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We are a cowtown and an art center. The stockyards made us one of the world’s major cattle markets in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At its peak in the early 1900s, the Kansas City Livestock Exchange was the largest building in the world devoted exclusively to livestock interests. We still commemorate that heritage every year during the American Royal Livestock, Horse Show and Rodeo, more than 100 years old and one of the nation’s largest.

Since its 1933 opening, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has established itself as one of the most important art museums in the world, home to an acclaimed Asian collection and in the middle of a major renovation and expansion. The Kansas City Art Institute is near the museum, and in 1994 the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art opened its doors. Across the city are dozens of smaller galleries and art spaces. Not to mention a growing collection of outdoor, public art that includes dancing bulls on the west approach to town, giant shuttlecocks on the Nelson-Atkins south lawn and the four art deco “Sky Stations” stretching 200 feet above the downtown Kansas City Convention Center.

We are a diverse population with many ethnic groups whose roots go deep. The Hispanic community traces its to the opening of the Santa Fe Trail; the huge meat-packing industry of the late 1800s brought Croatians, Serbs, Russians, Slovakians and Greeks. Our religious preferences are varied. The more than 2,000 congregations here represent more than a dozen faiths: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, Baha’i, Native American, Sikh, Jain, pagan, Unitarian Universalist and New Age groups. The 2000 census revealed that we are 51.5 percent female and 48.5 percent male; that 42 percent of us have at least two vehicles; that we are 84.5 percent white, 13.4 percent African-American and 1.7 percent Asian.

We are good workers. We miss fewer days of work and drive shorter commutes than most major metropolitan centers. The Midwestern work ethic is alive and well here. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, production workers in Kansas City contribute 50 percent more value added per hour than the national average, and the National Center for Health Statistics reports that Kansas City area workers take the fewest sick days of 33 major metropolitan areas surveyed.