December 2019 Task Force Summary

Alternatives of the Arts: Exploring Kansas City’s Creative Scene



Co-Chairs: Michael Kelley, Nikki Romolo

Task Force Members: Jesus Torres-Sosa, Emily Harrold, Leah DiCarlo, Donna Mandelbaum, Maggie Glenski, Margaret Perkins-McGuinness, Marissa Starke, William Trakas, Ryan Staub

Goal: For the Centurions to delve deep into the various ways the arts influence life in Kansas City.

Session One

Morning Panel: “Creatives and Commerce”

Speaker: Moderator – Bo Hubbard; Speakers – Secretary David Toland (Kansas Department of Commerce), Vania Soto (Local Artist), Bob Berkebile (BNIM), Jennifer Lapka Pfeifer (Rightfully Sewn)

Overview: The panel explored the intersection of creative endeavors and economic development.


  • Secretary Toland discussed the parallels of urban and rural redevelopment within the context of creative placemaking;
  • Vania Soto explained how the arts continue to serve as a means for advocacy and political dialogue;
  • Bob Berkebile outlined the role that artists have in the field of sustainable development; and
  • Jennifer Lapka Pfeifer identified what she believes are the biggest gaps between the creative scene and the business community in Kansas City.
Centurions Taskforce - Creatives and Commerce

Session Two

“The Importance of Diverse Representation in Public Art”

Speakers: Angi Hejduk (InterUrban ArtHouse); JT Daniels (Local Artist)

Overview: After a brief introduction to InterUrban ArtHouse from Angi Hejduk, JT Daniels discussed the mural he did for 10,000 Villages in Downtown Overland Park, how he addressed the ensuing controversy, and the broader importance of diverse representation in public art.

Lessons Learned:

  • Overland Park, like much of Johnson County is diversifying, and it behooves leaders to support efforts to welcome these people into the community.
  • When pressed to explain their opposition, many of the most vocal opponents were unable to give a valid reason for opposing the art in question.
  • Staying the course is worth the risk: the mural has opened up a new dialogue about diversity and representation in Overland Park; JT and InterUrban ArtHouse were awarded
Centurions Taskforce - Diverse Representation in Public Art
Centurions Taskforce - Diverse Representation in Public Art

Session Three

“Creating a Better KC REP”

Centurions Task Force - Creating a Better KC REP

Speaker: Stuart Carden, KC REP

Overview: After lunch and the business session, Stuart Carden, the new executive director for the KC REP, gave a brief overview of the work of the KC REP before conducting an ideation session with the Fall Cohort. The purpose of the ideation was to identify ways in which the KC REP can work to reach and connect with audiences beyond those who typically fill its seats.

Lessons Learned:

  • KC REP is working to identify ways to broaden and center the voices of those who have historically been left out of the cast and production of stage plays.
  • Stuart has already identified some ways to broaden the appeal of KC REP, such as translating dialogue into languages consistent with marginalized populations and developing storylines that more closely resemble the lived experiences of communities of concern.

Session Four

Split Group 1: “When Art Makes You Feel Some Type of Way”

Overview: Half of the Centurions went to After Action Network to take part in an activity designed to teach them about art therapy. The activity was conducted by Sherri Jacobs, a local art therapist.

Lessons Learned:

  • While Art Therapy has been around for some time, it has only recently began to receive the recognition it deserves from larger health institutions, such as the World Health Organization.
  • Art Therapy can in fact trace some of its roots to the Kansas City area.
  • While demand for art therapy has grown significantly over the past few years, there is a still a small, interconnected group of art therapists in the region.
Centurions Task Force - When Art Makes You Feel Some Type of Way

Session Five

Split Group 2: “The Art of Public Speaking”

Overview: Half of the Centurions went to the Charlotte Street Foundation capsule for a public speaking activity led by Jamelle Brown, head coach of the award-winning Sumner Academy Speech and Debate team.

Lessons Learned:

  • Debate deals more with argumentation, while forensics (more commonly referred to as “speech”) is more concerned with elements of effective public speaking.
  • Impromptu speaking is an event in which the competitor has seven minutes to devise and deliver a speech based on nothing more than a quotation.
  • Kansas and Missouri both have well-established teams and histories in both speech and debate.
Centurions Task Force - The Art of Public Speaking
Centurions Task Force - The Art of Public Speaking 2

Session Six

Rabbit Hole: “Art is Fine, but now it’s Party Time!”

Centurions Task Force - Rabbit Hole 1

Overview: A brief introduction from the co-founder Pete Cowdin gives way to a final act by the members of the December Task Force and the Holiday Social.

Centurions Task Force - Rabbit Hole 2