Kansas City, MO | February 2019

Park Partnership Engagement

City Parks Alliance, in partnership with the Trust for Public Land (TPL), began working with Kansas City Parks and Recreation, Kansas City Museum, and LISC Greater Kansas City in May 2018 to discuss workshop goals and objectives, as well as challenges and opportunities. CPA conducted interviews with a diverse range of stakeholders to better understand the challenges around parks and public space and explore how creative placemaking could be a strategy to engage underrepresented groups and build community, particularly in ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods. Over the following months, City Parks Alliance and TPL worked with a core planning team in Kansas City to design a workshop that would bring the community together to discuss these challenges and opportunities and foster dialogue between participants around concrete solutions.

Key Challenges:

The neighborhoods that make up the Northeast Corridor in Kansas City are incredibly diverse, and that diversity is valued by residents. However, the city faced challenges in engaging diverse residents and artists, intentionally building community, and celebrating multi-culturalism. There were opportunities to increase arts-led community development, integrate artists into city processes, and activate spaces in a unique way by tapping into the creative talents of Northeast communities.


On February 20, 2019, about 50 participants came together to attend the full-day workshop titled, “Creative Connections in Kansas City.” TPL provided an overview of creative placemaking and shared three stories that illustrate the power of this concept. City Parks Alliance then led participants through an interactive case study exercise, focusing on a creative placemaking and community engagement project in the Mexican-American community of Westwood, Colorado. Following the case study discussion, participants listened to a presentation from Amanda Lovelee, Parks Ambassador at Metropolitan Council in St. Paul and former City Artist for the city. Amanda talked about her work “bringing parks to the people” in creative ways such as pop-up meetings and vacant lot reclamation. The afternoon was dedicated to a facilitated group discussion about the relevance to Kansas City of the ideas presented and ideas for advancing strategies for community-driven creative placemaking. A session to discuss the next steps was held the following day with members of the core planning team.

A second workshop was held in April at which Kara Elliot-Ortega, Chief of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston and Bryan Lee, Principal of Colloqate Design, spoke to an audience of 100 community leaders at the Bruce R Watkins Cultural Center in Kansas City. The speakers highlighted efforts of national leaders in using arts to advance racial equity in public space, whether from the lens of a city’s planning efforts, or of design to elevate justice.


Kansas City received a $45,000 implementation grant from TPL, funded by JPB Foundation, to advance some of the ideas developed during the workshop, including having it shape the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Park’s Strategic Plan. Several high-impact, “low-hanging fruit” ideas identified as a result of this process included bringing pop-up meetings to the community using a city vehicle; updating the Public Art Ordinance, which guides a “One Percent for Art” program; providing mini-grants to neighborhoods for community engagement, possibly in coordination with other nonprofits and funders; exploring the creation of a Music Commission, driven by Kansas City’s designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Music; and enhancing community-based programming and arts integration at both nonprofit and city-run community centers.

Photo courtesy of Kansas City Parks and Recreation.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.