City hoping to boost support for the arts

rpulley@lsjournal.comApril 21, 2017 

Jenell Johnson won the popular vote for her vocals and talents on the ukulele at the 2016 Got Talent, one of the events supported by a Lee’s Summit Art Council grant.

FILE PHOTO

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    Grow Art

    The Lee’s Summit Art Council is presenting an arts summit, with a mingle 6:30 p.m. The program begins at 7 p.m. and finishes at 8:30 p.m., in the Gamber Community Center, 4 SE Independence Ave.

    People interested in learning more about the grant program are invited to attend.

    About six groups will make five minute presentations and the summit will finish with a performance by Jennell Johnson of Lee’s Summit North High School, winner of the Crowd Pleaser award at Got Talent, a fundraiser by Lee’s Summit CARES, one of the grant recipients.

Grow Art is a fitting name for the Lee’s Summit Art Council’s upcoming “arts summit,” as the city-appointed commission begins a transition year with plans to hire a full-time employee.

On Monday during Grow Art, grant recipients will present how they used their funds distributed by the Arts Council. The public is invited, as are groups or individuals who are interested in seeking grants for their arts endeavors.

The Art Council’s dependency on part-time help from the Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation Department is coming to an end.

The city administration will now provide staff support, and by December hopes to hire a full-time arts coordinator.

Arts Council Chairman Bob Jones said the idea is to begin the transition to the council becoming a not-for-profit organization, meaning donations to it would be tax-deductible. As a city entity, donations to it don’t qualify for deductions.

A non-profit foundation could draw more donations, and the arts council would be able to increase the size of the grants it’s providing to different organizations or events, he said.

The typical grant is now $500 to $1,000.

“It’s too much to ignore, but not enough to live on,” Jones said.

The council’s entire grants budget is $10,000, and its entire budget, much of it used to pay for parks staff, is $67,655.

“I feel like the arts council had hit a plateau,” Jones said. “There are a lot of philanthropists in Lee’s Summit, but it’s harder to ask for money if they can’t get the tax deduction.”

Jones said having an arts coordinator on the city staff could be an interim step. In the future, Jones said, the non-profit council could be independent, but contract with the city for its services, as does the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street Inc. and the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council.

City Manager Steve Arbo said he is including the arts coordinator position in his proposed budget for 2017-18, which begins in July. The position will need to be approved by the City Council. He expects the total expenditure for the arts council will be about the same for the coming year.

He hopes to hire that person by the end of this year, and they would be responsible for helping implement the rest of the City Council’s adopted Cultural Plan, Arbo said. He said the parks department had done a good job assisting the council, but a specialist in developing arts programs could take the city to the next level.

“I want someone who’ll be able to wake up every morning and be thinking about the arts,” Arbo said.

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