When people think of Kansas City, they think jazz and barbecue. But Ken Lumpkins says Kansas City has much more to be proud of.

“Jazz is a small piece of Kansas City’s worldwide arts influence,” Lumpkins said. “A range of superstars call Kansas City home.”

For example, Grammy Award-winning producer Brian Kennedy; two-time Tribeca Film Festival Award-winning director Morgan Cooper; music producer Joe Macklin (Jo Blaq), who has worked with artists like Ariana Grande, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar; and former Olympian sprinter Muna Lee are all from Kansas City.

“So much comes from this city that impacts the world,” Lumpkins said.


Lumpkins revealed recently that he will be calling those celebrities and many more home to Kansas City for a weeklong festival called the Art and Soul Experience (ASX), where they will be highlighted through exhibitions, educational forums, workshops and performances.

The festival will take place Sept. 12 through Sept. 18, 2022, and he’s expecting at least 15,000 people to participate. Lumpkins said think South by Southwest, the popular festival in Austin, TX, “however, our priority is to feature African Americans, an often-overlooked base, though the experience is open to all.”

“Our goal is to make sure we put a diversity and equity lens through ASX as well,” Lumpkins said. “Let’s make sure everyone is celebrated and let’s highlight these unsung people who don’t get that visibility and show the content and breadth of their work.”

While South by Southwest’s focus is music, film and technology, ASX will have a four-pillar focus: technology, entertainment, art and marketing.

With support from the Black Archives of Mid-America, Kansas City Parks and Recreations, the University of Missouri Kansas City Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and the African-American Student Union, ASX will have a different theme each day.

The event will kick off with a sports-themed day highlighting NBA players, alumni NBA players, former Olympians and more.

Other days will focus on poetry, fashion and visual arts. There will also be a two-day educational conference held at University of Missouri Kansas City where people can learn entrepreneurial skills and meet and learn from celebrity-led hands-on workshops and trainings.

Director Cooper is planning on hosting a workshop at the conference teaching how to light a scene for a movie. Dayna Lynne North, former writer and executive producer for the HBO show “Insecure,” is planning on hosting a workshop on writing.

Like South by Southwest has made Austin a destination, Lumpkin hopes ASX will do the same for Kansas City. South by Southwest, which began in 1986 with just 700 attendees, has grown into a 10-day festival that attracts more than 400,000 people each year.

“Part of this festival is the tourism opportunity for Kansas City,” Lumpkins said. “We don’t want to tell people to come to Kansas City and only see one place.”

For that reason, while the final day of the festival will include a community day held in the 18th and Vine District, other activities and experiences will take place all over the city inside different venues and businesses.

There will be lots of ways for people to interact with the festival besides just attending. Individuals can be vendors, performers, volunteers and presenters.

Lumpkins gained connections to these celebrities through Art and Soul, a nonprofit he started in 1997 to support Kansas City’s art and entertainment scene through talent events, showcases and educational forums. Through the late 90s and early 2000s, he cultivated strong connections with Kansas Citians who went on to impact the world with their platform.

“ASX now is really a tribute of what we started in the early days,” Lumpkins said. “I realized the unique opportunity to leverage the power of those connections and we put those connections to use by educating people in Kansas City and creating a platform for production and exhibition.”

Lumpkins said this is just an introduction of what ASX is building for next year’s festival.

“Once you realize how much content, creativity and commerce really comes from Kansas City talents, you realize their content is really going worldwide,” Lumpkins said.

The experience will have a mix of paid and free activities. Keep up with updates about the festival on their website: asxnation.com.

Jazzlyn "Jazzie” is the former senior reporter for our team, who joined the company in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, through the Report for America service program. For the past two years, she covered...

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