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Elevating the Arts in Kansas

October 25, 2019

October is National Arts and Humanities Month! Engaging in the arts is not only good for personal, creative and intellectual growth, it can also provide economic benefit and opportunity. So, today on my blog, I want to share more about what arts and culture can do in our communities across Kansas.

The arts can provide a focal point for people in communities large and small. Creative and cultural elements can truly give people a sense of place. And this is important. Because what makes Lindsborg unique is different from what makes Overland Park, or Hays or Hiawatha the great places that they are.

We have truly special communities in Kansas, and the arts can help tell the story of what sets a community apart—they can provide a connection to our history, to our fellow Kansans and to others who come from outside the community to be part of what makes us Kansas.

Place can make the difference in economic and community development. So when it comes to how we can attract and retain talent, or spur reinvestment in our communities, arts and culture can play a key role in showcasing Kansas as a great place to live, work or start a business.

Earlier this year, the Kansas Legislature restored funding to the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission. Our state’s support for arts and culture initiatives helps us qualify to receive matching funds through the federal government and other private funding sources nationwide. This helps take our Kansas dollars further, and it creates opportunity for more projects in more communities.

Given that every community is unique, we as a state should provide opportunities to explore various models and programming elements that might fit in communities of all sizes across our state. And I believe the time to have those conversations is now. In order to preserve our history as a state but also to preserve our way of life as Kansans, we must be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to revitalizing our communities.

During the summer, I visited InterUrban Arthouse in Overland Park. Their model provides shared space that empowers local artists and serves as an anchor for civic life in downtown Overland Park. Their support of unique, place-based artistic expression and culture helps tie downtown together through murals, signage, way-finding, transportation hubs and repeat visual design elements. And all of this has helped provide a sense of place and spur redevelopment in downtown Overland Park.

By developing deep partnerships with state and regional organizations as well as the local business community, programming at InterUrban ArtHouse provides sources of identity and expression in downtown Overland Park. Converted from an old Post Office, the facility itself has become a hub for further collaboration and partnership creation, and it provides a space to congregate and talk about what they want their community to become over time. This is good for the vitality of the creative arts industry but also for the civic health of the community.

Across Kansas, we have galleries, museums, arts centers, shared work spaces and performing arts spaces that can play a key role in the development of our communities. From fueling entrepreneurship to attracting further investment, these spaces and programs can provide enormous economic benefit and keep our communities vibrant.

A priority of the Kelly Administration will be to start conversations among local leaders about what approaches are needed in their communities. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. It may not be an InterUrban Arthouse, but we must figure out what these communities need in order to elevate their efforts at place-making and revitalization. And it starts with conversations around the identity of each community. “What’s great about our town, and why should people come here?”

Through a restored Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission and the revival of programs like Kansas Main Street, we can—and we must—continue the conversation around infusing arts and culture into civic life and breathing new life into communities large and small across our state.

Ad Astra Per Aspera,

-DT

Creative Arts Industries Commission, Toland's Blog

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