Kansas City Designated A 'Music City' By UNESCO

Nov 2, 2017

Kansas City's application for UNESCO designation focused on the city's jazz history and current music scene, particularly in the Wendell Phillips neighborhood, which includes the Mutual Musicians Foundation.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City is among more than 60 cities around the world that earned "Creative City" distinction from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on October 31. Along with cities in Cabo Verde, Chile, Czechia, India, Kazakhstan, Portugal, Sweden, Kansas City was recognized as a music city. 

UNESCO established the Creative Cities Network in 2004, as a way to "work together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level."

This network now includes 180 cities in 72 countries, highlighted for their contributions in crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature and music. 

"We know that Kansas City's jazz has had global impact, and this is now being recognized internationally," Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner said in a news release. 

The UNESCO application focused on Kansas City's jazz history and current music scene. The initiative was spearheaded by the Wendell Phillips neighborhood association, in coordination with jazz advocate Anita Dixon, and Jacob Wagner, director of urban studies and co-founder of the Center for Neighborhoods at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

"Kansas City is in transition, we are busting at the seams with creative ventures that promote a strong, vibrant, innovative and prosperous city," John James, president of Wendell Phillips, said in the release. 

But the distinction comes at an uncertain time for the United States' relationship with UNESCO. 

On October 12, the State Department announced the U.S. would withdraw from UNESCO due to "mounting arrears" as well as "continuing anti-Israel bias." Withdrawal from the organization is slated to take effect on December 31, 2018. 

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @lauraspencer.