Kansas City, Missouri is a UNESCO City of Music and a member of UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Click here to learn about the founding of UNESCO and the United Nations Charter.

Kansas City received the UNESCO City of Music designation in 2017 and remains the only UNESCO City of Music in the United States.

In November 2017, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, became a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities
Network (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and was designated the first and only Creative City of Music in the U.S. On November 6, 2017, Ms. Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), informed the City of Kansas City, Missouri that the City’s application to be recognized as a UNESCO Creative City of Music was accepted.

Here is a summary of information about KC’s membership in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN).

How did Kansas City become a City of Music?
Anita Dixon-Brown, local historian, prepared the UCCN application in 2017 on behalf of KC. Ms. Dixon-Brown worked with Dr. Jacob Wagner, Associate Professor of Urban Planning + Design, and students in UMKC’s UPD Program on a plan to connect preservation efforts at 18th and Vine with UNESCO’s platform. John James, President of the Wendell Phillips Neighborhood Association,
supported the UNESCO application.

What is the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN)?
The UCCN was created in 2004 to promote cooperation among cities that have identified creativity as a driver of sustainable urban development. The Network covers seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music. There are 295 member cities that form the UCCN within 90 countries.

Nine cities in the United States are member cities in the UCCN.

What is Creative City KC Inc.?
Creative City KC Inc. is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization that was created to sustain its designation in the UCCN. The Creative City KC Inc. team currently includes Anita Dixon-Brown, Executive Director; Kathryn Persley, President of the Heart of the City Neighborhood Association; Bukeka Blakemore, Recording Artist and Entrepreneur; Dr. Jacob Wagner; and Anna Marie Tutera, Executive Director of the Kansas City Museum.

What has UCCN-KC done over the past five years?
Kansas City is a recognized leader internationally. In 2022, the Kansas City team was invited to present The Voyage of the Drum on stage at the annual meeting of the UCCN in Santos, Brazil. The past five years have been filled with dynamic local and international programming representing Kansas City on a global scale. Highlights include:

• Creative City KC presented The Voyage of the Drum at the 2019 Annual Meeting in Fabriano, Italy.
• Kansas City was invited to attend the 2020 meeting of the UCCN, Spanish Cities, hosted by Burgos, Spain, (Gastronomy). The Voyage of the Drum was presented.
• Kansas City led the UCCN global project, The Voyage of the Drum, with 19 UCCN cities. This project promoted the International Decade of People of African Descent, 2014-2024.
• We.R.Culture 2020: a response by the UCCN Cities of Music to the shutdown of the live music scene in cities globally, impact on musicians, and efforts to engage music as a strategy for recovery from COVID19.
• Make Music Day/ Fête de la Musique: in-person music festivals in partnership with the Heart of the City
Neighborhood Association in Historic Dunbar and KC Parks and Recreation for the past three years.
• Joshua Nelson “Kosher Gospel,” a celebration of Jewish and African American musical cultures promoting “Not Long Ago, Not Far Away,” Auschwitz traveling memorial exhibition. Partners included the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, the Jewish Community Fund and Union Station.
• Participated in the UNESCO Future Literacies Lab with Heidelberg, Germany; Nottingham, England; and Montevideo, Uruguay; focused on the future of safe public spaces for LGBTQ+ Youth. This work was supported by members of Kansas City’s LGBTQ+ commission and community, including Justin Short, Carl Stafford, and Paul Gutiérrez, Director of Visitor Experience and Public Programming at the Kansas City Museum.

Bill Summers and Forward Back performed at Make Music Day in Dubar Park
on June 21, 2022.

Click here to view the four-year report of the programs and initiatives UNESCO Creative City KC has produced from 2017-2021.

What’s Ahead in 2023?
Creative City KC is building an economic development plan in the city’s urban core, which will include a strong global component and connect countries with similar genres. In December 2022, Kansas City Missouri’s City Council, sponsored by Councilwoman Melissa Robinson, directed the City Manager to develop a funding plan to designate approximately $425,000, subject to appropriation, to support the city’s membership in the UCCN, and to implement Creative City KC’s Music Economic Development Strategy.

What is a Music Strategy?
Music is an industry and economic activity that lacks a coherent system of support in Kansas City. While the city is blessed with a great musical heritage, music venues and festivals, these assets are rarely coordinated and engaged as an economic development strategy. Kansas City needs a strategy.

In January 2023, four jazz musicians from Kansas City are performing in Frutillar, Chile, at the annual Semanas Musicales festival. Frutillar is a City of Music. Musicians Amber Underwood, Angela Ward, Paula Saunders-Lewis and Aryana Nemati will represent KC and the U.S., which fulfills Sustainable Development Goal #5 for gender equality.

How is Kansas City Museum Supporting the Creative City of Music Designation?

As the City’s history museum, the Kansas City Museum has been a key program partner to the City and Creative City KC since the designation in 2017. Music plays a prominent role in Kansas City’s history and cultural heritage, and the Kansas City Museum has been designed to offer performances and concerts featuring Kansas City-based musicians and performing artists. Over the past several years, Kansas City Museum staff have participated in conversations and initiatives with UNESCO Creative Cities internationally. Programs, meetings, and recordings have taken place at the Museum to advance and promote Kansas City as a City of Music. In addition, UMKC’s Center for Neighborhoods and UNESCO Creative City KC are the primary partners for developing the exhibit concept and content for A Cultural & Community Restoration gallery on the third floor of Corinthian Hall. Cultural institutions and museums are important partners for UNESCO Creative Cities, and the Kansas City Museum is proud to be involved in supporting Kansas City as a City of Music and encourages more museums to get involved.

How can Organizations Partner?

Creative City KC welcomes the participation of program partners to collaborate and create together to promote and advance Kansas City as a City of Music. Since the designation in 2017, Creative City KC has worked with the City of Kansas City, Missouri to welcome and invite museums, libraries, cultural institutions, community-based nonprofits, neighborhood initiatives, preservation projects, chambers of commerce, schools, universities, etc. to learn more about the UNESCO designation and support Kansas City by getting involved. Efforts to host learning sessions and partnership convenings are ongoing.

How to Get Involved
Interested in supporting Creative City KC and becoming a partner in programming? Contact Bukeka Blakemore at bukekablakemore@gmail.com or Dr. Jacob Wagner at wagnerjaco@umkc.edu.

Lee Langston, Bukeka Blakemore, Bryan Alford, and Odell Talley are Kansas City-based gospel ambassadors who participated in a musical performance in 2018 in
San Cristóbal de las Casas for a creative and cultural exchange between UNESCO Creative Cities of San Cristóbal de las Cruces, Mexico (Crafts and Folk Art) and
Kansas City, Missouri (Music).