Signature arts fest in the works in KC

The city council has approved a proposal by Mayor Sly James to have an annual Arts Fest set to kick off in September of 2017.


The ArtsKC sign promotes the Kansas City Regional Arts Council, which is dedicated to connecting the people of Kansas City to the local art. photo by Anne Claire Tangen

by Gabby Mesa and Anne Claire Tangen

story by Gabby Mesa

Sophomore Audrey Giersch looked down at her Birkenstocks as she walked along the streets of the Plaza Art Fair. She adjusted her sunglasses to keep her face shielded in the surprisingly hot afternoon September sun and she kept her arm locked to sophomore Evelyn Mosier so neither one of them would be lost in the overwhelming crowds. Her attention was caught by a display of glassware, and from there she spent the next couple of hours browsing the work of artists from all over the nation.

Mayor Sly James has proposed that city invest $250,000 in the development of a signature annual art festival to showcase the work of local artists and enhance KC’s tourist industry. The festival would be held in Swope Park each September beginning in 2017.

“My vision for the festival is simply to maximize Kansas City’s talent and resources, put them on display, provide a venue for them to collaborate, bring regional and national attention to the city and finally to produce some revenue related to the arts,” James told the city council’s Finance and Governance Committee according to a video posted by the Kansas City Star.

According to James’ official mayoral page, The event would feature various disciplines of music, dance, theater and temporary public art installations.  It would also include interactive and tech workshops, film screenings, guest speakers and forums, along with a KC Marketplace for local vendors to promote and sell their products.

Sophomore Brooke Eldridge, who attended both the Plaza Art fair and the Ethnic Festival, said  that she would be on board with another event in Kansas City with an  emphasis on art. Eldridge especially enjoys the art in Kansas City showcases because of her mom’s connections with local artists.

“I like to go to those kinds of things and see my mom’s artist friends,” Eldridge said. “A couple of years ago [my mom] had a business and she partnered with local artists and printed their art on phone cases, and Tshirts and stuff like that.”

Though Eldridge and Giersch don’t share the same connection to the art, they do share a favorite aspect of art related festivals.

“My favorite part of the Plaza Art Fair was the food,” Giersch said.

At the Ethnic Festival Eldridge says that she tried to branch out then it came to food.

“I was surprised everything was so good,” Eldridge said. “I tried this one Filipino pasta, it was so good that I had to go back to get another.”

James told the council that he plans to make food and community a large part of the signature Art Festival. He suggested that one aspect of the Art Festival be a half-mile long table where people from all backgrounds come and eat together.

“You stop, you sit and eat wherever there’s a space,” James told the committee. “You don’t know who’s across from you. It may be a black person, white person latino person, it may be a small person tall person.”

James wants to do more with this Art Fest than build the community. he told the committee that he plans to elevate the tourist industry in Kansas City.

photos by Anne Claire Tangen

“Kansas City has tremendous artistic and cultural assets,” said James. “The KC Arts Festival would bring regional and national attention to local talent and resources, provide a venue for creative collaboration and create a positive economic impact for years to come.”

According to Lee Horsley of the Kansas City Star, Bill Guiles, director of Council and Community Relations said that the overall budget for the Festival is currently about $1.4 million dollars. He added the Festival would not be free entry, but it would sell tickets to help generate revenue.

The Festival would utilize the 1,805 acres of Swope Park. James describes Swope park as a “perfect” venue.

“The festival would take place over a weekend utilizing Swope park and all of the various assets and venues in Swope park such as starlight theater, the pavilion, and the neighboring community center,” James told the committee.

The proposal was approved by the city’s Finance and Governance committee and brought before the entire council October 6. Eleven of the Thirteen council member voted in favor of the proposal and it was passed.