Arts News: Heartland Arts KC Fuses Art and Social Change

Logan Myles Stacer (from the artist)

Logan Myles Stacer has big hopes and plans for Kansas City and the Midwest, all revolving around the intersection of art and public policy.

The fusion of arts with social change, though fairly well established on the coasts, is sorely missing here, he argues. Enter Heartland Arts KC to “reposition Kansas City as a hub for cultural and civic leadership.” The first step will be to engage emerging artists. Youth education will follow.

A Kansas City native, Stacer grew up leading and competing as a speech and debate captain and state and national champion in high school and subsequently at Kansas State University. He was already enrolled for the fall 2018 semester at New York University’s Tisch School of Arts, when, in July, he learned he was accepted into the prestigious #BARS Theater-In-Verse Workshop created by “Hamilton” star Daveed Diggs and slam poet Rafael Casal. The result of the 10-participant, two-month program was “Bringing Monuments to Life,” produced three nights in a row at the Public Theatre in New York.

Stacer then began his graduate study in Arts Politics at NYU. He admits that having rubbed shoulders with the likes of Leslie Odom Jr. and the “Hamilton” cast had given him rather unrealistic expectations. The six-week break between semesters — the first unscheduled period he’d experienced since middle school — became his “dark night of the soul.” He found guidance in faith, including Christian, Taoist and philosophic teachings. “Believing in something bigger than me” as his goal, he created Heartland Arts KC. He completed his master’s, came home to KC for a week, reconnected with his now wife, Mikala, and returned to New York, where he got to work.

He helped teach a class at NYU with Anna Deavere Smith and facilitated a five-day “Theatre of Change” project at Columbia University, involving artists and policy makers. He studied Sketch Comedy at UCB Training Center.

He then planned his own three-day art and policy workshop and staged it in Atlanta with Mikala, who was based there. The workshop was run in conjunction with the Georgia ACLU and Stacey Abrams’ New Georgia Project and focused on voter suppression. It included five artists from Atlanta and five from Kansas City. Plans to do a workshop in Chicago focusing on rent control were thwarted by the pandemic. The two returned to Kansas City and got married in a small outside ceremony at Monument Rock in western Kansas.

Last year Stacer taught at the Ewing Marion Kauffman School. In February he wrote and produced his first play, “Jazz District,” a rap/family drama with Kansas Theater Works Podcast. Mikala, a writer and actress, had a television screenplay accepted at Duluth’s Catalyst (Story) Content Festival. Stacer has a book of journals, essays and poems, “Talking to Trees and Other Acts of Self-Love,” ready to be published. Mikala continues to write and is auditioning and doing commercial work.

But their dedication is to Heartland Arts KC: promoting, networking and applying for grants.

A crowdfunding initiative raised $5,000 and will be used to pay 10 artists a fellowship of $500 each to participate in a 12-week program, which includes meeting once a week and three weekends of performances from February to May.

So Stacer is “in full CEO mode” now, missing the adrenalin of performing, but certain he’s on the right path. He wants to bring “radical imagination” to Kansas City, to sponsor responsible, non-competitive, cooperative, engaged and sustainable artists. He wants to more fully tell the Black story (his father is part Seminole) and highlight male role models. He wants to follow jazz more, and lists Charlie Parker, Walt Disney, Walt Chamberlain and Janelle Monae as reasons to believe KC can be a center of progressive thinking and proactive advocacy.

To learn more, visit www.heartlandartskc.org.

Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith is an impassioned supporter of local performances of all types, who welcomes the  opportunity to promote them to KC Studio readers.

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