Arts Council quandary

Lee's Summit JournalNovember 15, 2013 

It appears as though it is time to loosen and lengthen the leash on the Lee’s Summit

Arts Council.

For those unfamiliar with this group, the mayor-appointed council is charged (as put in place during a recent retreat) "to promote, develop, strengthen and advocate for arts in Lee’s Summit."

The stated role of the LSAC is to be the advocate for arts in Lee’s Summit and to support all art-related organizations.

Recently, Councilman Allan Gray attended the November LSAC meeting to update the group – which consists of such community leaders as EDC Chairman Brad Cox, Summit Theatre Group President Ben Martin, Summit Art’s Carole Gray, Melanie Allen, Mike Ekey from the Metropolitan Community Colleges, local artist Hollie Couch, Lee’s Summit Symphony board officer Gary Fruits, chair Syrtiller Kabat, Mark Dunton, Beth Lindquist and longtime arts supporter Paula Belser – on what the latest happenings were with the performance space that was passed in April by Lee’s Summit voters, land issues and new plans being discussed for the future of Arnold Hall.

Not all LSAC members were in attendance, but those that were clearly heard Gray ask for their opinions on the future of Arnold Hall. The assumptions, somewhat stated, was that the LSAC’s opinion or thoughts on the matter would be taken to the full city council when the outdoor performance space topic comes back to council on Nov. 21.

A few bumps in the road, though, impeded much progress on this front.

First, Gray and some members of the Arts Council were clearly divided on the topic of Arnold Hall’s future. Gray says it needs to be demolished for future use. Others on the Arts Council were not so convinced, though.

Secondly, Arts Council members voiced their concern that even if they did send Gray to council with a recommendation or opinion that it would not be (as they assert has happened in the past) followed through with. Others pointed out that the full city council did not come to Arts Council seeking direction.

Third, Councilman Rob Binney (who was on hand for the meeting) is the liaison to the Arts Council, so, presumably any discussion points should filter through him as well.

I think it is a positive step in the right direction toward empowering the LSAC that Gray came and sought feedback.

Gray didn’t hear what he thought he might, though, but still asking for feedback is a good first step.

With council presumably taking on this issue just nine days after the LSAC meeting, though, it leaves the group little time to do anything. So, the ask may have seemed disingenuous to some.

Of course, all this comes from a rushed bond issue in the spring and a land deal that started muddled and stayed messy for months, leading to a new plan and circling back, again, to Arnold Hall and the fate of that building.

Martin, who was vocal at the meeting this week regarding Arts Council’s lack of influence on these matters, illustrated his thoughts on Arnold Hall.

"The voters supported the idea of a downtown performance space and due to problems we didn’t anticipate, we couldn’t fulfill the promise to put it on the west side of the tracks downtown," he said. "But the silver lining is that we may end up with both an indoor and outdoor cultural arts space if we utilize both Arnold Hall and open spaces around it."

Cox also suggested the LSAC re-examine the 2007 Cultural Arts Plan, another good place to start for this group of talented, arts- and community-minded individuals.

This group has a lot of firepower. And probably needs a little more room to roam with our arts initiatives.


John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail

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