A Local Gem for the Arts

Longview facility gives Lee’s Summit residents a cultural arts center to call their own

It might be a disservice to call the Longview Cultural Arts Center one of Lee’s Summit best kept secrets. Local patrons nod knowingly about the diverse shows, concerts and classes the CAC has been putting on for years in its facility overlooking the vast expanse of land at Longview.

But for those who haven’t yet ventured into the art halls, theater spaces or classrooms where actors and artists hone their craft and show their wares, CAC coordinator Ryan Morehead is more than happy to let you in on the secret.

“The thought of, even 10 years ago, having the wide variety of cultural arts activities in Lee’s Summit that we have now would have seemed unimaginable to many and even crazier that so many of them would have been hosted at Longview,” Morehead says. “If you haven’t taken advantage of the arts Lee’s Summit has to offer you’re missing something truly special.”

Morehead, originally from Lee’s Summit, became the coordinator of the Metropolitan Community Colleges-Longview Cultural Arts Center in 2012. Before that he was the chairperson of the Department of Theatre and Dance at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

The CAC has its roots in emergency, of all things. Officials broke ground on the center in 2006 with the help of a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant. Two years later the CAC opened its doors, and today the cultural hub also doubles as one of the metro area’s only FEMA-certified disaster relief shelters.

The CAC Gallery features student and faculty works and regularly presents exhibits from new and emerging artists through the regional and nation. Each January, works from talented high school students are featured in a juried exhibit.

On average the gallery has seven exhibits per year, two of which are dedicated to our students for, “End of Semester” shows and one exhibit is set aside for our, “Lee’s Summit Fine Arts Challenge” which is our local high school annual exhibit.  Every other year we have an art faculty exhibit showcasing the latest accomplishments and projects of our faculty.

Morehead works with gallery curator Daniel Reneau to arrange the exhibits.

“What he brings into the gallery for our students — and I would say all who enter the CAC are students in one way or another — to study and examine is awesome,” Morehead says.

The center plays host to a diverse events. “On the performance end we have the honor of hosting 3 of the 5 Summit Theatre Group shows on an annual basis,” Morehead says. “Since STG has come to our theatre in 2013 they have seen attendance at their shows increase significantly which is great for us and for them.”

In February the theater was scheduled to host filmmaker Kevin Willmott, who co-wrote Spike Lee’s “Chiraq” — for a talk about the film business. Wilmott’s appearance is the kind of interesting and surprising fare that underscores the CAC’s contribution to the community as a vital cultural gathering spot.

“Simply put, without the support of our students and our community, we can’t exist.”