A community arts organization conducting a capital campaign to build a downtown arts and entertainment complex raised $2.3 million more toward its goal in September.

Clifford Wert, president and CEO of Connect2Culture, told the Joplin City Council on Monday night that the organization has obtained commitments from 50 donors for $11.409 million, up from $9.1 million a month ago.

The City Council has agreed to give the organization the parking lot of Memorial Hall as the site for the three-story complex if the organization can raise the money privately to construct the building. The organization has set a goal of $14 million to $16 million.

The complex would provide larger galleries for the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts plus a 450-seat performance hall. It also would feature a festival plaza and outdoor amphitheater that could accommodate 1,500 people.

Wert said Monday that the organization has secured financial commitments for the naming rights to three main components of the Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex — the performance hall, the main galleries of the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts, and the festival plaza and amphitheater.

“We also continue to have multiple formal asks still outstanding and other prospective donors that are being contacted on a daily basis,” Wert said.

He recited common questions asked about the project and the answers given.

One is the role of Connect2Culture, a community arts agency and performing arts presenter that is the lead fundraiser for the capital drive. The organization would be located in the Cornell Complex when it is built.

Other questions include what kind of performance hall would be built and whether Memorial Hall is involved. As part of its agreement with the city, Connect2Culture has first right of refusal for Memorial Hall if the city decides to sell or otherwise dispose of that property.

“The hope is that it will be improved and that synergy could be created for a downtown arts and entertainment campus,” Wert said. “C2C will continue to book large performances there, but it is not part of the Cornell Complex.”

Wert said the organization’s interest in Memorial Hall is evident because three of the five events being staged by Connect2Culture this year will be held at the hall.

He said the project will be a legacy for future generations left by those who live here today.

“We welcome all to join in this effort no matter the size of the commitment or gift,” he said. “We literally have $1 to the $5 million gift of Mr. Cornell.”


The complex is to be named after Harry M. Cornell Jr., who started work for Leggett & Platt in 1950, rose to company president and led it for 40 years through vast expansion, and then became chairman and later chairman emeritus of the board.