The L.M. Alcott Art Center or Alcott Arts Center as most know us was started in an effort to save a neighborhood school from becoming a minimum-security prison in 1999 in our mostly residential area. At the time our area was troubled with old abandoned truck stop buildings across the street from our school building and a less than desirable motel that rented rooms by the hour.
But our community needed some hope! The founders (a group of local neighbors who lived close to the building and some other local business people) were given an opportunity to help create a positive environment in our own neighborhood. The Board of Education agreed to sell the building to an area NBR, the Central Avenue Betterment Association. This group had the building a little over a year when the original neighborhood people who petitioned the BOE to stop the sell to the prison were called upon to come back and help define a direction for this historic old school building. Our building first opened in 1923 as the Louisa May Alcott Grade School, serving the Kansas City, Kansas public school system in that capacity until 1976.
We joined in and organized a fact finding committee to make sure that what ever was in the school would be something positive and that it would benefit a large variety of people and bring opportunities to the local KCK area, as well as preserve our wonderful old building. Our committee after a few months of searching for the best solution decided on the concept of something different for our area altogether, an Arts Center.
The Alcott Arts Center was designated as an Arts only facility in October of 2001.
The Central Avenue Betterment Association in 2002 decided to sell the building to the steering committee and move back to the Central Avenue area. The committee filed for state not for profit incorporation (approved in March of 2002) and has been known formally as the L.M. Alcott Art Center Foundation ever since.
LMAACF Is a non-profit 501(c) (3), 509(a) (2) Public Charity dedicated to the appreciation, understanding, and production of the arts, with an emphasis on exploring and sharing the cultural diversity within our community.
We have been in existence now for sixteen years as a self sustaining Arts Foundation. We have awarded grants and scholarships, taught classes in several areas of the Arts, curated over three hundred Art Exhibits and produced several plays at the Alcott Arts Center. We have partnered with several groups at public functions and even been involved with national Arts programs including the National Endowment of the Arts' "the Big Read" program.
Alcott has become a regional Arts Organization with interaction of Artists, Actors, teachers and sponsors from all over the area and country. It has been a unique challenge to start something from scratch but it has been a great experience to be thrown into the world of the Arts in this endeavor.
The area has since changed from the old scary rundown place to something we can all be proud of. The city has given much needed attention to the blight and brought economic redevelopment our way. The run down buildings and motel are gone, replaced by a multi-million dollar retail development. It is nice after enduring years of things the other way to be able to drive up the street and see people get out of their vehicle not afraid to move around the area freely.
While we are sure that the city did not bring the improvements because of the Alcott Arts Center 's existence, we are hopeful they saw that we were a benefit to the greater community and that if we could make it work here, then they could too.
We are looking forward to a great future knowing that we are making life a little better for some and a lot better for many. The first time Artist's and performers that have been given the Artistic opportunities though Alcott has been the biggest blessing. Maybe, just maybe they will go on to be a world renowned Artist, and to think it would all have been made possible because people wanted to take ownership of their neighborhood and work hard to make sure something positive happened. Oh and by the way not only is The LMAACF self-sustaining (due to memberships, donations, fundraisers, sponsors and our programs) but it has been operated and ran by unpaid/volunteer staff for all of the sixteen years in service. There have been well over 40,500 hours of donated time given to this unique organization.