KC Arts Groups Launch Bricks and Mortar Projects Thanks to Generous Donor Support

A vacant, former OfficeMax store at 3732 Main St. soon will become the first permanent home of Kansas City Young Audiences, thanks to generous support from area donors.

KCYA has purchased the 18,000-square-foot building, expects to begin a $3.1 million renovation spearheaded by Helix Architecture + Design in July, and plans to move in at the end of the year.

Martin English, KCYA executive director, told me he’s “very excited about this opportunity. We’re a 55-year-old organization, and we’ve always been in rented space. This opportunity came along for us to purchase a building and renovate and customize it for our needs.”

KCYA already has received crucial support for its new headquarters, including a lead gift of $500,000 from the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation; a $600,000 pledge from the Hall Family Foundation; and a $200,000 challenge grant from the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation.

Without such gifts, “we would not have gone forward with the project,” English said.

That kind of donor support is emblematic of Kansas City’s long-standing generosity toward area nonprofits, including arts and cultural organizations. Here are some recent examples:

  • Kansas City’s National World War I Museum and Memorial raised more than $5 million for construction of a new exhibition gallery within the Liberty Memorial, renovation of an outdoor space, and amenities to enhance the site as a venue for community and corporate events. The new gallery will enable the museum to bring international exhibits to Kansas City and present a wealth of objects and documents from the museum’s vast collection, less than 10 percent of which is on exhibition at any time.
    Lead donors to the Call to Duty Centennial Capital Campaign to support the expansion and improvements include the Hall Family Foundation, which gave $2.1 million; Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, $1 million; Jack F. and Glenna Y. Wylie Charitable Foundation, $1 million; Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation, $500,000; the Sunderland Foundation, $500,000; and the Sosland Foundation, $250,000.
    “We are grateful to Kansas City’s generous philanthropic community, who have taken the lead to respond to the invitation to invest in the expansion of the National World War I Museum and Memorial and its important mission to honor those whose lives were sacrificed in the Great War,” said Dr. Matthew Naylor, the museum’s president and CEO.
    The museum subsequently received a $1 million gift from the David T. Beals, III Charitable Trust. The gift will create the David T. Beals, III Education Fund to expand the museum’s collaborations with K-12 schools, higher education and community partners. The collaborations will encompass areas such as digital curriculum resources, diverse public programs, and scholarly research partnerships around the globe.
  • The estate of the late Vita Goppert, a patron of the arts and the first lay female board member of Avila University, donated $3.5 million to Avila for a new Goppert Performing Arts Center. The donation is the largest single gift in Avila’s 100-year history. The new center will provide students with additional performance spaces, classrooms, rehearsal areas, equipment and technology, and a newly designed scene shop. In addition, a 200-seat laboratory blackbox theater will allow for more intimate performances and for Theatre for Young America, which has partnered with Avila for 16 years, to present productions.
  • Three gifts totaling $650,000 were awarded to Union Station’s western expansion project, bringing the total to within $800,000 of the $7.8 million fundraising goal. The three gifts consisted of $250,000 from the Gary Dickinson Family Charitable Foundation, $250,000 from the Sunderland Foundation, and $150,000 from the Victor E. and Caroline E. Schutte Foundation Trust.
    The expansion, now underway, will include a new vehicular and pedestrian bridge from the front southwest corner (Carriage Pavilion) of the station into the third level of the existing West Yards Parking Garage, as well as a new outdoor festival area and an expansion of Science City.
  • The Kansas City Art Institute has begun construction of a new digital fabrication lab, the David T. Beals III Studio for Arts and Technology, designed by architects Gould Evans and scheduled to open this summer. Made possible by a $1.5 million donation from the David T. Beals III Charitable Trust, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee, the lab will house 3D printers and other new high-tech equipment.

In addition to all this bricks and mortar support, a popular summer festival recently announced a large gift. Spencer Fane LLP, a business law firm, is contributing $50,000 to the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival over the next three years — the largest current corporate donation the Shakespeare Festival has received. The firm’s pledge will support the Shakespeare Festival’s mission to provide education and free performances to a diverse audience.

KCYA’s English said Kansas City area arts and culture nonprofits are lucky to garner such strong local donor support. But looking forward, he said, area nonprofits need to begin cultivating the next generation of individual givers.

“We really need the average person, the individual donor who writes you a $100 check every year,” he said. “We need 10,000 of those in Kansas City who are willing to support the arts ecosystem in Kansas City. We need to start building that base right now.”

English posed two questions for readers of KC Studio: “What do they love in Kansas City related to the arts, and what might they be willing to do to keep them?”

The answers to those questions will play a large role in the future viability of art and culture in our town.

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.

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