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Arts community in Kansas City area still recovering after pandemic slowdown

Performance Art
Posted at 10:48 PM, Aug 28, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Local performers in the KC arts scene are still waiting for their second act.

Many voices in the industry say they're seeing smaller audiences compared to those before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recovery for the arts community has taken a winding path full of ups, downs, and plateaus.

Lydia Knopp, the Board President of City in Motion Dance Theater, says it's been tough.

"It has been an uphill journey, but it's also been something where we've learned to do things differently," she said.

COVID-19 was extremely hard on the arts. Live performances were the first to close and the last to open.

"We struggled," Knopp said. “If you could imagine trying to do a tap class on like a virtual ZOOM call, it doesn’t work very well and so for the last few years we did a lot of trial and error.”

She says performances of all kinds aren't back in full swing.

Sarah VanLanduyt, Executive Director of the Arts Council of Johnson County, says it's led to a lot of changes and forced a lot of adaptation.

"It’s been kind of a challenge I think to regain those audiences, to get people comfortable and used to going back out to places to see live artistic performances," she said.

Those changes haven't been easy on anyone.

But they agree the small silver lining is the forced evolution might bode well for the future.

"We're not all the way back, but like obviously we're seeing that need and that desire and I think that's where the organization is going to go, is where the need is," Knopp said.

It's led to changes like opening a new location where there hasn't been performances and searching for partnerships to keep shows affordable or free.

“I think we see the influx of people and support now that saw that we survived and want to keep us thriving," Knopp said. "Now we’re somehow split into two locations and it’s working. And so I think what that has shown us is that Kansas City will support the arts no matter where you are. And sometimes the arts needs to go where they are maybe more scarce or not as available.”

Part of City in Motion Dance Theater's recovery is coming up with its 24th Dance in the Park show.

The performance will be held September 9 at Roanoke Park in KCMO.

Admission is free.