As The Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey approached its 30th anniversary this year it sought out Michael Kaiser, a leading arts-management consultant and the current President of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The goal: to position the organization as a model to other cities for overcoming cultural and social segregation.
Michael Kaiser spoke with Steve Kraske, host of Up to Date.
On his history with Alvin Ailey:
"Well, I first met Alvin Ailey when I lived in Kansas City in 1985. The Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey had just begun the year before and I was running the Kansas City Ballet, and I got to know Alvin. And we started to do some joint projects, and then I was lucky enough to be asked to be their Executive Director in 1991 which I did for three years. So, I’ve had about 29 years of life with the Ailey Company."
The vision for The Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey:
"The Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey is a unique organization in that it brings the Ailey company to Kansas City, it teaches dance to children and it does something very, very special which is it unites people of all backgrounds and that’s been a very important part of what this organization does and it is unique in the country. And I want people to know about them and I want them to have bigger presence in Kansas City so that it’s easier for them to gather support and achieve their mission in a more profound way. "
Making the vision a reality:
"We needed a plan and we spent the last six months writing a plan together, the Board, the staff, and myself The Board approved the plan late last year. One of the first parts of the plan was to find a major gift to support our ideas and we were so fortunate today to announce that the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation gave a $375,000 challenge grant to The Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey. So we’re really on track to really build the level of accomplishment and the level of activity of The Kansas City Friends."
On the changes to the arts scene in Kansas City from when he was here 29 years ago:
"The arts in Kansas City are so vibrant but the whole city is vibrant. and you get a sense of a city that’s really moving and moving in a positive way . . . it’s great for a city to move ahead economically and artistically but if we don’t unite people together, if we don’t bring together people who aren’t used to sitting at the same table together, then we’re not really going to have as great a city as we could and that’s what the Kansas City Friends does."
Listen to the extended interview with Michael Kaiser here.