The University of Missouri Board of Curators and System officials announced June 28 that they will develop plans for an alternative funding match for the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Downtown Campus for the Arts (Conservatory) rather than seek funding from the state under the 50-50 matching program for capital projects.
“This approach will allow construction to begin sooner and save money by avoiding construction cost inflation on a project that will benefit the students of UMKC, the people of Kansas City and the state of Missouri,” UM System President Mun Choi said. “This is a strategic investment to support our key goals in academics and scholarship. That makes it a priority for the UM System and UMKC.”
Choi said that details of the financial plans for the $96-million construction project and the $2M operating costs are being developed without reliance on state funding. These plans will be presented for approval to the Board of Curators at the September meeting.
The UM System has designated UMKC as Missouri’s Campus for the Performing Arts. The Conservatory, founded in 1906, has been praised by The New York Times as “one of the country’s liveliest academies.” It has a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and four Guggenheim Fellows among its faculty. The Conservatory also trains vocal, instrumental and dance professionals, educators, and music therapists who live, work and teach across the state of Missouri and the nation.
UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton said the decision demonstrates that Choi and the Board of Curators recognize how critical the downtown campus is to the future of UMKC, the city and the state. “The performing arts are a $1 billion industry for the state of Missouri, and the national and international renown of UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance is a significant piece of the foundation for that industry,” Morton said. “UMKC’s Downtown Campus is critical to maintaining and growing the Conservatory’s impact and the ongoing economic and cultural development of Kansas City’s Downtown Crossroads district.”
Morton and Choi also expressed thanks to the many donors, civic leaders and state legislators who have labored tirelessly to move the Downtown Arts Campus project forward.
Donors already have pledged $48 million for the project, led by a $20-million gift from Julia Irene Kauffman on behalf of the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation. The new funding mechanism would honor and preserve those pledges by delivering matching funds.
“The Downtown Arts Campus will be a critical element of our performing arts community. It needs to happen,” Kauffman said. “That’s why I have supported it, and that’s why I am so grateful to Chancellor Morton and President Choi for taking this bold step to make it a reality. They are providing leadership when we need it most.”
The downtown campus will be built directly across the street from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, one of Kansas City’s most iconic structures and the anchor for the city’s burgeoning cultural district. The campus is one of the city’s “Big 5” top civic priorities identified by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. When completed, it will bring approximately 700 students, faculty and staff to the district as a daily, daytime presence, complementing the event-driven and largely evening-based activity at the Kauffman Center.
“I am so grateful to the business and civic community for prioritizing the state funding for UMKC’s conservatory during this legislative session and for the bipartisan support this project received,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James. “That type of support underscores the need for the conservatory, and I look forward to helping Dr. Choi and the Board of Curators make this a reality. I’m eager to cut the ribbon on this facility, and I know many Kansas Citians are as well.”
By upgrading the facilities, the program will be able keep pace with the needs of its students and faculty. At the downtown arts campus, Conservatory students will have increased opportunities to work alongside professionals in the Kauffmann Center, Kansas City Symphony, Kansas City Lyric Opera, Kansas City Ballet, American Jazz Museum and the Crossroads Arts District. This will strengthen student-professional collaborations and emulate successful urban arts education programs like that of Juilliard and the Lincoln Center in New York.