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Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts 

KAUFFMAN CENTER ARCHITECTURE: A KANSAS CITY ICON

Article by Mindy Hargesheimer

Photography by Mindy Hargesheimer

An Architectural Gem

Is it any surprise that Kansas City’s own Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts was voted one of the15 Most Beautiful Concert Halls’ in the WORLD?

Raise your hand if you have not photographed yourself inside or out of this magnificent architectural marvel that is so iconic Kansas City. Read more below about the architect who created the Kauffman Center and blew this city away.

One of the city’s biggest and brightest not-for-profit institutions not only provides a performance home to the Kansas City Ballet, Lyric Opera and Kansas City Symphony, but also features over 400 Broadway productions, concerts, festivals, children’s shows, comedies, galas and more year after year.

Well, any other year than 2020, that is. *SIGH*

Colorful Shades on the Kansas City Horizon

And of course, the Kauffman Center is a phenomenal site to keep up with! Throughout the year, whether it is a nod to healthcare workers, the Fourth of July, celebration of the Chiefs, the Royals season opener or St. Patrick’s Day, never miss a photo op with the ever-changing shades of the rainbow that light up this Kansas City landmark and keep it indescribably gorgeous any day of the year!

Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse

Despite Covid-19 putting a damper on 2020 in unexpected ways, many of Kansas City’s local museums and attractions are still standing strong and proud, awaiting our highly anticipated return in 2021. And in the meantime, those behind the doors, as well as us out on the streets who take such pride in our city, are finding creative ways to keep the spirit, attention and stories alive.

I had the unique opportunity to take an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the Kauffman Center, quite literally top to bottom, inside and out; including a vertical climb into the untouchable Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ, Opus 3875, that stands so distinguished some 20+ feet above the Helzberg Hall stage.

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts architecture is unlike any other local venue.

The Kauffman Center's 3 Stunning Venues

The Kauffman Center, which opened its doors in 2011, is situated on 13 acres in the heart of Kansas City and the Crossroads Arts District. The building that now draws international attention was designed and executed by globally renowned architect and Lifetime Achievement in Design winner Moshe Safdie. The Israeli native’s impeccable design draws a wealth of visitors from around the world each year.

If you’re in the world of arts and pay any attention to the US’s most beautiful destinations, the Kauffman Center is in and of itself a bucket list landmark.

Brandmeyer Great Hall: The Glass Beauty

With three distinct venues to absorb in awe, one will typically begin within Brandmeyer Great Hall, recognizable for its pristine wall-to-wall white limestone tile floors imported from Portugal, white walls and more than 40,000 square feet of glass plate windows; each its own unique size.

#FunFact: No red wine is allowed within Brandmeyer, as the white floor tiles are susceptible to stains. Rosé is the darkest wine variety you will find for consumption at events.

In addition to the incredible performing arts that take place on its stages, the Kauffman Center is also known for its gorgeous weddings and special events held within Brandmeyer Great Hall, Muriel Kauffman Theatre and Helzberg Hall. One online search will show why this venue is a stunner for afternoon and evening events that give a glorious view onto the south lawn and into the city. Having not attended a wedding here myself, I have fortunately attended a multitude of other events, from charity to entertainment, that have given me that sundown experience that makes for absolutely stunning photos.

Interior Inspiration: Muriel Kauffman Theatre

After visitors and show attendees arrive and linger, wander and sip their way through pre-show minutes under the glass-ceiling sky, they will make their way to one of the Kauffman Center’s two distinct performance halls: Muriel Kauffman Theatre or Helzberg Hall.

The Muriel Kauffman Theatre is a rich and vibrant gold-and-red motif inspired by the original European opera houses.

With glistening metallic mylar making for an eye-catching aesthetic and the richest of red hues that create a sophisticated yet cozy experience, this 1,800-seat space is perfectly intimate for the classic Kansas City Ballet’s annual Nutcracker holiday production or any of the lively concerts and series that grace the stage. The theatre also boasts a 5,000-square-foot stage that encompasses a 95-person orchestra pit.

One of the great advantages of this modern-day opera and entertainment house is its accessibility behind the stage to the traveling stage coaches that house each show’s sets, making for extremely easy and convenient transitions from act to act. Gorgeous theater aside, this is a large draw for production companies when considering Kansas City performance venues.

And, don’t forget to look for the colorful murals visible through the east and west interior walls.

Helzberg Hall: Epic Productions + Organ Pipes

Alternatively, Helzberg Hall is slightly smaller with 1,600 seats. Its blue seats and use of Alaskan cedar, Douglas fir, and oak are reminiscent of a mid-century aesthetic. This hall has seen a variety of performances, from classical orchestra productions to film concert series  like Harry Potter and Star Wars. The most stunning aspect of the hall is the esteemed Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ, Opus 3875 with 79 stops, 102 ranks and 5,548 pipes.

As I was so fortunate to dive into the incredible details of this entire architectural phenomenon, I was granted access directly to this beautiful specimen and its towering disposition that I will forever cherish each and every time I now attend a production within Helzberg Hall.

The intricacy of the silver and wood pipes was just as much mesmerizing as it was incomprehensible as to how anyone was genius enough to come up with the acoustic design.

A Uniquely Designed Theatre with Philanthropy at the Core

Thanks to the Kauffman Center’s 21st-century design and in partnership with Variety KC, the building is complete with adult changing tables and  Serenity Rooms designed for anyone needing a break from the performance and crowds or for nursing mothers. These rooms are equipped with sensory items, dimmed lighting, and privacy all while allowing for continued viewing of the live performance via the wall monitor, which is an attribute somewhat unique to this Kansas City theatre. 

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is founded on principles of philanthropy and community, beginning with the “Kauffman” surname stemming from Kansas City native and entrepreneur Ewing Marion Kauffman. Ewing’s wife, Muriel Irene McBrien Kauffman, was a civic leader and philanthropist. She discussed her vision for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts with her family and the community. After her death, her daughter and Chairman of the Kauffman Center Board of Directors, Julia Irene Kauffman, helped make this vision a reality.

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts thrives primarily on donor contributions.

Keep the spirit and future of one of KC's best alive by becoming a future volunteer, event subscriber or donor!

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