American Jazz Museum could close for a year as city works to improve visitor experience

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The city council will consider a recommendation to close the American Jazz Museum for up to a year as part of a reorganization of the tourist attraction.

Some question closing the museum at a time when the city is investing millions of dollars to attract developers to the area.

Museum Management Consultants from California have criticized the American Jazz Museum for having stale exhibits and poor financial management.

"I would not like to see the museum be closed because even in the midst of trying to recoup from the financial crisis, we have really gained ground in some alliances with other organizations," said Anita Maltbia, the museum's board chair. "We have gained ground in marketing."

Last year, city taxpayers had to cover bounced checks to performers from the jazz museum's three day festival, which lost $447,000.

The overly ambitious event was the largest part of $1-million in losses for American Jazz Museum in 2017.

There is some support on the city council for shutting down museum exhibits while they are revamped and reorganization of the leadership and the museum's board takes place.

"You don’t have to keep going in the way that you’re going," said Scott Wagner, the council's finance committee chairman. "You can stop, you can rethink things. You can put that plan into action before you reopen. It’s really not unlike what we did for the Kansas City Museum, which is now on it’s way to reopening here in a few months. We had to do that by shutting the place down for a while."

Nearly everyone agrees that the museum's programs have been highly successful and should continue if the exhibit space is temporarily closed. The museum operates the Blue Room jazz club, the Gem Theater and provides educational outreach to schools.

Festivals should not be the sole source of fundraising for the jazz museum. And others on the council say changes can be made while keeping the museum operational.

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