Northeast News | Mattie Rhodes plans fall completion of Westside Cultural Arts Center


This week, KC Hispanic News translated some of our stories into Spanish for our Hispanic readers. To read these stories in Spanish, please pick up a copy of our journal.

Corbin Smith
Editorial assistant

Providing opportunities for people of all ages in the historic northeastern community has been a cornerstone of the Mattie Rhodes Center mission. Now, with a new cultural arts center in Kansas City’s Westside, Mattie Rhodes aims to open a bigger door for residents.

By November, Mattie Rhodes plans to have her new center built at 1701 Jarboe St., down the street from her current art center. This ceramic center and studio will remain at 715 W. 17th St., while the new building will serve as an educational programming space, art gallery and event space.

Mattie Rhodes, President and CEO John Fierro, explained that the creation of the new center is an extension of a goal started in the 1970s. The organization began helping students when the high school dropout rate for Hispanic students exceeded 50%. Now, the organization is focused on preserving Hispanic culture and education.

“We used the visual arts as an extracurricular tool to keep children engaged, safe and to help them prepare for school,” said Fierro. “We used it as a recreational tool to give kids the opportunity to express themselves, have fun, meet new friends, and over time, what started as a craft center in a former garage became an independent one-house art center, and it evolved into a community art gallery.

Fierro said the same gallery has grown too big and has outlived many galleries that started over 20 years ago and were highlighted during Kansas City’s First Friday celebrations. With the continued evolution of the art center and the growth of the gallery, Mattie Rhodes needed a new home.

“We really want to use the space for the community to come together,” said Jenny Mendez, director of cultural arts Mattie Rhodes. “We want to offer it to outside groups for maybe their own workshop, maybe even a place where a baptismal reception would be, or a family event could take place like a weekend where we don’t have a. programming.”

Mendez said the organization wanted a new secure home for the gallery’s exhibits and events rather than having to rent space to operate. One exhibit she highlighted was the 1,500-piece Hand-in-Hand folk art collection.

The organization is targeting a multi-purpose brick-and-mortar building that has the capacity to handle new demands, as well as original programming that took place before the new location existed.

“When it comes to our educational programming, we want to continue what we’re doing, but in a broader form,” Mendez said. “We want to be able to bring in artists from out of town. We want to be able to do workshops that really relate to the art theme this month. “

Located between Primitivo Garcia Primary School and a residential neighborhood, the new arts center will be in the middle of its target community both literally and figuratively. Mendez said the organization wants the neighborhood to feel like the center is theirs.

“You know we have a great day of the dead [celebration] already, so that’s going to allow us to do more, ”Mendez said. “We can really use the space in a different way and invite more people to be a part of it. We can truly have a beautiful building that we can share with so many others in our community.

So far, Mattie Rhodes has raised $ 3.1 million to start construction and cover costs, although he does not know the total amount required for the new building. The city of Kansas City, Missouri, the Bank of America Charitable Trust, and a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) provided a combined amount of nearly $ 1.1 million. These contributions enabled Mattie Rhodes to obtain funding from local private foundations.

Additionally, Mattie Rhodes applied for funding from the Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC) to repair the crumbling remains of a sidewalk surrounding the land.

The new building means a lot to Fierro as it is a way of signifying that Mattie Rhodes will stay in the Westside neighborhood.

“I want this place to be a destination in the Westside neighborhood for camaraderie, to showcase artists and to build community,” said Fierro. “I encourage anyone to contact the Mattie Rhodes Center. Learn more about us and find ways to partner and collaborate with you, because that’s our reason for being. We aim to meet the needs of the community and to do so in collaboration with individuals and others.





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