Browsing Community Outreach

Elevating Arts Education for Kansas City Kids

For those of us that grew up with the arts integrated into our upbringing, it’s hard to imagine a childhood without them. But as public funding for arts programs and education continues to diminish, missing out on this invaluable experience is becoming a reality for many children. Helix has a long history of supporting the arts, holding tightly to our belief that arts education produces a valuable social and economic impact within the local community.

KCYA-sm-4355Over the past year, Helix has had the opportunity to work with two such organizations whose work is dedicated to ensuring the arts are accessible to all. They are the Kansas City Young Audiences (KCYA), the largest provider of arts programs in the Kansas City area and Academy for Integrated Arts (AFIA), an arts-centered K-6 charter school. Both chose sites where existing facilities were adapted, allowing them to reach even more kids.

Kansas City Young Audiences

KCYA began by purchasing their first permanent home in Midtown. The building, originally constructed in 1997, was the site of a large box retailer and is located along the Main Street redevelopment. The design team worked with them to develop a concept featuring a variety of flexible spaces to grow with the organization. KCYA hosts various visual and performing arts activities, as well as classes for children. Constructed by McCownGordon Construction, key spaces include two dance studios, a stage and event space, classrooms for music and the fine arts, an art gallery, administration offices with a boardroom and a marketable tenant space.

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AFIA found a new home in an unexpected location – the former King Louie East bowling alley. Vacant for 10 years, the building had substantially deteriorated, and AFIA was sure they would have to demolish it. However, our team was able to develop a plan to renovate the existing building, greatly reducing costs. We worked closely with teachers, administrators and the school’s board of directors to create a space that integrates the arts and technology into curriculum and everyday activities. Their new building is part of the Troost redevelopment, located at 79th & Troost Avenue.

AFIA Classroom

The project better equips AFIA to meet the needs of their students. The new space has allowed enrollment to grow from 120 to 170, and a second phase addition is already underway with the goal of expanding to 350 students. Helix and JE Dunn met the school’s a fast-track schedule, so they could be moved in at the beginning of the 2016 school year.

AFIA Classroom

According to Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning, researchers found “sustained learning” in music and theater correlates to greater success in math and reading. Additionally, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds had the greatest benefit. In fact, KCYA shared those who participated in the arts were four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair. Despite the strong connection, a 2011 survey by Common Core and FarkasDuffett Research Group reported 66 percent of teachers surveyed said curriculum is moving away from art, music, foreign language and social studies.

Organizations like AFIA and KCYA are working to shift this trend by bringing arts education to Kansas City. Sparking creativity and innovation, non-profits like these are able to thrive through the support of volunteer boards and donors. Learn how you can support KCYA here or get involved with AFIA by donating supplies or volunteering.  

Photos of KCYA by Bob Greenspan. Photos of AFIA provided by JE Dunn.


Kansas City Police Department Builds Community Through New Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

The Leon Mercer Jordan Campus, located at the corner of 27th and Prospect, serves as so much more than the East Patrol Division Station for Kansas City Police Department and the new Regional Crime Lab. The new campus, completed in spring 2016, is already having an impact for neighboring citizens by integrating spaces that foster relationships between KCPD and residents.

Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

The campus represents an unprecedented investment in the Third District of Kansas City, Missouri, which since it’s opening has encouraged further development in the neighborhood and made a difference in the lives of many. The East Patrol Division Station houses a large community room, computer access lab and gymnasium specifically designed for public use – the vision of Police Chief Darryl Forté.

“It’s not just a police station. It’s a place where people can gather — where they can do homework, play a game of basketball or have a neighborhood meeting in a safe and supportive environment.” Chief Forté told the Kansas City Star.

For one youth basketball team, that meant a dream come true. The team of 8th graders were able to move from an outdated half-court practice space into a brand new facility (not to mention a full-court all to themselves!) The community room is already being used in so many ways, most recently book club meetings and a veteran breakfast.

Gymnasium at Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

East Patrol Art in ArchitectureLeft: Sculpture by Des Moines, IA artist David Dahlquist features pottery thrown by local youths. Volunteers from the Kansas City Art Institute and the KC Clay Guild assisted the teens in creating the large thrown bowls. Right: “Community Dignity” glazed brick art installation by Sonie Joi Thompson-Ruffin.

The design also incorporated several art pieces, two of which are located at the entrances of both the East Patrol Division Station and the Crime Lab facilities. The installations are architectural interpretations of artwork created by local artist Sonie Joi Thompson-Ruffin. The pieces, called Community Dignity (shown above right) and iNeema (located on the Crime Lab building), are inspired by American and African culture. Helix worked with Mrs. Ruffin to incorporate her art into the detailing of two glazed masonry feature walls, creating a visual of “quilts” on the front porches of these two campus buildings.

The large stand-alone piece outside the main public entrance of East Patrol Division Station is a result of Kansas City’s One Percent for Art program; artist David Dahlquist involved local youths and neighbors in its creation (shown above left).

“It’s asking the community to be invested in it,” artist David Dahlquist said in a press release put out by ArtsTech – a nonprofit organization dedicated to bettering young people through arts and technical education. “The piece is about something peaceful, contemplative.”

20160425-dougherty-076-eastpatrol-sAbove: Large community room features a wooden wall made from trees harvested on the site of the building; the opposite wall displays a timeline highlighting the history of African-American police officers. The exhibit was designed by Dimensional Innovations.

Above: The public computer room is open to local schoolchildren, families and community members without internet access or computers at home. The lab features artwork by ArtsTech’s Aaron Sutton. Above: The public computer room is open to local schoolchildren, families and community members without internet access or computers at home. The lab features artwork by ArtsTech’s Aaron Sutton.

The new campus is anticipated to be a redevelopment catalyst for the Prospect Avenue Corridor and its surrounding neighborhoods. City Architect Eric Bosch said this unprecedented investment in the Third District of Kansas City and this neighborhood has already been reflected positively in other recent projects in the community area.

“The city is already working on a new grocery store just seven or eight blocks away, which the neighborhood never really had before,” Bosch stated in a post on KCPD’s SaferKC blog. “They’re also putting in an express bus line going right in front of the station, which will allow more connectivity to other public transportation throughout the city. The church next door to us is also expanding through the development of a community center, and it’s the timing of our facility that made that happen.”

KCPD Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

Another key aspect of the project is the way it improves efficiency for everyone who will use the facility, including police officers, employees and the general public.

“The old station was too small and the layout did not allow for the most effective operation,” Major Sharon Laningham, Construction Division of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department said on SaferKC.com. “We learned from nearly 20 years of experience of how police stations work. The new station is more efficient, officers move through their routines quickly and get out on the street faster. 

The state-of-the-art Regional Crime Lab and the Property Evidence Depository were meticulously programmed to allow for a more efficient working environment for lab teams and other crime lab staff too. The new Crime Lab, a collaboration between Helix and Wellner Architects, is also better located to collect crime scene evidence and be in closer proximity to the Courts, saving time and money for the KCPD. 

KCPD Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

“By combining several critical capital improvement projects on one campus, we achieve economies of scale and use the Public Safety Sales Tax dollars in the most prudent way possible,” said former Colonel Jerry Gallagher of the Kansas City Police Department.

The project is considered a successful model for achieving and exceeding the city’s goals for minority business participation throughout the planning, design and construction process. Helix along with the City of Kansas City, Missouri and joint venture contractors JE Dunn and Alexander Mechanical, were proud to exceed the minority business enterprise (MBE) and women business enterprise (WBE) goals.

The project surpassed these goals, achieving to date:

  • MBE/WBE participation for professional service contracts = 40%
  • MBE/WBE participation for construction services = 30%
  • Section 3 participation for construction services = 16.6%
  • Overall MBE/WBE/Section 3 participation on the East Patrol Crime Lab = more than 52%
  • Overall Section 3 New Hires = 101

 

It’s clear to see the significance of this project by the amount of recognition it’s receiving – a KCBJ Capstone Award and an EDC Cornerstone Award.

All photography by Aaron Dougherty.


What is Your Creative Spark?

On Friday night, Helix hosted the design debut of Kansas City Young Audiences‘ new location in Midtown Kansas City. The evening featured good food, great friends and performances from the true inspiration behind the project – the talented KCYA students. These young artists filled our office with music and covered our whiteboards with murals, demonstrating first hand the impact that KCYA has had in shaping their creative spirit.

KCYA

As an organization that has an unwavering commitment to arts education, KCYA believes that every child deserves the creative spark that the arts ignite – we couldn’t agree more. For fun, we asked guests (kids and adults, alike) to share their own creative spark that inspired their passion for the arts. The responses ranged from people, to places and experiences.

“My grandma – the very best storyteller ever!”

“I played the brown cow in the first grade play and fell in love with performing”

“My father who showed me how to build, construct and schedule with Legos, then wood tree houses, then houses”

“Dancing in my underwear to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture as a toddler”

“My elementary school art teacher, who is still one of my greatest inspirations.”

“I saw the Wizard of Oz at Starlight when I was 6 and knew that I wanted to be on stage”

We are unbelievably proud that the building we are designing will help KCYA expand their programming and their reach so that they can nurture the creative spark in even more children throughout Kansas City.

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KCYA  purchased and will be renovating the building at 3732 Main Street in the heart of Midtown Kansas City to be the organization’s first permanent home in its 55 years in operation. The building’s location offers increased visibility, a central location for youths across the metro and the opportunity to build upon the continued revitalization happening along Main Street.

“Our new location will enable us to further our mission of providing transformational arts experiences to children from across the city, particularly children in the urban community” said Qiana Thomason, KCYA Board President.

Design

The design for the 18,000 sq. ft. space was on display for guests at Friday’s event. It features a flexible interior environment that will serve the educational, workplace, event and performance functions of the organization. The new space will include dance studios, a multi-purpose classroom for art and theatre classes, a mixed-use performance and event space as well as offices for the staff.

“Purchasing a new home for KCYA is very exciting, but more importantly this new home will allow us to engage more children in the arts, providing them with opportunities to discover new ways of seeing things and expressing themselves. We are looking forward to the day when our home is filled with children singing, dancing, acting, drawing and creating,” said Martin English, KCYA Executive Director.

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Construction is anticipated to begin in July and KCYA will move into the new space by the end of 2016. The first acting, dance and music classes will begin in early 2017.  McCown Gordon Construction is providing construction management services.

The Kansas City Star and KCUR recently published great articles on the project and we look forward to sharing updates on this transformative project as it moves forward.

More information on KCYA and their mission to engage all youth in the arts, promote creativity, and inspire success in education can be found on their website.


Kansas City Design Week 2016 | April 7 – 16

Thursday kicks off Kansas City Design Week 2016! Get ready to experience everything from the Design Olympics to lectures on creative failure. We got the inside scoop from Helix’s own Sam Loring, AIA, who is co-chair of the event for the second year in a row.

Sam Loring, Co-Chair of KC Design Week

“Design Week is about celebrating all things design in Kansas City. It showcases our incredible local design talent, allows designers in different professions to meet each other and experience various design viewpoints – all in a fun, festive atmosphere!”

The week is centered on the convergence of ideas, information-sharing and inspiration from designers from across the architecture, graphic design and interior design industries. 

“There are several events that are specifically for architects. One is a working session on the 3-D modeling software, Dynamo. This software could help revolutionize the way that architects design buildings,” Loring says. One of three co-chairs, he explains each one represents the three major local design organizations: AIA, AIGA and IIDA.

It’s clear to see the value of designers sharing ideas across industries, as processes, challenges and successes often follow similar patterns. As the website states, the week is a good way to keep up with “constantly changing perceptions, share ideas and coming together to make things beautiful and functional.” …Music to our ears.

Debbie Millman

One of the highlights of the week will be Thursday’s Debbie Millman On Rejection: How the worst moments of your life can turn out the be the best. She was named “one of the most influential designers working today” by Graphic Design USA. Millman is also an author, educator, brand strategist and host of the podcast Design Matters.

So what event (of the many) is Loring most excited about attending?

“I am excited about the Bread and Butter Concepts on Designing an Empire presentation. It will be fascinating to see how the entire branding and design process works for a restaurant. Every element from the way the menu is planned, to the interior space design, and how it all comes together to create one brand. I’m also excited to eat some Republica food!”

Join us at Helix on Friday night as we host one of many Open Studio Night open houses! We’ll be sharing a behind-the-scenes look at our design process for the Boulevard Visitor’s Center. Plus, what Boulevard party would be complete without yard games, beer and popcorn? You won’t want to miss it.

There are still tickets available for many events – so join in on the fun at kcdesignweek.org


Kansas City Urban Hero Award

Each year the Downtown Council’s Urban Hero Awards recognize a select group of individuals who have had a significant impact on downtown Kansas City. This year Helix principal, Jay Tomlinson was recognized for his longstanding commitment to downtown, not only through his work but also his ongoing involvement with civic, arts and community organizations.

TOMLINSON Jay

As a downtown resident, Jay is a passionate advocate for the vibrant, walk-able experience that living in the Crossroads Arts District offers. His daily commute is approximately two-hundred steps – hard to beat!

DT Images 2

As an architect and business owner, Jay has worked downtown for over 30 years. His work with visionary clients who, like him, are committed to the continued vitality of the urban core has resulted in the renovation, restoration and adaptive reuse of over fifty buildings in downtown Kansas City. Many of these are notable landmarks, such as the Midland Theatre, the Webster House and Missouri Bank’s Crossroads Branch on Southwest Trafficway.

DT Images

Jay’s passion for downtown is equally matched by his commitment to supporting the arts. He has served as a board member for the Kansas City Art Institute, president and board member of the Charlotte Street Foundation and president of the Friends of Art of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. He also co-founded the Urban Society of Kansas City and is past-president of the American Institute of Architects, Kansas City Chapter. He has held numerous civic board memberships and recently served on the Kansas City Mayor’s Economic Development Committee Advance KC and the Mayor’s Task Force for the Arts.

Other Urban Hero Award honorees for 2015 include Tysie McDowell-Ray and Dean Johnson of Crossroads Academy Kansas City, Leonard Graham of Taliferro & Brown and Harry Murphy of Harry’s Country Club.

Congratulations to all of the Urban Hero honorees. Your leadership inspires us all to continue the momentum that you have created and help make Kansas City a better place.


16 December, 2015 | Collaboration, Community Outreach, Culture

The Bud Prize

Award Recipients3

Every fall, Helix teams up with the UMKC Department of Architecture and Urban Planning for The Bud Prize – an annual design competition and scholarship opportunity for second year students. The scholarship was created in honor of the late Bud Persons, who was a Senior Interior Architect with Helix. The fund is intended to recognize the life and work of Bud Persons by promoting the study and knowledge of architecture and design through a scholarship grant awarded to students attending UMKC. In celebration, Helix joins the students and faculty, along with their families and friends, for a reception and award ceremony.

This year, the assignment was to design a community art center, located at Manheim & Troost in Kansas City, MO. The program required that the community center include classrooms, private studios, administrative offices, and support spaces, as well as a retail art gallery and outdoor work area. The program also challenged students to think beyond designing a space that was both pleasing and functional. Students were required to think about the context of their design as it relates to its impact in the surrounding community – much like architecture, design, and urban planning in the real world. We are excited to announce the recipients of this year’s scholarship:

First Place: Olivia Ashbrook
Second Place: Lauren Silvers
Honorable Mention: Sam Green


Congratulations to all the students for their hard work!

To read more about the winning projects, check out UMKC’s blog post about this year’s Bud Prize.
(Award Recipients pictured above from left to right: Olivia Ashbrook, Sam Green, Lauren Silvers)


Celebrating Community at the Ribbon Cutting for the New KCPD Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

Earlier this week the City of Kansas City, Missouri and the Kansas City Police Department hosted a ribbon cutting for the new Leon Mercer Jordan Campus, which includes the East Patrol Division station and regional crime lab.  The event drew community leaders and hundreds of attendees from across the city to celebrate the success of the project and the positive impact it will have on the community.

SE view-final

Helix worked alongside a team of over twenty consultants, many of whom are certified MBE, WBE and Section 3 businesses,  to deliver a new state of the art Patrol Division and Crime Lab that will serve the city well into the future. Together the team succeeded in creating a model project that shows how collaboration and inclusion can work as a strategy for building a great city.

In addition to housing police functions, the East Patrol Station houses a community room, a computer room and a gymnasium that are open to the public. In an article in the Kansas City Star Police Chief Darryl Forte and Rev. John Modest Miles shared their enthusiasm for the value the facility brings to community members.

Police Chief Darryl Forte said, “It’s not just a police station. It’s a place where people can gather – where they can do homework, play a game of basketball or have a neighborhood meeting in a safe and supportive environment.”

Rev. John Modest Miles said, “It is one of the most blessed things that could happen to this community. I am convinced that it is going to spark the rebirth of the whole community.”

SW view-final

Thank you and congratulations to all of our design team members, the city, the police department and our construction team. We are incredibly honored to have the opportunity to work with all of you to deliver such an important project for Kansas City.

Detailed information on the project and its history can be found on the police department’s Safer KC website.


Helix Principal, Kristine Sutherlin Elected President of the Kansas City Architectural Foundation

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Congratulations to Helix principal, Kristine Sutherlin on being elected president of the Kansas City Architectural Foundation (KCAF) board. The organization has a tremendous impact on the Kansas City design community by granting scholarships to architectural students from the metropolitan area and hosting outreach events that educate citizens on the power of architecture to transform lives and improve the places where we live, learn, work, and play. Kristine has been involved with the organization since 2013 and recently finished a term as the organization’s vice president.

Since it was founded in 1984, KCAF has awarded more than 140 scholarships totaling over $250,000 to students from the Kansas City area. Over the next year the organization will be kicking off a capital campaign to increase the number and amount of student scholarships they provide.

Why is KCAF such an important organization for our community? We asked President Sutherlin herself.

“As college costs continue to escalate it is critical that we expand our reach within the design community. We want to make pursuing a career in architecture accessible for anyone that has a passion for this industry. Our scholarships have assisted some extraordinarily talented students and there is so much more that we can do as an industry to help support and train the next generation.”

Keep up the good work Kristine and thank you for helping to support young designers. We couldn’t be more proud to have you as one of the fearless leaders of our Helix family!


Centurions Class of 2017

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce recently announced the Centurions Class of 2017 including Helix principal, Alissa Wehmueller. Anyone that has met Alissa through her involvement in IIDA, Kansas City Design Week, the Mayor’s Challenge Cabinet or her many other community activities know firsthand the passion she has for Kansas City.

Where does her love of this fine city come from? We asked Alissa.

You’re not from KC originally – what has kept you here?
Marrying a handsome KC native! Honestly, when I moved here I didn’t necessarily know if it was a long-term decision. But the growth and changes that have happened in this community in the last decade have been remarkable to see and be a part of. Kansas City is a great size – this balance between the amenities of a large city and the values of a small town. I believe your happiness in a place depends on what you put into it.

Who is a KC leader you admire?
Mayor Sly James! He’s brought an approachability and energy to City Hall that’s really special. I’ve seen him crash a table of designers at happy hour and have a quiet breakfast with friends at Union Station early in the morning – he’s present. I find myself bragging about how cool our mayor is to people outside Kansas City (not cool – frosty!) This has to be a fun time to be leading Kansas City, I’m sure it’s very hard work but I hope he’s enjoying it.

Why did you want to join the Centurions program?  
As my husband and I deepen our roots here, through our home, our careers and our family, I want this city to thrive and I feel a responsibility to contribute. I feel really lucky to be part of an industry that literally gets to build our community – create buildings and spaces for the people working, learning and playing here. I want to be educated and informed about the city, our needs, challenges and goals. I’m looking to Centurions to learn the best way to get engaged with organizations in a valuable way – I don’t want to fill a seat on a board to keep a chair warm, I want to help.

What do you hope to gain from the program?
Centurions has been tagged a ‘Master’s degree in Kansas City’, I like thinking of it that way. Everyone I know that has participated in the program has been very honest – it’s a big time commitment and a lot of work – but they’ve also said it’s one of the most rewarding things they’ve done personally and professionally.

Any advice for fellow transplants to KC?
Be present in the city – attend new events, get out to Kauffman, wake up early and get to the farmer’s market, wander around the plaza, get to know your neighbors. Bloom where you’re planted.

From all of us at Helix, congratulations and cheers, Alissa!

 


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