Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Artistic direction for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

Perhaps the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts (KCPA) is shopping for an “artistic director” as I write this, but if not, here’s a gentle nudge. Presently, the KCPA seems to have an impressive lineup of artists for the coming months. An artistic director, one with vision and reputation such as Kevin Spacey at The Old Vic in London, could contribute to the sustainability and vitality of our Kansas City “center”. Right now, it seems the KCPA staff members are custodial and fiscal stewards, depending upon the resident performance companies (the symphony, opera, and ballet) for artistic direction(s).

Obviously, some team is booking other performers. Again, the portfolio looks impressive, but the KCPA has no artistic face, one which it deserves, like the Old Vic’s Kevin Spacey or Lincoln Center’s own Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center. “Jazz at the Kauffman Center” has a nice ring, doesn’t it? That’s the subject for another column perhaps.

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, ten plus years old, is a “center” that’s not quite one right now, a building without artistic leadership and vision…should the KCPA take note?

I’m not sure who the KCPA could recruit. Our present “Kansas City Star” in the classical canon realm is Joyce DiDonato, in my humble opinion. But Joyce seems in her performance prime and is touring the world. Getting an artistic director position established requires a bit of focus in the early days. Kevin Spacey worked hard beginning in 2003 to transform the Old Vic’s programs to their current vibrant state eight years on; with great help and collaboration, he’ll admit.

The KCPA is a center after all, and the noun has great potential meaning. People create a “center”, for a center is more than a beautiful architectural and acoustically engineered building. A center deserves leadership and in this case, an artist leader in residence.

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, while it markets itself as Kansas City’s own, is in practical form a “.org”, a 501(c)(3), a non-profit organization, with a Board of Directors whose names I could not find on their present website. It’s in a wonderful way, “our center” in spirit, but realistically, operationally, artistically, those who lead direct its future. My recommendation is to add an Artistic Director to the Leadership team to help the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts become a “center”.

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