Dear Kansas City, The Paris of the Plains:
I want to commend you on triumphant efforts in the year 2011. It has been a very invigorating year for the scope of our city culture and we have every right to be proud. We have witnessed the unveiling of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which drew an impressive amount of people – over 50,000 – to its grand opening; that deserves a round of applause. The Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, now the permanent home of the Kansas City Ballet, opened its doors for the first time. In sports, let’s not forget that one of the few winning teams in Kansas City, Sporting KC!, also found a new home at the Livestrong Sporting park (Go WIZARDS!!!). To the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: be proud of the 410,000 visitors you drew in this year, up 15% from 2010. Furthermore, we are the only city that showcased America: Now and Here to the level of involvement that it reached; we wanted it, and we paid for it. To those who signed those checks, a thank you; and to all the artists, performers and volunteers, another big thank you. Although the America: Now and Here crew has struggled to sustain the project, the program’s local kick-off renewed our sense of KC pride and, more importantly, showed us that the creative prowess of our city does in fact rival that of even the most established art communities in the US.
These mega-establishments of KC culture should be proud; you are helping putting a mark on the map, but for the last couple of years Kansas City has been an cultural destination and I think 2012 is going to solidify this idea! Not those haters but to us.
To the not-so-large establishments of culture, thank you for your continued efforts and contributions to the already diverse cultural landscape of Kansas City. Plug, SUB, The City Arts projects and SBG for creating new spaces in which our cultural work can exist. To the Bread Crew, diners, grantees and supporters of the project: a very warm thank you – without you, the project doesn’t exist. The crews at La Cucaracha and Fieldtrip: thank you and keep it up! To the unsung heroes of the Charlotte Street Foundation: thank you for your unbiased and unconditional support of the arts from residencies, grant money and access to wonderful spaces. To the arts scene, including, but not limited to: Review Magazine, the art writers and critics, Grand Arts, KCJMCA, Nerman, Whoop de doo, The H & R Bloch Artspace, Dolphin and Leedy-Voulkos a very big thank you for labors and energy.
To my food friends, it was a major year for you all, but 2012 is going to be even more amazing. Congrats to Howard Hanna and the crew at the Rieger and Manifesto. STELLAR food and STELLAR drinks. To the men of Port Fonda, Patrick Ryan and Max Watson, a major congrats and thanks to you, “non-stop Hip HOP!” To Jenny Vergara, The Test Kitchen might be one of the most interesting and compelling projects I’ve seen as well as Alex Pope’s and Vergara’s Pop Up Series VAGABOND. A major thanks for shaking things up. To the new faces of restaurants and foodies thanks, and to the ones we have lost, you won’t be forgotten.
Kansas City, be proud. 2012 is going to be even bigger and better, but we have some very serious work to do. Our school system is in great turmoil and we need to do something about it. If not, who is going to educate these young individuals about the wonderful city we live in? What can we do as cultural workers to contribute to this dilemma? How can we help? Who will listen? How can we make sure the people that are on the stage are not the same ones in the audience? Is preaching to the choir a bad thing? As my friend Mike Wolf once stated, “to move people, you need a strong choir, so why not preach to the choir? We all need the practice.” So, Kansas City, let’s make a choir. We need to keep our doors open to each other and, more importantly, to new communities and relationships that have yet to be built. Let’s get together, drink beers and talk about the city we want – not dream it, but make it. We can do better and that’s what is amazing about this place. We do well, but don’t we want to be great? It is our duty as cultural workers to reevaluate the systems and institutions in charge and challenge them. We owe it to this city, because it has given so much to us.
ps. (and to those not mentioned, like, Cara and Cabezas, Howard’s Organic Fare, the Fishtank, Living Room, and all theatre & performance spaces, the music venues, Troost Fest, Mark Manning, KCUR, NPR, Writer’s Place, WE NEED YOU! and more importantly THANK YOU!)