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American Jazz Museum's new executive director talks financial status

American Jazz Museum
Posted at 5:37 AM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 08:49:56-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, is under the care of a new executive director.

"I'm excited to come back to Missouri, that's my home state," Rashida Phillips said. "I was born and raised in St. Louis, and really do the show me thing that we say that Missouri does is show everyone how outstanding we can be."

Coming from Chicago, she's been in her new position at the museum for just over a year.

"I have a high standard," Phillips said. "Coming from Chicago, a world-class city that really has a good mix of arts and culture along with sports and sort of the other entertainment industry. So I'd like to see that growth continue to happen here in Kansas City. I'm so excited that we have the Chiefs. You know, we have these sort of great sports offerings here with the Big 10 coming through or the Big 12. And so it's exciting just to have that energy and that feeling here, as well as the neighbor that we have in the Baseball League Museum which is a really exciting organization."

Phillips said that the museum being a Smithsonian affiliate lifts the museum to a higher level in terms of quality and the experience for visitors.

"So coming here and taking on the history, taking on Kansas City's identity, thinking about our placement in the narrative of jazz and also the special opportunity here in the middle of the country. I think it's a critical time that we really lift this organization up to sort of the place that it needs to be," Phillips said.

Phillips said the museum has come a long way from a 2018 report that showed low morale among staff, stale exhibits featuring dated technology and a lack of a clearly defined vision.

"We have completed quite a bit of those mandates that were put forward too," Phillips said. "We've hired in people that really have an expertise in what they're doing, preserving the artifacts looking at opportunities to grow."

Funding from the city has fluctuated over the last five years to help keep the museum open, anywhere between $550,000 to a $1 million a year.

"The city still remains a critical stakeholder for us so we're appreciative of all that support," Phillips said.

Right now, the museum is receiving $750,000 from the city, with possible cuts as the city looks to fix the $70 million deficit due to the pandemic.

The museum is also feeling the effects of COVID-19.

"We've got about 35% or so a population coming through here to visit us and that impacts our budget," Phillips explained.

While the pandemic and past years of financial troubles took the museum offbeat, Phillips is confident 2021 will be a different story.

"We know our money is not rolling 100% because things are down in terms of populations and people coming through here," Phillips said. "But our place is stable, and I can guarantee you that it's up from here so we're really excited."

For more information on the jazz museum, visit its website.