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2020 Class of Rising Stars Bess Wallerstein Huff

Bess Wallerstein Huff is the director of marketing and community outreach at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Her primary focus right now has been to offer support to arts organizations and cultural institutions that have been negatively impacted due to COVID-19. “As a member of the arts community, I have been dedicating time to sharing the positive impact the arts play in communities and contributing when I can to support the organizations that mean the most to me.” She also is passionate about continuing to elevate the programs that serve schools and students, and enriching partnerships with social service and community organizations to ensure that the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is home to all audiences.

In addition, Bess is pursuing an executive master’s in business administration degree at Rockhurst University, class of 2021. “I am working with CEO Courtney Thomas and her team at Newhouse on exciting new projects and business planning support for the organization. Recently, I was one of five students nominated to present to the Shark Tank panel of faculty judges. I pitched an out-of-the-box idea for a new way to experience the performing arts.”

Since Bess was very young, her mother, Nancy Wallerstein, was a community leader and instilled the significance of volunteerism and philanthropy “Growing up in Prairie Village, my mom involved me in the work she was doing. Volunteerism became instilled in my life and a way for us to spend time together. I remember volunteering to plant flowers at the Prairie Village pool, running the children’s tent at the Prairie Village Art Fair, and learning how to use a television camera for the televised Prairie Village City Council meetings, where my mom served as a city council woman. For more than 30 years, she has been influential in large-scale community projects all over Johnson County. Her positive impact was instrumental in my love of volunteering, and I hope to make my mom as proud one day as she makes me.”

Bess is passionate about providing opportunities for new voices and underrepresented communities. “I am interested in being involved in developing new programs — whether it is leading a women’s forum dedicated to discussing women and mentorship, or volunteering to launch new cultural events such as the Prairie Village Jazz Festival or the Kansas City Improv Festival. I value creating space and opportunities for people to come together for a shared experience.”

Bess feels it is a tremendous honor to receive the recognition as a Rising Star. “I value the opportunity to highlight non profits that are important to me, while simultaneously learning all the ways that Kansas City continues to be a generous and supportive community to many organizations. I deeply appreciate the new connections I have made and am thrilled to be a part of such a committed group of leaders who have made great contributions to the city I love. I am a life-long learner and am thankful for the opportunity to hear from so many passionate Kansas City leaders. I am grateful for new doors and opportunities that come from this recognition. I am also thankful to the team at The Independent who has highlighted my two-year-old son, Jarvis, and a few blooms from my garden!”

Also featured in the October 31, 2020 issue of The Independent
Photo Credit: Tom Styrkowicz
By Ann Slegman

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