In November 2017, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, became a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and was designated the first and only Creative City of Music in the U.S.
Here is a summary of information about KC’s membership in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN).
How did KC become a City of Music?
Anita Dixon-Brown, local historian, prepared the UCCN application in 2017 on behalf of KC. Ms. Dixon-Brown worked with Dr. Jacob Wagner, Associate Professor of Urban Planning + Design, and students in UMKC’s UPD Program on a plan to connect preservation efforts at 18th and Vine with UNESCO’s platform. John James, President of the Wendell Phillips Neighborhood Association, supported the UNESCO application.
What is the UCCN?
The UCCN was created in 2004 to promote cooperation among cities that have identified creativity as a driver of sustainable urban development. The Network covers seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music. There are 295 member cities that form the UCCN within 90 countries.
Nine cities in the United States are member cities in the UCCN.
What is Creative City KC Inc.?
Creative City KC Inc. is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization that was created to sustain its designation in the UCCN. The Creative City KC Inc. team includes Anita Dixon-Brown, Executive Director; Kathryn Persley, President of the Heart of the City Neighborhood Association; Bukeka Blakemore, Recording Artist and Entrepreneur; Dr. Jacob Wagner; and Anna Marie Tutera, Executive Director of the Kansas City Museum.
What has UCCN-KC done over the past five years?
KC is a recognized leader internationally. In 2022, the KC team was invited to present The Voyage of the Drum on stage at the annual meeting of the UCCN in Santos, Brazil.
The past five years have been filled with dynamic local and international programming representing Kansas City on a global scale. Highlights include:
- Creative City KC presented The Voyage of the Drum at the 2019 Annual Meeting in Fabriano, Italy.
- KC was invited to attend the 2020 meeting of the UCCN, Spanish Cities, hosted by Burgos, Spain, (Gastronomy). The Voyage of the Drum was presented.
- KC led the UCCN global project, The Voyage of the Drum, with 19 UCCN cities. This project promoted the International Decade of People of African Descent, 2014-2024.
- We.R.Culture 2020: a response by the UCCN Cities of Music to the shutdown of the live music scene in cities globally, impact on musicians, and efforts to engage music as a strategy for recovery from COVID19.
- Make Music Day/ Fête de la Musique: in-person music festivals in partnership with the Heart of the City Neighborhood Association in Historic Dunbar and KC Parks and Recreation for the past three years.
- Joshua Nelson “Kosher Gospel,” a celebration of Jewish and African American musical cultures promoting “Not Long Ago, Not Far Away,” Auschwitz traveling memorial exhibition. Partners included the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, the Jewish Community Fund and Union Station.
- Participated in the UNESCO Future Literacies Lab with Heidelberg, Germany; Nottingham, England; and Montevideo, Uruguay; focused on the future of safe public spaces for LGBTQ+ Youth. This work was supported by members of Kansas City’s LGBTQ+ commission and community, including Justin Short, Carl Stafford and Paul Gutiérrez.
What’s Ahead in 2023?
Creative City KC is building an economic development plan in the city’s urban core, which will include a strong global component and connect countries with similar genres.
In December 2022, KCMO’s City Council, sponsored by Councilwoman Melissa Robinson, directed the City Manager to develop a funding plan to designate approximately $425,000, subject to appropriation, to support the city’s membership in the UCCN, and to implement Creative City KC’s Music Economic Development Strategy.
What is a Music Strategy?
Music is an industry and economic activity that lacks a coherent system of support in KC. While the city is blessed with a great musical heritage, music venues and festivals, these assets are rarely coordinated and engaged as an economic development strategy. KC needs a strategy.
In January 2023, four jazz musicians from Kansas City are performing in Frutillar, Chile, at the annual Semanas Musicales festival. Frutillar is a City of Music. Musicians Amber Underwood, Angela Ward, Paula Saunders-Lewis and Aryana Nemati will represent KC and the U.S., which fulfills Sustainable Development Goal #5 for gender equality.
How to Get Involved
Interested in supporting Creative City KC and becoming a partner in programming? Contact Bukeka Blakemore at firstname.lastname@example.org.