KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Black Archives of Mid-America and the American Jazz Museum – mainstays in the 18th and Vine District – have reopened with limited hours but still are struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"I think a lot of folks were kind of scrambling early on the onset of COVID to try to figure out how to stay relevant, to stay present, right and everyday lives of people," said Rashida Phillips, American Jazz Museum executive director.
Dr. Carmaletta Williams, executive director of the Black Archives of Mid-America said revenue from rental space is nonexistent, but what the organization stands for has an increased importance – to ensure that all elements of Black life are shared.
"You can't heal if you don't talk about it... You have to be honest about it. You have to be fair about it, and the Black Archives does that," Williams said.
Both organizations were among the nearly 500 applicants for a grant overseen by the Mid-America Arts Alliance, which is located in the heart of the Freighthouse District.
"Is it thinking strategically about reimagination of what the organization should be doing or could think about doing years beyond?" said Todd Stein, Mid-America Arts Alliance president and CEO.
This week, the alliance awarded more than $1.5 million to 27 cultural institutions within the six-state region.
The chosen organizations represent "under-resourced populations, communities and art forms."
The American Jazz Museum received $50,000; The Black Archives, $30,000; and InterUrban ArtHouse in Overland Park, $65,115.
The museum and the Black Archives both plan to use the money toward their staff and digitizing their collections.
For Phillips, those efforts will "open up the accessibility" of what the American Jazz Museum offers. And for Williams, it will show that "this isn't just wasted time."
"We're not just marking our place here. We're actually wanting to move the archives forward even in these terrible times," Williams said.
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