kansas City history.
For the Harriman-Jewell Series 50th Season Gala Concert, Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Flórez sing a duo-recital world debut in celebration of the Series’ legacy as a performing arts presenter of international importance.
Kansas City Repertory Theatre Executive Director Angela Gieras and team successfully complete the $5.5 million capital campaign to renovate the Spencer Theatre on the UMKC Campus following the successful opening of the downtown Copaken Stage in 2007.
Kansas City Actors Theatre becomes a core tenant at Union Station by moving their offices and producing four shows a year there, giving them a solid, visible presence in the city’s cultural landscape.
After years of searching for a permanent home, Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre purchases the Warwick Theatre in November.
Bach Aria Soloists’ celebration of their 15th anniversary included the commission and premiere of “Dialogue,” written by award-winning composer Narong Prangcharoen and performed by BAS to great acclaim at the International Composition Festival in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Friends of Chamber Music celebrates its 40th anniversary during its 2015-2016 Season, “Encore! Encore!”
The Kansas City Art Institute receives the “Great Gift” of $25 million from an anonymous donor via the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation to create endowed scholarships, endowed positions and improvements to the college.
KC Rep launches OriginKC, a nationally acclaimed program led by Director of New Works Marissa Wolf, which supports the creation, development and production of new work from diverse playwrights.
Following an $8 million renovation, the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City reopens as The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, with new exhibits and interactives featuring the world’s largest collection of fine-scale miniatures and one of the nation’s largest collections of antique toys.
ArtsKC introduces a regional cultural plan, incorporating input from more than 1,800 arts and cultural organizations, government representatives and the public, to define regional priorities for cultivating and enhancing our region’s arts and cultural life.
Nearly 800,000 Royals fans fill the front of Union Station and the downtown streets of Kansas City in November for the Kansas City Royals World Series Championship Parade & Celebration.
In March, Park University International Center for Music graduate student David Radzynski is appointed concertmaster for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Carlsen Center at Johnson County Community College celebrates its 25th anniversary and completes a renovation of its performances halls.
The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art opens the Kansas Focus Gallery thanks to gifts from the Barton P. and Mary Davidson Cohen Charitable Trust.
Arts patrons and community leaders reflect on the past and celebrate the future of the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph, Missouri, at the museum’s 50th Anniversary Golden Gala.
The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas completes a major renovation that increases access to collections, expands educational spaces and infuses the building with natural light.
Clarinetist and UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance D.M.A. alum Andrés Salguero wins a Latin Grammy for Best Children’s Album.
Under the artistic leadership of Devon Carney, Kansas City Ballet premieres a new “Nutcracker” as well as the company’s first ever full-length “Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty,” completing the canon of Tchaikovsky ballets.
The Kansas City Art Institute opens the David T. Beals III Studios for Art & Technology as an innovation lab for 3D printing, rapid prototyping and more that addresses technology in art and design for the 21st-century student.
More than 10,000 attendees celebrate the Kauffman Center’s free fifth-anniversary celebration, BravoKC: Kauffman Center Turns Five, Live!, a thank-you to all who helped make the Kauffman Center a cultural cornerstone in Kansas City.
The Epsten Gallery welcomes Israeli artist Yuval Yairi as its first international Visiting Artist in Residence in conjunction with “Surveyor,” a solo exhibition of Yairi’s photographic work.
The Belger Arts Center goes global with “Art of the Americas,” curated by Licia Clifton-James, and “Desire,” curated by Linda Lighton, encompassing work from every country in Central and South America and artists from Europe, Asia and Africa.
To help celebrate Heartland Men’s Chorus’ 30th Anniversary, the group embarks on a road trip across Kansas, spreading peace, love, understanding and acceptance through song.
In the face of overwhelming popular and critical response, Fishtank Theatre extends production of “Marilyn/God” by Rosary Hartel O’Neill, starring Heidi Van as Marilyn Monroe, from three weeks to nine.
The Kansas City Artists Coalition celebrates its 40th anniversary of connecting artists and audiences with a block party and an exhibition featuring more than 100 artists.
The Kansas City Public Library’s Central Library draws a record-breaking attendance — more than 108,000 people — to events and exhibits for the year, highlighted by the 23-day, sole Missouri exhibition of a rare, nearly 400-year-old copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
Sculptor Jesse Small’s “Beacon,” a public memorial to the 2014 shooting victims at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom, is installed on the Jewish Community Center campus in Overland Park.
Theater critic Robert Trussell leaves the “Kansas City Star,” completing a decade-long decimation of the newspaper’s salaried staff of professional fine arts critics.
Karbank Real Estate Company opens three new performance halls in its renovated Karbank Buildings at 1900/2000 Shawnee Mission Parkway.
Kansas City Young Audiences opens its renovated new home at 3732 Main Street, providing more children access to the transformational power of the arts.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art opens the Bloch Galleries, housing the popular Impressionist/Post-Impressionist collection of Marion and Henry Bloch.
The Charlotte Street Foundation launches the Neighborhood Artist Residency, an 18-month pilot program located in the Troost Corridor of Kansas City.
Kansas City Black Repertory Theatre, founded by Damron Armstrong, begins its second season.
The American Jazz Museum celebrates the 20th anniversary of its opening, commemorated in the exhibit “The Legacy Plays On!” continuing to April 2018.
The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures presents “Miniature Masterworks,” an unprecedented juried showcase of fine-scale miniatures featuring artists from around the world.
Park University International Center for Music graduate student Kenny Broberg wins the silver medal at the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, following in the footsteps of his mentor at Park, Stanislav Ioudenitch, who won the gold medal in 2001.
The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival breaks attendance records and produces “Hamlet,” starring nationally prominent KC native Nathan Darrow, in conjunction with 25 for the 25th, an event series celebrating HASF’s 25th anniversary.
MTH Theater at Crown Center completes construction on two additional venues and presents more than 500 events/performances attracting more than 33,000 visitors.
In June, the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center opens in the newly renovated former King Louie building on Metcalf.
Mayor Sly James announces the launch of “Open Spaces,” Kansas City’s first art biennial, centered in Swope Park and curated by Dan Cameron.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art presents the first Picasso exhibition in Kansas City, and is the only U.S. venue for “Through the Eyes of Picasso,” which explores the inspiration and working process of one of the world’s best-known artists.
The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art receives its first grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in support of the exhibition “Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today.”
Following a two-year comprehensive architectural design and strategic planning process, the Kansas City Museum, operated and managed by the City of Kansas City, Missouri Parks and Recreation Department since 2014, kicks off construction on the creation of a leading-edge, 21st-century museum of Kansas City’s history and cultural heritage.
With its 2016/17 season, the Coterie tops the 100K mark for the first time in its 39-year history, serving 103,284 people in a single season through professional stage productions, acting classes, in-school workshops, touring productions and other community outreach programs.
Kansas City Actors Theatre has its best-selling show in the company’s history with its production of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None.”
The Folly Theater dedicates its performing hall to C. Stephen Metzler in honor of reaching a $1 million endowment campaign goal.
KC Melting Pot Theatre continues to raise the bar of excellence with two shows selected by PerformInk as Kansas City’s Best Shows of 2017.
The Folly Theater receives a lead gift of $775,000 from the William T. Kemper Foundation to begin a renovation and update of the main lobby (pictured in this rendering) and Shareholder’s Room to provide a better “Folly Experience” to its patrons.
The Kansas City Art Institute breaks ground for the new 250-bed Student Residence and Dining Hall, made possible by a $10 million lead gift from an anonymous donor.
Theater League/Broadway Across America draws record-breaking season ticket sales for Broadway Across America and “Hamilton,” coming to the Music Hall in summer 2019.
Theatre for Young America presents the 32nd annual production of “The Toughest Kid in the World,” created by TYA in 1986 and presented to over 100,000 attendees to date, promoting knowledge and discussion about conflict resolution, bullying, violence prevention, and peace in the world.
The 2018/19 season at KC Rep marks its 10th anniversary under the leadership of Artistic Director Eric Rosen.
Powell Gardens celebrates 30 years as Kansas City’s botanical garden, a 970-acre facility including themed gardens and world-class architecture.
Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey celebrates 30 years of Ailey Camp, an award-winning, six-week camp where students of all backgrounds come together to learn life and leadership skills through dance and social activities.