In 2013, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art adopted a new Strategic Plan with six goals for the future, including the strategy of Envisioning a Cultural District. The plan says, “The Nelson-Atkins is uniquely positioned to build connections among its midtown colleagues with the goal of developing a cultural district.”
To begin a larger conversation, the Nelson-Atkins has led the way in considering possibilities and in approaching partners. In 2013, with funding from the Hall Family Foundation and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, an urban design firm conducted a study in Kansas City on enhancing public spaces in neighborhoods and institutional landscapes that surround the museum.
The firm, Weiss/Manfredi, created a set of concepts for the future, with maps and renderings that are meant to engage area leaders and members of the public in conversations. Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi will be back in Kansas City in October as the featured speakers at the Mary Atkins Lecture Series.
The concepts are ideas that represent the beginning of the process of creating a plan for a cultural district, as imagined for the next five, 10, even 20 years. The community will be asked to take part in a structured, inclusive process to consider these concepts and others. The community process is vital to the discussion.
Weiss/Manfredi’s concepts are the most recent in a long-standing conversation. Many ideas and options have been considered in years past. In the 1940s and ‘50s, a Kansas City Cultural District in the same area was planned for the future, and the partnerships looked quite similar to those of today. A 1962 booklet summarized the existing Cultural Center as “a parklike area in which great institutions devoted to the pursuit of science, art, music and education flourish side by side.”
Past efforts, plans, architectural drawings and sketches form layers of momentum for the area, including a 1994 plan by Dan Kiley, and a concept map from 2004, as shown in the thumbnail images. Each attempted to honor the historical neighborhood nearby while also addressing the needs of an expanding, world-class art museum.
The most recent concepts are part of Kansas City’s current focus on the future as an urban area that is centered on arts, education, innovation and entrepreneurship.