The Arts are fundamental to the heritage of Kansas City. It would be hard to imagine our city any other way.
We’re considered the birthplace of jazz, giving names to artists like Bennie Moten, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and Charlie Parker. We’re home to Walt Disney’s first ever studio, the world renowned Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. We’ve been host to the Folk Alliance festival for 4 years. Our annual Kansas City Symphony concert at the World World I Memorial is a national tradition. And, we’re one of the few cities in the United States that boasts artistic assets in the areas of opera, symphony, ballet, and theatre.
Our city is proud of its creative capacity and we’ve made a name for ourselves because of it.
That’s why I found Governor Greitens’ recent comments, attacking “dancers and art students” in his letter vetoing funds dedicated to the University of Missouri – Kansas City’s proposed downtown conservatory, short-sighted.
I agree with the 117 House members and 28 Senators in Jefferson City, nearly 75% of the state legislature, who voted for this project. And of course, the Governor is fit to make decisions as he’d like – but that doesn’t explain his suggestion that state funding approved to match $48M in private funds was somehow “wrong” for Missouri. And, he certainly didn’t need to create some political excuse that included “dancers and art students”. The students of the Conservatory didn’t pass the legislation he vetoed. And they are at the heart of what makes Kansas City a national hub for the arts.
The Governor went on to say, “with my veto today, we are changing the way business is done in Missouri”. I agree. Here in Kansas City, our arts and culture landscape not only provides Kansas Citians with an excellent quality of life but also serve as an economic driver in our community – employing thousands of people and attracting thousands of tourists.
In 2015, the arts added an astounding 7,515 jobs to our local economy. It also added $7.9 million in revenue to our local government and $10.9 million in revenue to the state government. I don’t hear the Governor saying he doesn’t want the revenue our arts community creates for the state.
If the Governor thinks politicians are “addicted to spending taxpayer money” and cites the arts as a an example of the problem – - then may the taxpayers of Kansas City have that $10,900,000 back, please?
Locally, in 2016, the arts and culture nonprofit industry accounted for an estimated $224 million in economic activity. In Missouri, non-profit arts and culture organizations generate $1.1 billion in economic activity each year.
I’m proud that Kansas City honors and celebrates its “dancers and art students” and painters, violinists, actors, designers, and other creatives. The arts are vital to our city’s collective personality and history and we must support this industry if we wish to remain a world-class city that welcomes and encourages everyone to pursue his or her passion.
While the Governor continues to face tough decisions moving forward, I hope he’ll consider more closely who his actions – and words – affect, and keep hard working and talented Kansas Citians out of any political games.