In 2019 the Thank You Walt Disney non-profit organization joined forces with digiSTORY KC (the Digital Storytelling Center of Kansas City) to create KC IMAGINE. The Kansas City Institute for Media, Animation & Graphic Innovation in Education. They convened a meeting of several Kansas City regional universities who were interested in partnering in offering educational programming from the Laugh-O-gram building when it is renovated. A panel discussion that featured leaders from five KC digital media firms discussing their talent pipeline demonstrated that the participants had a very strong desire to collaborate more directly with each other. Since that meeting KC IMAGINE has worked to unite all of the stakeholders in Kansas City’s digital media industry to address their greatest needs and concerns. Those stakeholders include digital media firms, their working professionals, area colleges and universities, high school career awareness programs and civic leaders interested in workforce and economic development.
The mission of KC IMAGINE is “to promote collaboration between Kansas City regional stakeholders in the digital media industry”. KC IMAGINE’s vision is “to establish the Kansas City area with a world-class digital media industry that succeeds through its robust talent pipeline and the innovation of its entrepreneurs”.
Currently KC IMAGINE has 15 regional universities that are interested in collaborating to find ways to meet the educational and training needs of KC’s digital media industry. Many schools need opportunities for their students to experience internships and apprenticeships with KC area digital media firms. Ultimately KC IMAGINE wants to support job placement for all who receive educational programming in digital media. The renovated Laugh-O-gram building will offer training programs for K-12 students through digiSTORY KC and advanced training and workforce development through KC IMAGINE’s college partners that offer continuing education and degree programs.
KC IMAGINE convenes meetings with the stakeholders in Kansas City’s digital media ecosystem to identify and address their needs and concerns. They also host a series of events called DIGITAL SCENE – KC that provide KC’s digital media professionals the opportunity to network and share trends and ideas. A January 2022 report from the Missouri Department of Economic Development showed that “Kansas City has nearly 50,000 workers employed in industries related to digital storytelling” and that the industry has grown 60% in the last decade. Most of those digital media professionals work for small companies and studios, so many do not get the opportunity to network with peers as often as they would like. KC IMAGINE’s DIGITAL SCENE – KC program provides after-hours networking events centered around a digital media theme and hosted from an innovative location related to that digital media discipline. For example the launch event was themed around Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. It was hosted at UMKC’s new Robert W. Plaster Enterprise & Research Center which is equipped with the latest AR and VR technology. Attendees enjoyed a guided tour of the facility followed by an hour of networking.
KC IMAGINE will be hosting the KC IMAGINE: Creating the Future of Digital Media in K.C. conference on January 12, 2023 at the Westport Commons Plexpod in Kansas City. The conference offers several informative sessions on topics of interest to KC IMAGINE stakeholders. Matt Mills, Senior Vice-President and Creative Group Director at Barkley will be the featured keynote speaker. Panel discussions will be offered by area leaders on these topics:
- KC IMAGINE: K.C.’s Next Industry Cluster
- Certifications for Digital Media
- Recruiting Challenges/Needs for Digital Media
- Digital Media Entrepreneurship in Kansas City
- The Metaverse & the Future of Digital Media
- Digital Media Applications to Architectural Engineering
- Digital Media Workforce Training & Availability in Bi-State Area
KC IMAGINE will have an important and ongoing relationship with Thank You Walt Disney, offering a wide range of educational and workforce development programs from the Laugh-O-gram building.