UNESCO Creative Cities

Kansas City – City of Music

On November 6, 2017, Ms. Irina Bokova the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) informed  the City of Kansas City, Missouri that the City’s application to be recognized as a UNESCO Creative City of Music was accepted.

Kansas City Missouri is a member of the international network of Creative Cities recognized as a City of Music!

As a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Kansas City has an unique opportunity to continue our national leadership on sustainable development. This designation and membership provides Kansas City with a unique opportunity to support our city’s on-going work to address climate change, integrate the arts into the development of the city and to pursue sustainable, inclusive and equitable development practices moving forward. In particular – the designation will require Kansas City to make progress on affordable housing goals and other sustainable city development principles.

The Kansas City application was prepared by Anita Dixon. John James, President of the Wendell Phillips Neighborhood Association, in conjunction with the Center for Neighborhoods of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Students from UMKC’s Urban Planning and Design program helped to complete the research in 2015 that led to this application. This team included: Ben Bachwirtz, Brady Brewster, Brandon Keller, David Gress, Drew Pearson, Jamilah Cross and Jenn Hillyer.


The Creative Cities Opportunity

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. 

The Network covers 7 creative fields including Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts and Music.

The 180 member cities that form the Network come from diverse regions, have different income levels and populations.

The Network is first and foremost composed of cities ready to share their experiences and knowledge for the common objectives laid out in the Network’s Mission Statement.

UNESCO Creative Cities are indeed key partners to UNESCO for the implementation of the development agenda regarding urban sustainable development.


Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods

Kansas City’s historic African American community, once called “A City within a City,” was roughly three-square miles bounded by Prospect Avenue to the east, Ninth St. to the North, Troost Avenue to the west and 27th Street to the South.  The District is home to the Local 627 Union of the American Federation of Musicians (known as the Mutual Musicians Foundation) located at 1823 Highland – a National Historic Landmark. 

As such, the neighborhood provides the historical anchor for the international designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Music. This heritage of Kansas City swing coupled with the existing neighborhood organizations and numerous stakeholders from business and community organizations, occupy the district that is primed for a unique renaissance of sustainable development.

The designation as a Creative City provides an opportunity for the redevelopment of 18th and Vine as more than an entertainment district.

Joining the Creative City network is a longstanding commitment.

Kansas City must move forward with a participatory process and a forward-looking approach that meets the spirit of this international partnership with UNESCO and the 180 Creative Cities around the world. Kansas City will present a realistic action plan for 2018, including three specific projects to be executed in the next four years to implement the objectives of the Network. While the Wendell Phillips neighborhood is the heart and soul of the City’s application – the UNESCO Creative Cities designation is truly a citywide designation that must influence public policy and economic opportunity in every neighborhood. 


Kansas City, Missouri: A UNESCO Creative City of Music

Kansas City is the first and ONLY designated city of MUSIC in the United States!

Joining the network is a longstanding commitment; it must involve a participatory process and a forward-looking approach. Cities must present a realistic action plan including specific projects, initiatives or policies to be executed in the next four years to implement the objectives of the Network. Sustainability will be the key to the success of this project and a plan that will be inclusive, “connect the dots” to culture; the arts, business and various aspects of economic development which will be presented within the designation.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UNESCO)

“UNESCO actively contributed to the shaping of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015 – drawing on its humanist mandate, and mobilizing all of its partners and stakeholders. Designed as an agenda of the people, by the people and for the people, it highlights the vital importance of human capacities, skills and knowledge to adapt and respond to the challenges and opportunities of the present and the future, many of which are still unknown. It places national ownership and support at the country level as a cornerstone for its successful implementation. Building upon the achievements and lessons learned of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it seeks to address their unfinished business.”

Sustainability will be the key to the success of this designation and a plan that will be inclusive, “connecting the dots” of culture, the arts, local business and various aspects of economic development which will be presented within the designation.

For more information about the Cities of Music sub-network within UNESCO Creative Cities Network – please see: http://citiesofmusic.net/



Planning the Creative City


The Center for Neighborhoods and the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning and Design

Undergraduate research in Urban Planning and Design provided the planning framework for Kansas City’s application to UNESCO. In 2016, a group of students led by Dr. Jacob A. Wagner, AICP, worked with Anita Dixon at the Mutual Musicians Foundation and with Mr. John P. James at the Wendell Phillips Neighborhood Association to research the process to apply for World Heritage status and UNESCO Creative Cities. For more information, please see the UNESCO Creative City Network. 

The UNESCO Cities of Music Network is a group of 31 cities around the world that are working together to promote sustainable, safe, resilient and inclusive cities. For more information about each city in the Network – please see the Cities of Music website.