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Morrissey presented with Mo. Arts Council Leadership Award


The Missouri Arts Council (MAC) recently honored the recipients of the 2024 Missouri Arts Awards, the state’s highest honor in the arts, at the Missouri State Capitol, in a ceremony that was open to the public. Among those recognized is Kathleen Morrissey, president of the West Plains Council on the Arts.

Since 1983, the Missouri Arts Awards have recognized 248 individuals, organizations and communities across the state for their significant contributions to Missouri’s artistic and cultural legacy, officials said. An independent panel of Missourians representing the statewide arts community selected the honorees from public nominations.

Morrissey, a longtime arts advocate, organizer and volunteer, was one of six to be celebrated. She has served the arts both locally and statewide.

She was presented the Leadership in the Arts award because, in the words of MAC officials, she has “championed rural community arts in her 30-year career ranging from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks to the Missouri Arts Council. Among her many current volunteer contributions are as administrator of West Plains’ Media Arts Center, coordinator of The Alliance: Arts and Cultural Organizations, and president of the West Plains Council on the Arts."

The West Plains' Media Arts Center is a public access production facility she founded in 1992.

She is also an Ozarks Heritage Research Center Advisory board member through Missouri State University-West Plains and continues to help organize and volunteer at the Old-Time Music Ozark Heritage Festival, after helping establish it 30 years ago and contributing to its success each year since.

In July 2017, she became assistant director of the MAC, a position she held until February 2020, when she retired. At the time of her hiring, MAC Executive Director Michael Donovan said, "Ms. Morrissey is a strong leader who brings with her a wealth of experience in community building with the arts, as well as a strong focus on cultural heritage. She will use her skills in pursuit of the council’s mission of supporting the arts that strengthen Missouri’s cultural, educational, and economic vitality. She works extensively to develop rural communities and understands the unique culture and vibrant art that enriches small towns all over Missouri.”

Morrissey received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a California native who has lived in the Ozarks and worked in West Plains since 1988, and has 40 years of experience in communications and arts and nonprofit management. She has been an advancement associate for the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and part-time facilities management staff for the West Plains Civic Center.

Other positions she's held are theatre and events coordinator for MSU-WP and administrator of the West Plains Council on the Arts. She has also worked for Ozark Action, Trillium Trust and, in California, the Pacific Asia Museum and the National Asian American Telecommunications Association.

She also helped bring public radio to West Plains as a rebroadcast from KSMU in Springfield, under the call letters KSMW at 90.3 FM.

Morrissey was named Citizen of the Year by the Greater West Plains Area Chamber of Commerce in 2005, and received the Chamber’s Special Chairman’s Award in 2000. Missouri State University honored her in 2006 with the Excellence in Community Service Award.

"Of course it's an honor to be celebrated by the state for the work in your hometown, but nothing happens without great teams and partnerships," Morrissey said. "In my case it was the West Plains Council on the Arts, the City of West Plains and the university, who are integral to pursuing shared community visions."

MSU-WP Chancellor Dennis Lancaster had praise for Morrissey's work in the community and the humanities.

"Above all things I can say about her, Kathleen is very much the embodiment of what, I believe, is the central focus and intent of the Missouri Arts Council Leadership Award," he said. "Kathleen’s incredible work in West Plains, in the region, and across the state has been to bring disparate groups together, to remind themselves of their common story, and to help them see anew the assets that are beneath their feet or standing right next to them. That’s why I love Kathleen so much; she has shown us ourselves here in West Plains and made us proud of our past, present to our present, and hopeful for our future."

“The arts have a profound impact on the cultural, educational, and economic vitality of our state, and each of these honorees exemplifies the range of talent and creativity we have across Missouri,” Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe said of the Feb. 7 honorees. “Congratulations to the recipients of the 2024 Missouri Arts Awards.”

Other recipients of this year's round of awards include the Liberty Public School District, for arts in education; the Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis as a location for the display of about 70 modern art sculptures and arts events; the City of Perryville for beautification and expansion of the arts through historical and cultural initiatives; writer, actress, musician and director Catherine Dudley-Rose of St. Louis as an individual artist; and Charlotte Street, a Kansas City philanthropic organization and contemporary arts incubator.

The MAC aims to provide support to nonprofit organizations through grants that meet its goals of engaging people in meaningful arts experiences, officials said, growing Missouri’s economy using the arts, and strengthening education through the arts. Funding from the MAC makes quality arts programming possible in communities statewide, officials added, and its expertise is provided to communities when planning and executing arts-related programs and events.

It was established as a state agency in 1965 and is a division of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor funded through the Missouri General Assembly, Missouri Cultural Trust and National Endowment for the Arts.

Editor's note:  This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Morrissey's last name.