KCYA: Allowing Space for Growth

After their move to a larger location in Midtown, local Arts Education Organization Kansas City Young Audiences has seen a 35% increase in enrollment.


KCYA displays a wall of decorated tiles Sept. 30. The tiles were made by members of the KCYA community. photo by Beatrice Curry

by Beatrice Curry, Writer

Kansas City Young Audiences is a non-profit arts company that used to call STA home. KCYA shared STA’s dance studio, auditorium and a few rooms on the third and fourth floors of M&A. 

KCYA now has a building that is all their own. Their new location at 3732 Main St. has allowed them to expand in space and numbers. 

Their newly renovated building, formerly an Office Max, gives them more space for performing and more room for storage. For example, their two large, airy dance studios and flexible auditorium space can hold 125 people. Their tall, capacious costume closet requires a ladder to reach certain tutus. The building also has an open lounge space and microwaves for families that may be there for long hours.

Their prominent location in midtown and increased space has significantly boosted their enrollment.

“In the first year since our move our enrollments have increased by 35% so a lot more kids are able to find us and participate in the programs,” KCYA’s Director of Marketing & Business Development, Marty Avizu said, “it’s really been a good move for us.” 

However, the increased visibility from their new location did not come without a cost; the building’s mortgage along with the transformation from Office Max to arts education space required them to raise $3.65 million. In September, they successfully reached and then exceeded that amount. 

“That’s super exciting because it allows us to pay off our mortgage, pay off the renovation loan and put a little bit of money in a building maintenance fund so when things go wrong as they do in a building we’ll have a little money put away to help us pay for those repairs,” Avizu said. 

This financial security allows the non-profit to shift their focus towards programs and students. 

“That’s a really exciting thing that we’ve reached that big of a goal and now we are essentially debt free on the building so that’s really great news and that allows us clearly, to serve more kids,” Avizu said.

Their new space offers more than just traditional dance studios — there is a garage band studio, fully equipped with drums, various guitars, even recording equipment. This space is used by several local youth bands for practicing and recording. 

STA juniors Arwen Dickson and Lia Uhlenhuth are involved in Team Shakespeare, an apprentice company of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, that uses the same building as KCYA. The space allows them to be creative with rehearsal styles.

“I like that there are a lot of different rooms so if we want to split up teams and work in different spaces we all have a lot of room to work,” Dickson said.

Although they do not work with them directly, Dickson and Uhlenhuth have had interactions with their staff and utilizes their rehearsal spaces and auditorium for performances.

“They are super accommodating and their dance rooms are such great spaces to work in.” Uhlenhuth said. “The ceilings are really high and it has an industrial feeling but now that KCYA and HASF are there it has kind of a reclaimed feeling, like it feels like art is reclaiming the industrial building.”

For Uhlenhuth, the variety of artistic opportunities is something that sets KCYA programs apart from what is found at most schools. 

“The garage band that my friend Quilla plays in is something that schools don’t typically offer. I mean, they have bands and orchestras but a garage band isn’t really something that can be organized by a school,” Uhlenhuth said. 

For Uhlenhuth, a local arts education organization is necessary, “KCYA is super important because it helps make fine arts more accessible to the metro area. It just really serves as a nice oasis of arts.”