Between new arrivals attracted to the vibrant scene here and a constant churn of new arts graduates, Kansas City boasts a bottomless pool of talent. And as our current issue attests, it spreads through multiple disciplines.
Kansas City’s role as a crucible of folk music talent will be a revelation to some. Robert Trussell, a musician himself, tracks the city’s deep folk roots in conjunction with the city’s upcoming Folk Alliance International conference, page 62.
Support is crucial for new talent to thrive, and perhaps no organization has done more on this front than the Charlotte Street Foundation. An exhibit of the Charlotte Street 2020 Visual Artist Award Fellows at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art highlights the organization’s flagship program, which since 1997, has distributed more than $950,000 in visual and performing arts fellowships to Kansas City artists. Launched recently is a new program of Cultural Producer grants, funded in part by the Charlotte Street Foundation’s founder David Hughes and dedicated to giving a boost to small, emerging groups, with an emphasis on those serving BIPOC, LGBTQIA, and Disabled Communities of artists. See page 72 for Matt Thompson’s report on the first round of grant winners.
Arts KC Inspiration Grants have been supporting innovative projects by artists from diverse communities for a while now. The most recent round of Inspiration Grants includes funds for a minidocumentary on Kansas City’s lowrider culture, chronicled in this issue by Brian McTavish, page 52.
Public signifiers of KC’s commitment to the arts exist in abundance, from the recently renovated Kenneth Snelson sculpture at Crown Center (See Steve Paul: See Hear page 12), to a new Asphalt Arts Initiative program funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, which pays for artists to create works at busy public intersections. (See Julius A. Karash on Business and the Arts, page 14.)
To understand the health of Kansas City’s performing arts, look no further than Libby Hanssen’s roundup of more than 90 spring music and dance performances, at venues ranging from the Kauffman Center to local churches and universities. The list includes some notable collaborations, including a performance combining Baroque music and modern dance by Bach Aria Soloists and Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company, which Hanssen delves in depth in this issue’s Concert to Come (page 38).
As the new year begins, the Kansas City arts community mourns the loss of two ardent arts supporters. Mary E. Davidson (1936-2021) was best known to the arts community for her support of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, where in 2005, a project space named the Barton P. and Mary D. Cohen Gallery was created to highlight Kansas City metropolitan-area artists, followed four years later by a $1 million gift for the creation of the Barton P. and Mary D. Cohen Art Acquisition endowment. In 2014, Davidson donated 100 pieces from the Barton P. and Mary Davidson Cohen Collection to the museum and made a $750,000 gift from the Barton P. and Mary Davidson Cohen Charitable Trust for the creation of the Kansas Focus Gallery (dedicated to the work of artists with ties to Kansas) and a museum operating endowment.
With a BA in art history, an MSW and a JD, Liza Townsend (1961-2021), the wife of “KC Studio” publisher, Guy Townsend, gave generously of her knowledge, time and money to numerous educational, social welfare, civil liberties and arts organizations. Townsend served for more than a decade on the advisory board for the Harriman-Jewell Series and spent five years as a board member at the Kansas City Ballet. Her decade of work for The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art included co-chairing the opening of the Bloch Building. We all will miss her wit, good counsel and spark.