By Kevin Collison
The Mattie Rhodes Cultural Center is nearing the completion of a fundraising campaign to build a new facility on downtown’s Westside at 17th and Jarboe.
The $3.4 million endeavor will allow the 126 year-old Hispanic organization to consolidate and expand its classroom, meeting and gallery space, and provide more services to both the Hispanic community and the greater metropolitan area.
“This cultural arts center will become a permanent fixture in our community to preserve our Hispanic cultural heritage,” said John Fierro, president and CEO at Mattie Rhodes.
“The new building is need to respond to the need for services including arts-related programs for neighborhood kids, a place for professional artists to display their art and space for community gatherings.”
And it will provide a permanent home to showcase what’s described as the city’s only international folk art collection, the Hand-in-Hand Folk Art Collection established by Alice Ann Biggerstaff, a former Hallmark artist.
A coffee shop, gift shop and event rental space also are planned.
The 4,500 square-foot building will replace rented space occupied by Mattie Rhodes at 917 W. 17th St. and 906 Grand.
At this point, Mattie Rhodes has raised all but $400,000 needed for the project. Major donors include the Hall Family Foundation, Sunderland Foundation, Francis Family Foundation, Bloch Family Foundation and the City of Kansas City.
Fierro said the organization would like to begin environmental cleanup work at the site soon and have the entire project completed by the end of this year or early 2021. The contractor is McGownGordon, el dorado is the architect.
Jenny Mendez, the cultural arts director for Mattie Rhodes, said the new facility will provide a safe, creative place for the hundreds of children it serves. In 2015, the cultural center served 3,800 children.
The existing cultural center at 917 W. 17th is across the street from Primitivo Garcia Elementary School and Mendez said its students are frequent visitors for after-school arts programs.
“We pride ourselves on what we do culturally,” she said. “Schools beyond just Kansas City make the drive here for our Day of the Dead exhibit.”
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