09/26/2011 08:01 am ET Updated Nov 26, 2011

Returning to Kansas City

It was a special pleasure to return to Kansas City for the opening of the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity. I got my start as an arts manager 26 years ago at the Kansas City Ballet. My Artistic Director was Todd Bolender, a product of the early days of the New York City Ballet. Todd was the original Phlegmatic in Balanchine's "Four Temperaments" and the original Alias in "Billy the Kid." He passed away in 2006.

Todd was an artistic director with a remarkable eye for quality and an equally impressive sense of humor, especially in his choreography. He was a perfect teacher for me and a remarkable leader for the fledgling Kansas City Ballet.

Todd was always concerned that the community he served did not appreciate fully the level of ballet he was trying to bring to Kansas City. The wonderful dance building that has just been opened in his honor indicates he worried in vain.

What is especially exciting is that this new building has opened just weeks before the new Kaufman Center opens in Kansas City. This new Center will be the performing home for the Kansas City Ballet, its symphony and other performing groups.

At a time when most cities are reducing investment in the arts, how refreshing it is to be in Kansas City where the arts are flourishing.

(Parenthetically, I would caution that we must ensure that these new wonderful structures are filled with great art. In too many cities, construction of new arts centers attracts substantial funding while raising funds for operating these arts organizations and producing art is far more difficult. As a result, we have many beautiful arts centers around the nation that are simply not living up to their potential.)

But, I am hoping this is not going to be the case in Kansas City. I am hoping that those same donors who have been so generous in building these structures are going to value the work created within them. And I trust that the wonderful arts organizations here will develop work that attracts new audiences and donors. I hope Kansas City's theaters, museums, dance companies, symphony and chamber music ensembles can thrive, grow and develop the important, surprising art that brings local and national audiences as well as donors.

If so, Kansas City can become renowned for its cultural life and the way the arts are engrained in the life of the community. There are great benefits available to cities acknowledged to be great arts destinations: increases in national funding, tourism and access to the best artists to name just three. And when more money, both earned and contributed, flows into an arts ecology, it can create bigger, better more surprising art, and larger audiences and donor bases that support even more growth and financial stability. The payoff can be huge.

It would especially gratifying to me that the opening of the Bolender Center would be one important catalyst in achieving this scenario.

Todd, I know, would be especially pleased.