Julius A. Karash on Business and the Arts: Charlotte Street Foundation Begins New Chapter

Charlotte Street Foundation, a staunch supporter of Kansas City artists for more than 20 years, has taken the stage in a new home.

In October the foundation moved its offices from West 25th Street to a two-building complex at 3333 Wyoming St. The foundation purchased the two buildings in January.

The new digs give the organization a 22,000-square-foot campus in the heart of the Roanoke neighborhood. The Roanoke area has been gaining traction as an arts and design district, and the foundation’s move here is ramping things up. For example, this neighborhood also is home to Hufft Projects, which happens to be the architect for the foundation’s new quarters.

Amy Kligman, Charlotte Street Foundation’s executive artistic director, said 46 percent of the artists who have applied to the foundation over the past three years live within a three-mile radius of the new campus.

“We think this can be an anchor and a draw,” Kligman said. “We want this to be a core for artists to build a community and have a home.”

Besides the foundation offices, the new campus will offer studio residencies, exhibition spaces, performance space, meeting spaces and outdoor gathering spaces. The layout will include a 2,500-square-foot white box space for exhibitions, and a 2,500-square-foot black box space for performances, video and other theatrical work. Site improvements will include 45 on-site parking spaces.

Consolidating many of the foundation’s various segments in one place is expected to boost efficiency, convenience and artistic cross-pollination. In addition, Kligman said, owning the campus will eliminate the need for some spaces the foundation previously rented, which will save money.

As part of the consolidation, the foundation recently closed its Paragraph Gallery, which was located on 12th Street downtown. Plans call for the new campus to house the white box programming currently at La Esquina on West 25th Street, black box programming currently at Capsule on Broadway, and the studio residency program currently housed in the Town Pavilion building downtown.

“Subsequently, we would phase out programs and lease agreements at La Esquina, Capsule and Town Pavilion and shift them over to their improved counterpart facilities at headquarters,” Kligman said.

The timing of these moves is linked to the construction schedule “and is not yet entirely fixed as we are in the schematic design phase, and estimates related to the timing of readiness of specific spaces are in the midst of being figured out,” Kligman said.

The entire building project is expected to be completed in January of 2020, Kligman said. “My expectation would be exhibitions and performances would transition to headquarters at that time. As the studio residency is on a cycle that begins in the fall, it is likely that the residency would transition after the white box and the black box, in the fall of 2020.”

Charlotte Street Foundation will continue to rent some spaces off-campus to serve specific needs. “We will lease space that is place-based, that needs to be in a certain space that’s not here,” Kligman said. “The Neighborhood Artist Residency, for example, is a place-based model, embedded in a neighborhood. The plan, contingent on evaluation that will happen following the conclusion of its pilot phase in the summer of 2019, is for the space to remain on Troost. Additional neighborhoods might be added to the model in the future, depending on capacity, interest from the neighborhoods and funding.”

Kligman said the foundation’s Startup Residency, which also is in pilot phase and up for evaluation this year, is expected to continue off-site from the new campus. Additionally, “We will continue our relationships with partnering organizations like Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art and H&R Block Artspace to host the annual Visual Artist Awards Exhibitions and other such collaborations,” she said.

A capital campaign to raise $10 million has been crucial to the move, consolidation and future growth plans. “That breaks out to about $7 million for the buildings, $1 million for programming and $2 million for a long-term endowment,” Kligman said.

Nearly $8 million had been raised as of January, said Margaret Perkins-McGuinness, the foundation’s associate director for development and engagement. “Across the United States, Kansas City has an incredible reputation for embracing exciting projects like this and making them happen,” she said.

The Charlotte Street Foundation has been making things happen in the Kansas City arts scene since 1997, when it was founded by David H. Hughes Jr. Before launching the foundation, Hughes worked in marketing and related fields for companies such as American Century Investments and Hallmark Cards. He has served on the boards of many visual art, theater and dance organizations, including the Kansas City Art Institute.

The foundation helps artists and the arts scene in several ways, including:

  • Providing annual cash awards, project-based grants, special commissions and travel opportunities to visual and generative performing artists
  • Providing free studios and performance/exhibition spaces to theater, dance, music, film/video and visual artists for the creation and presentation of new work
  • Facilitating venues and opportunities for public exposure to exhibitions and performances
  • Facilitating artistic collaboration and exchange
  • Planning and collaborating on behalf of Kansas City artists and the arts community with philanthropic, business and civic leaders
  • Engaging national philanthropic and cultural leaders with Kansas City artists and the arts community

As of December 2018, the foundation had awarded $691,500 in Visual Artist Awards to 92 artists based in Kansas City, and had given $161,500 in Generative Performing Artist Awards to 21 Kansas City-based artists.

In addition, the Rocket Grants program, a partnership of the Charlotte Street Foundation and the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence, awards up to $6,000 to individuals and groups of artists for projects outside of established institutions. Funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the aggregate Rocket Grant total had soared to $452,000 as of December. The Rocket Grants have gone to 92 diverse projects directly involving at least 235 artists, along with hundreds of other artists who have participated at some level in the performances, publications, etc.

Among the artists who have benefited from Charlotte Street Foundation is sculptor May Tveit, who was awarded a Charlotte Street Foundation fellowship in 2002 and received a Rocket Grant in 2010. Tveit said fellowship funding enabled her to make new work at a new scale, and the Rocket Grant allowed her to experiment and pilot a new project she wanted to situate in untraditional public spaces and contexts. “This led to my participation in an international artist residency, and opportunities to travel and work, nationally and internationally,” she said.

Kligman said the foundation’s mission and vision have “always been very artist-centered. I would say artist-centered vs. arts-centered. We are here to make Kansas City a place where artists want to live and work.”

Mason Kilpatrick, the foundation’s marketing manager, said the organization is diversifying its applicant pool to “include artists who are not academically trained and different universities. The idea is to make it easier for artists, no matter what their background, to apply and take part in Charlotte Street opportunities.”

The foundation aims to keep growing and innovating, and new initiatives will tie back into the foundation’s ongoing mission, Kligman said. “In a Midwestern city, you don’t have the natural density of things that populate an art community. Over the years we have added programs, but it’s always been about finding other key pieces of that pie that make this a place where artists want to be.”

Julius Karash

Julius A. Karash is a freelance writer, editor and public relations person. He formerly was a business reporter for the Kansas City Star and executive editor of KC Business magazine. He devours business and economic news, and is keenly interested in the relationship between arts and economic development in the Kansas City area.

  1. Therese Park says:

    I’ve always enjoyed reading Mr. Karash’s written words. I, a Korean-American, whose English was her second language, also wrote columns in the Star–JoCo Neighborhood News for 7 years between 2009-and March 2016, mostly while Richard Espinoza was the editor. Then everything was changed for the worse. Many familiar writers no longer write for the Star for no good reason other than they got older, and I, too, was washed away. I miss the good old days.

Leave a Reply