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But information on the wider arts scene shows that local creativity does generate revenue.
In 2005, the national Americans for the Arts organization, in partnership with the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City, conducted a study and found that area arts and cultural organizations pump more than $279 million into the area's economy each year. The survey didn't include entertainment events such as David Bowie at Starlight Theatre or a rock show in Westport, but it did shed light on the local culture, where art and music often coexist.
"Popular musical culture is an important part of any major urban scene," says Paul Tyler, the Arts Council's grants director.
Based on the most recent census data available, from 2000, Tyler says area artists earned $160 million in total individual revenue and $400 million in household revenue.The amount made by "musicians and composers," as the U.S. Census Bureau designates them, is just a part of that.But by looking at artists' revenues, Tyler points out, "You get an idea of the impact of artists' economic contributions."
Kansas City likes to boast of its musical heritage.
But it does little to help the living souls who keep the town rocking.
In 2001, columnist Steve Penn of The Kansas City Star founded the Coda Fund, to raise money for funeral and burial expenses of career jazz musicians. Penn tells The Pitch that he plans to start doing more to help living jazz musicians; Coda's October 11 Health and Financial Fitness Fair, which offered free medical screenings and financial consultations, is one example.
But what if KC were known, right alongside the Crescent City and the Live Music Capital of the World, as a place that really takes care of its hometown musicians?
Heather Cave, artist and musician — cervical cancer.
Kirk Rundstrom, musician — esophageal cancer. (Died in 2007.)
Billy Brimblecom, drummer — cancer: Ewing's sarcoma. Left leg amputated below the knee.
Glen Hockemeier, former Gaslights drummer — carpal tunnel syndrome.
Johnny Hammil, bassist. Injured in a fall from a ladder.
They're just a handful of local musicians with varying degrees of health insurance — from minimal to none — who have appeared in The Pitch's pages since the last presidential election.
George Bush and John Kerry talked about fixing the nation's health-care crisis back then, too. Nothing changed. And the number that politicians quote in speeches has gone from 45 million uninsured to 47 million.
Meck and Henderson live together in a small, quaint rental house in Waldo. Covered in dark, wood-shingle siding, the place is a virtual cottage among old trees and bigger homes. It's a rainy afternoon less than three weeks until the election, and MSNBC — "feel-good news for liberals," Henderson calls it — is on the TV.
The Pitch goes to press on Tuesday afternoons — in the case of this particular issue, in the middle of Election Day. As we send the paper to the printer, we have no idea who will win.
The two presidential candidates' health plans are radically different. While Barack Obama wants to use various methods to insure everyone, John McCain's tax-break-based plan would benefit mainly the young, the healthy and the already insured. Under McCain's plan, it might be hard for people like Henderson, Heather Cave, Billy Brimblecom and anyone else with "pre-existing conditions" to get affordable insurance.