Art About Town: Art at the Heart of Placemaking

The Sky Stations were created by artist R.M. Fischer. Photo courtesy of the Municipal Art Commission.
The Sky Stations were created by artist R.M. Fischer. Photo courtesy of the Municipal Art Commission.

From the founding of the Kansas City Art Institute in 1885 to the recent opening of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City’s identity as America’s creative crossroads is well established.

In addition to its creative institutions, Kansas City was one of the first in the nation to pass a resolution supporting public art. The program, established in 1970, set aside one percent of each city building construction project’s budget for the commissioning of original art. The One Percent for Art program was unanimously codified by the City Council in 1986, further affirming the City’s commitment to arts and culture as an important part of its identity.

The support of the One Percent for Art program has been support for the value of placemaking in the health and well-being of a dynamic, progressive city. Placemaking is the idea that things like an artwork or a thoughtful urban design or a public event helps create an identity that’ll attract people to a place. Artists have enthusiastically embraced placemaking for centuries, defining cities through pieces as monumental as Kansas City’s Sky Stations or through periodic transformation of public space like the Country Club Plaza’s annual lighting ceremony.

As the world economy shifts and U. S. cities are competing aggressively to attract, retain and sustain citizens and businesses, Kansas City is poised to take advantage of a robust tradition of placemaking through the arts. Mayor Sly James has empowered a Task Force for the Arts to assess the current state of the arts in Kansas City and plan for the future. Task Force chairman Mike Burke and an enthusiastic cadre of community leaders and advocates will begin an extensive outreach program in early 2013 to Envision Arts & Culture in KC and present recommendations to the City Council.

Through the efforts of the Task Force and Kansas City’s arts community, we have a unique opportunity to maintain our role as regional and national leaders.

Whether through Sky Stations, through new installations such as Janet Zweig’s Prairie Logic or through a yet-to-be-created artwork, visitors and residents will participate in creating and maintaining Kansas City’s cultural history. The mindful stewardship of the city’s arts and civic communities will continue to make Kansas City a unique and wonderful place to live, work and grow.


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