Alcott director invites public to Saturday’s opening, ‘possibly for the last time’

The Alcott Arts Center, 180 S. 18th, will open its 18th season on Saturday, but the executive director says there is a proposal to tear it down and build a convenience store on the site as part of a light industrial development. (File photo)

As the Alcott Arts Center at 180 S. 18th St. kicks off its 18th season on Saturday, a bittersweet message was sent out by executive director Chris Green.

“This may be the year that we have to say goodbye to KCK,” Green wrote. “But we don’t want to go; the whole reason we are here is because we wanted to save the building, do good things for our neighbors and be a positive influence in what was then a negative environment. We have been doing just that since 2001. We would love to see our wonderful building restored so we can keep offering artistic opportunities right where we are.”

Green said a light industrial development proposal that had been turned down previously for the Indian Springs property now is seeking to develop the land at the Alcott Arts Center and around it. Some of the neighbors are for it, while some are against it, she said. She would like to save the Alcott building, she added.

The proposed development would tear down the old Alcott Elementary School, now the Alcott Arts Center, and build a convenience store on the site, she said. The larger portion of the industrial buildings would be built on land nearby. The proposal is still in the early stages, she added.

It is a challenging time for Green, as the proposal would take both the land for the Alcott Center as well as her nearby home. It also is difficult for her since her center’s motto is “Everything Positive – Nothing Negative.”

“Our whole purpose of getting the building and starting the nonprofit was to save the building, in the first place,” Green said.

She said if they have to leave, they would still want to do art, but they would have to go where they are needed and wanted. She is hoping the Alcott Arts Center can stay open where it is.

The Alcott school was built in 1923 and was converted into the Alcott Arts Center around 2001. The center includes art galleries, a theater and space for arts and crafts classes.

Green said that currently, the Alcott Arts Center is on 18th Street, which is also Highway 69. Across 18th is the Prescott Plaza, which includes a grocery store and retail stores. I-70 is to the south. To the west are several blocks of land, then City Park.

While there doesn’t appear to be industries immediately around Alcott Arts Center at the present time, the center is about 2 miles or so north of Kansas Avenue and the old Procter and Gamble plant, where there is an industrial district. I-70 and train tracks separate the areas.

On Friday, Green was getting the Alcott Center ready for Saturday’s opening art exhibit and also for a gallery dedication.

One gallery will be named the Cecil Mashburn Gallery at 5 p.m. Saturday in honor of a student from Alcott Elementary School in the 1940s who became an artist. Two of Mashburn’s pictures will be on display. Mashburn has done a portrait of Louisa May Alcott, the namesake of the school, for the arts center.

According to Green, Mashburn got interested in art when he was asked by the Alcott principal to draw a cardinal. That started an interest in art that continued throughout his life. A reception will follow at 5:30 p.m.

In the new Mashburn Gallery on Saturday will be works by Kayla Wortman, a senior at Washington High School, Green said.

Wortman will display artwork that shows her growth as an artist from an early age, to her current work. Pencil drawings and paintings are among her works on display.

In the Harrison Gallery, works by Shane Yazzo’s gifted program in the Kansas City, Kansas, middle schools will be presented.

This year, the students have worked on a three-piece project from concept to final product.

Planned are a presentation by Casey Crockett on his Boy Scout project, as well as a monologue adaptation of “Beowolf” by Bennett Addink and performances by selected students.

Also on display will be entries from the Kansas PTA “Reflections” program, “Heroes Among Us,” from area schools. The exhibit will run through May 4.

The galleries are open every Saturday and Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Alcott Arts Center also is planning art exhibits through the year, along with musical performances and the annual Shakespeare production in September.

The Alcott Arts Center is not handicapped accessible. For more information, visit www.alcottartscenter.org or call 913-233-2787.

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