Folk Alliance Welcomed to New Crossroads Digs

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Aengus Finnan, executive director of the Folk Alliance International, welcomes guests to the opening of the organization's new headquarters.

By Kevin Collison

The Folk Alliance dedicated its new home in the Crossroads Arts District Thursday and the international music organization was welcomed by Mayor Sly James for its contribution to Kansas City’s cultural scene.

“We appreciate the rich artistic and cultural history of this city,” the mayor said. “One of the great things to happen is the Folk Alliance.”

The Folk Alliance International relocated to Kansas City from Memphis in 2013.

It left its former quarters in the River Market about six weeks ago and is now in space on the street level of the new Crossroads Westside apartment development at 601 Avenida Cesar E. Chavez.

Aengus Finnan, executive director, said the Folk Alliance wanted to be closer to other arts organizations in the Crossroads including ArtsKC and the Mid-America Arts Alliance, and be part of the vibrant Crossroads art scene.

“It can’t be overstated how the renaissance of this city was a draw for the Folk Alliance to come here,” Finnan said.

Mayor Sly James joined Folk Alliance staff in cutting the ribbon to their new headquarters in the Crossroads.

Cityscape Residential, the developer of the apartment project, was looking for a tenant that would enliven the 2,400 square-foot space.

The two were introduced by well-known Crossroads real estate veterans Suzie Aron and Debbie Aron Williamson of Aron Real Estate.

Folk Alliance reached a seven-year lease agreement with Cityscape to apply what it would normally pay in rent to provide programming in the space. The office renovation was designed by Helix Architecture + Design.

The organization already has had concerts in the space at two First Fridays, John Keck on Oct. 5 and Enrique Chi on Nov. 2.

The next First Friday performance will be Rural Grit Jubilee on Dec. 7. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., the first show will be a 6 p.m., the second at 7:30 p.m.

“From the time we arrived six years ago, your Kansas City community has embraced us,” said Deana McCloud, a member of the Folk Alliance board and executive director of the Woodie Guthrie Center in Tulsa.

“We couldn’t be prouder than to call Kansas City our home.”

The Folk Alliance promotes folk music and the folk music industry around the world and its board members come from throughout the U.S. as well as Ottawa, Canada and London, England. It was founded in 1989 and has 3,000 members.

Enrique Chi of the band Making Movies performed at the new Folk Alliance space the First Friday in November. (Photo by Marisa Kolka)

The Kansas City headquarters employs eight full-time people and four paid interns, but its biggest financial contribution has been its annual international conference.

The event draws thousands of musicians, industry professionals and music fans to the city and contributes an estimated $5 million in economic activity.

The conference has been held in Kansas City at the Sheraton and Westin hotels at Crown Center since the Folk Alliance relocated here in 2013. It will be out-of-town next year and in 2020, but will return in 2021, 2022 and 2024.

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