Meet Our Spotlight Premier Members

Steve Joss

Steve Joss

Steve Joss says he became a Spotlight Premier member for a simple reason: “The Kauffman Center is Kansas City’s premier arts venue and I need to support it. I want to support it.”  And he has done that repeatedly as a patron, donor and volunteer.

During the Kauffman Center’s construction phase, Steve’s interest was piqued.  “I was extremely intrigued about what I was hearing in the community and signed up for a hard-hat tour,” Steve said.  As soon as the Seat Naming Campaign was launched, Steve funded three seats and convinced his sister to support a fourth.

After retiring from Commerce Bank where he worked as a trust attorney, Steve focused his attention on things he was passionate about.  He joined the Kauffman Center volunteer team in 2010 and worked both the construction workers’ special Hats-Off! Celebration and the public Grand Opening Day event. “It was great to see how proud everyone was of the the Kauffman Center,” Steve said.

These early encounters confirmed Steve that he had placed his energies in the right place and since then he has put in more than 1,200 hours of volunteer service.  He believes it is important for people to support the things they care about, whether it’s financially or with a time commitment.

When asked about his favorite volunteer experience, Steve mentions the children’s matinees.  He loves the diversity of the school groups, the smiling faces and the energy.  “I love it when kids who have never been here before stand on the Mezzanine balcony and look out at the Crossroads, in awe of what they see,” Steve says.  “It makes me happy and it makes me feel good about what’s happening here.”

 Dave and Demi Kiersznowski

Dave and Demi Kiersznowski

Dave and Demi Kiersznowski, as owners of the creative enterprise named DEMDACO, regularly work with more than 50 artists. “We feel quite strongly that, without artists, we have no storytellers to challenge us, orient us and keep us on track,” Dave says. As a result, a portion of their philanthropy is focused in two areas: supporting institutions that showcase the arts and the artists who create it.

The Kiersznowskis actually became involved in the Kauffman Center upon the urging of a friend who is one of DEMDACO’s artists. “Susan Lordi, who developed the Willow Tree line for us, and husband Dennis Marker suggested that we become part of the capital campaign.” Now the Kiersznowskis are Kauffman Center Sustainers, meaning they make a significant annual contribution to operational needs.

“We feel that it is critical to support a vibrant arts community. Without it, a region may exist, but it can’t flourish,” Dave said adding, “We are particularly grateful for the strong leadership at the Kauffman Center, from both board and staff. This is an important reason that we’ve invested here.”

Some wonderful synergy occurred for the Kiersznowskis when the Storling Dance Theater decided to offer a performance called Underground annually at the Kauffman Center. Dave and Demi have been strategic supporters of this Olathe-based company of dancers for many years. “Mona Enna, Storling’s creative director, is a deep storyteller, revealing the tragedy and hope about life,” said Dave. “This show works better at the Kauffman Center than anywhere else. As supporters of both organizations, it’s great to see a pairing like this unfold.”

Peter and Barbara Gattermeir

Peter and Barbara Gattermeir

Peter and Barbara Gattermeir

Peter and Barbara say that joining Kauffman Center Spotlight Premier in 2013 was an easy decision, even though they are also committed to many other arts organizations around town.  “This is not just a building, but the centerpiece of arts and culture for our entire community,” says Peter.  Barbara agrees, “The Kauffman Center is a statement that the people here appreciate and support the arts.”

As Spotlight Premier members, the Gattermeirs say they are investing in—and counting on–the Kauffman Center’s success.  “People sometimes think that if they support a group that performs at the Kauffman Center they have already done their share,” says Barbara.  “But we all need to support this ‘centerpiece’ that makes excellent art possible.”  Spotlight Premier contributions provide critical, ongoing operational support for the Kauffman Center.

One of Peter’s favorite Spotlight Premier benefits is the ability to bring clients for a behind-the-scenes tour.  “When clients visit from Boston, Los Angeles or New York I always take them to the Kauffman Center.  The building itself sends a strong signal that Kansas City truly has a lot going on in the arts,” says Peter.

Bob and Marlese Gourley

Bob and Marlese Gourley

Bob and Marlese Gourley

Marlese and Bob Gourley provided start-up funding to help start the Lee’s Summit Symphony in the early 2000’s when the Kauffman Center was still on the drawing boards.  Now the couple has enjoyed two Lee’s Summit Symphony concerts in Helzberg Hall. As Kauffman Center Spotlight Premier members, this dovetailing of the arts and their community interests is important to the couple.

“We definitely want to support this world-class arts facility that brings positive attention to Kansas City.  But it also matters to us that the Kauffman Center reaches out across the community to engage all kinds of people,” said Bob.  “At one point during the most recent Lee’s Summit Symphony concert, high school students played side-by-side with the professional musicians,  which was great.”

Bob and Marlese also appreciate that the Kauffman Center covers a broad spectrum of the arts. “Marlese and I tend to pick and choose different types performances to attend, as opposed to having a particular focus.  We appreciate that the Kauffman Center covers all areas of the arts, from classical music to ballet to Willie Nelson,” Bob says.

The contributions of Kauffman Center Spotlight Premier members like those of the Gourley’s provide critical, ongoing operational support for the Kauffman Center and help to present the finest performing arts possible.

Kay Barnes and Tom Van Dyke

Kay Barnes and Tom Van Dyke (right) watched grandchildren create handprints for the Children’s Wall.

Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes and attorney Tom Van Dyke came to their love of the Kauffman Center through separate but convergent paths.

During her time as Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, Kay strongly supported the Kauffman Center vision. “I knew that it would be an iconic building and a wonderful gathering place for various populations in our community,”  Kay said. She was a key player in securing the City’s agreement to build and operate the $47 million Arts District Garage that serves the Kauffman Center and surrounding neighborhoods.

During the Kauffman Center’s first season, Tom organized the Kauffman Center’s second organ recital, leveraging his board role with the National City Christian Church Foundation in Washington, D.C. to bring 85 local congregations in the denomination together to produce a concert that reached more than 700 people.

Tom’s interests also extend to the Kauffman Center’s educational work. “I think that connecting young people with the arts is such an important part of an overall education,”  Tom says.

So when Tom and Kay married in May 2015, they were in immediate agreement about continuing to support the Kauffman Center as donors. When asked to renew his Spotlight Premier membership, Tom readily agreed. He asked if some of his donation might be used to connect the Kauffman Center with one of his favorite causes – Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Kansas City. “I want to find a way for ‘bigs’ and ‘littles’ to attend performances. “Kauffman Center staff immediately made this connection a reality through the Open Doors Ticket Fund.

Christine and Ford Maurer

Christine and Ford Maurer inside the Kauffman Center

Christine and Ford Maurer

Thousands of donors like Christine and Ford Maurer have come together to build the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Many have now stepped forward to join Kauffman Center Spotlight Premier, assuring that excellent performing arts experiences keep coming for years to come.

The Maurers have been Kansas City Symphony subscribers for more than 40 years.  Christine has been a Symphony League member for that same period.  “We appreciate that the Kauffman Center offers such a fabulous venue for the Symphony and feel that it’s important to support the continuing success of both organizations,” says Christine.

When asked why he became a Kauffman Center Spotlight Premier member, Ford said simply, “The Kauffman Center is magical.”  Christine piped in, “We saw Johnny Mathis on our wedding anniversary.  What can be better than that?” indicating that their Spotlight Premier investment is important in keeping a wide range of performing arts opportunities coming our way.

The Maurers are hardly alone in their support of the Kauffman Center.  See our list of Spotlight Premier members.

To learn how you can become a member of the Spotlight Premier Program, contact Trisha Drape, Development Manager, Individual Giving, at (816) 994-7220 or .