Sunday, April 24, 2011

Should Kansas City organize a regional arts festival?

With such a rich variety of artistic happenings and venues, museums, galleries, studios, performing arts stages, local music haunts, the Arts Institute, film fests, first Fridays, third Fridays, and let’s include high school music and theatre productions, from my vantage point it feels as if there’s a festival happening all the time. For Kansas City to hold a MidWest, a la SouthBy “center by center” arts happening would be cool and for that to happen corporate underwriting needs gathering. If and when organizers organize we’ll see the start of a club system with SXSW-wrist-banding, color coding, and hospitality marquee tents for members only.

If and when this festival grows, we’ll see artists moving further out to the edgy bits of the area to practice their art in places where the rent is reasonable. Progress is good and progress will progress. This will be interesting.

What could encourage distant travelers to come to Kansas City for an arts festival? There’s certainly plenty here, yet regularly scheduled arts events of all forms seem to be suffering from a lack of ticket purchasers, subscribers, and gallery patrons from in and around our Metro. Could a festival throw a wider net across the nation, or even the world, to announce we’re here…creating? Perhaps so.

Yet with all this hopeful feeling, I sense we may be missing an opportunity with our arts. When thinking of the many art forms, and perhaps this is the teacher in me writing, while we may seek commercial artistic success, we could contemplate how our artistic community could engage with schools and the children therein. I’ve met a few people recently with a vision of selling Kansas City to perspective businesses with this “we’re a wonderful arts city” elevator speech. Exciting stuff, yet perspective families looking to move to KC know schools are challenging…to the suburbs they will go. That’s business I suppose.

But back to children and schools, even the private ones, with scant arts programs…should Kansas City organize a regional arts festival, one that embraces our children, and enriches their schools? Now there’s something for which to be festive…our future.

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