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Moving from Arts Leaders to Community Leaders

Harlan Brownlee

I recently attended the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Diego and I return from these conferences inspired and energized.

Of particular relevance to our work at the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City is the changing role of the arts in community development.

We often talk about how nothing like the arts can serve to build community. The arts create multiple points of view and bridge the gaps between social class, race, gender, and even political differences. The arts are a great unifier, allowing us to experience our common humanity.

The convention confirmed that there is a growing movement across our country in which arts organizations and arts councils, in particular are serving a meaningful and significant role in the building of community. The arts sector can work in partnership with community development agencies to be a part of the solutions needed for a neighborhood, a city, or a region. 

When I consider all the creative, bright, and articulate people I have had the pleasure of working with in the Kansas City arts community, I realize that this amazing pool of talent could be enlisted to work with community leaders to solve the problems we all face.

In many ways, artists and arts organizations are already immersed in the basic building blocks of community development; creating value, improving neighborhoods, and engaging the public in fundraising, marketing, and advocacy. I sense that the Kansas City arts sector is hungry for the opportunity to partner with civic and public officials in this manner.

Put us to work – we are ready!

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