21st Century Arts

Q&A with Becky Blades

Becky Blades is a jack-of-all-trades. Currently the chairman of the board of directors for Arts KC (the organization formerly known as the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City), Blades is an entrepreneur, a management consultant, a writer and an artist herself, among other things. She’s started her own PR agency, a company providing tours of France, and another one importing French accessories. Most of all, she’s a stArtist—her term for someone who starts things creatively. We caught up with Blades to see what she’s got in store for Arts KC—and how she leans in without toppling over.

Spaces: How did you get involved in so many projects?

Becky Blades: I had a business for 13 years, a public relations firm called Blades and Associates. I sold that, but I stayed engaged with the firm as kind of a board member. Then I went home to my studio and my mixed-media art. I’ve always been a writer and a journaler. I did that in the public relations firm. I did ghostwriting, article writing and press-release writing. Then as the firm grew, I was more in management, and I didn’t get to write as much. So getting back to writing for pleasure was fun.

S: What led you to the Arts Council?

BB: When I sold my company, I was thinking about what my civic volunteerisms needed to be. I resigned from a lot of my civic boards and decided to focus on the thing that I felt like overlapped most with my interests and where I could contribute most. And that turned out to be the Arts Council.

Now there are lots of arts groups, but I felt like the Arts Council—Arts KC is what we’re calling the regional Arts Council now—is really the umbrella and convener of all the arts organizations in Kansas City. And I love that because it’s where everything is happening. It has big civic responsibility just like the Chamber of Commerce might for business. So Arts KC is important civically as a leader, convener, and an advocate for arts. It’s big enough that every artist, musician and gallery should be able to look to the council to be the advocate for what they’re doing.

S: What are your goals for Arts KC?

BB: We’re trying to look at the community and see what it needs. We know this vibrant arts community exists; we didn’t create it. It’s there, and it’s wonderful. The work of Arts KC is to represent it and also help make it meaningful for our city.

The mayor of Kansas City, Sly James, just did a cultural plan for the city. It’s called the Arts Convergence. They put out a report of what art can mean to the city. They have data of how much it impacts the city. Arts KC is taking the next step, doing that kind of analysis for the five-county area. We’re going to come up with a regional cultural plan that looks at the artistic riches of five counties (and also maybe the holes), how people engage in the arts and how we can improve that. With artistic education, for example, we might find out that one county has a great community arts program, but maybe another doesn’t. So we might figure out how can these two talk each other? Maybe it’s just publicizing things. Anything you do requires resources, but if you show people the opportunities, the money will come to address those needs. There are a lot of generous arts patrons in the city. But those donors want to know how their money can be deployed most efficiently.

S: What else do you have in the works?

BB: The big thing going on for me besides Arts KC is the publishing of my first book, Do Your Laundry or You Will Die Alone. The book has a lot of my art in it that I’ve done over the past several years. It started out as a letter that I sent to my daughter, and she challenged me to turn it into a book.

Becky Blades’ art is on view at the Leopold Gallery and beckybladesart.com. Do Your Laundry or You Will Die Alone, out last month, can be found at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, and on iBooks.

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