KCVLAA was formed in May 2004 with the encouragement of the Missouri Arts Council, the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City, the St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts and the Texas Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts. KCVLAA serves portions of western Missouri and eastern Kansas, including the greater Kansas City metropolitan area. This geographical area previously was served by the St. Louis organization. With the high concentration of artists and arts organizations in the Kansas City area, a separate local organization was needed. KCVLAA has helped more than five hundred local artists in 2010 and requests for help continue.
Without KCVLAA, the legal and accounting problems of many artists and arts organizations would go unresolved. KCVLAA provides a critical link between members of the legal, business and arts communities. A thriving arts community contributes to a positive economic and social environment for all of us.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How long have you been around?
We incorporated in May of 2004, but several people and organizations, including the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City, the St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts, Julia Austin, Jane Lowery, and Rebecca Stroder have been working on this project since November of 2003.
Are you a non-profit?
Yes, we received 501(c)(3) status from the IRS in June of 2004 and we are a Missouri tax-exempt organization.
What area do you serve? What’s “Kansas City” for purposes of your organization’s services?
We currently serve western Missouri (including Springfield, but not including Columbia: St. Louis's VLAA serves Columbia), and five counties in eastern Kansas: Leavenworth, Johnson, Wyandotte, Douglas and Miami counties. Since Kansas does not have its own VLAA organization, we can, on a case by case basis, refer a case from elsewhere in Kansas, but we do not at this time recruit volunteers from counties outside those listed, nor do we yet make an effort to promote our services in other Kansas counties, although we may do that in the future. St. Louis’ VLAA serves the rest of Missouri.
I’m an artist/arts organization and I need help. What do I do?
Download the appropriate application for services listed under "APPLY". Follow instructions and submit them to KCVLAA for review. All applications require a non-refundable $25.00 fee for processing and include eligibility requirements. The fee is waived one time if you are a member or become a member. If you seek assistance from the KCVLAA, you will be asked to become a member based on your status as either an individual or organization.
Do I have to pay to get help?
If you seek assistance from the KCVLAA, you will be asked to become a member based on your status as either an individual or organization. Members pay an annual membership fee; as an individual artist $50, full time student $25 and organization memberships range from $50-400 depending on the organizations annual budget. If you wish not to become a member you must pay a one-time non-refundable fee of $25, which helps cover the cost of our professional liability insurance. A membership will entitle you to receive one fee-waived application for pro bono assistance during the year of your membership, and you will also be able to attend the KCVLAA educational programs for free (non-members pay a nominal fee to attend educational programs, usually between $10-$50). Your membership is good for one calendar year. You do not have to renew your membership in subsequent years if you don’t want to. Subsequent applications for assistance during the membership year will be $25.
The volunteer attorney or accountant to whom your case is assigned will provide services at no charge. You may be required to pay for direct expenses such as government filing fees or taxes that are necessary for your representation.
I’m an artist/arts organization, and my income exceeds your guidelines, but not by much. I still don’t think I can afford a lawyer/accountant, but I need help. Is there anything I can do?
Yes, if you become a member, we can give you the names of our volunteers who have indicated that they will accept fee-generating referrals from us. You can ask those people if they would be willing to reduce their fees to help you.
Do you have to be a “starving artist” to qualify? What are the income thresholds?
Nonprofit Organizations: annual operating budget below $100,000. (At the discretion of the board of directors, assistance may be offered to larger organizations which are involved in a project of unique benefit to the community.) Organizations applying for assistance must submit a current budget.
Individuals: gross household income not in excess of $25,000, with $2,000 allowed for each additional person in the household. To verify family income, a copy of the applicant's most recent tax return is requested. When an applicant's income exceeds the income standards by a small amount or several months without employment or other financial hardship, the executive director may make a discretionary judgment about the applicant's eligibility.
Partnerships: gross receipts less expenses using individual guidelines
For Profit Corporations: net income plus salaries of principals not
What qualifies as “arts”?
KCVLAA's definition of "art" is broad and encompasses the visual, literary, media, design, and performing arts. Individuals are typically assisted with matters such as copyright, debt collection, contracts, and record keeping. Organizations often receive assistance with incorporating as nonprofit, obtaining tax exemption from the IRS, setting up bookkeeping systems, and tax preparation.
Do you have to know a lot about art law/accounting issues to be a volunteer?
NO WAY!! Many artists have general business issues just like any other small organization or start up company. Lawyers with backgrounds in business organizations, real estate, personal injury, tax, bankruptcy, litigation, intellectual property, and employment can help. Accountants who specialize in all kinds of fields, including non- profits, employee benefits, small businesses, and family owned- businesses can help.
If I volunteer, do I have to take the case that is assigned to me?
NO. When an artist or arts organization seeks assistance, the KCVLAA will contact volunteers who have indicated expertise in the area in which the artist has sought assistance (i.e., real estate). If the KCVLAA calls you, and your schedule does not allow you to take the case at that time, or accepting the case would create a conflict, you can decline to accept it, and the KCVLAA may contact you in the future to assist with another case. If you decline, we may ask you if you know someone else with your same specialty area who might be willing to help, to the extent we cannot find an appropriate volunteer from our ranks.
Do I have to pay to volunteer?
NO. When you sign up to volunteer, you may elect to have your name included on a list of professionals to be given to artists and arts organizations who need assistance, but whose incomes exceed our thresholds. These are clients who have the ability to pay, so we would be referring you billable business. If you would like to receive such referrals, then you must pay an annual fee of $25, which helps cover the cost of our professional liability insurance. If you would like to become a member, and be entitled to attend the KCVLAA’s educational programs for free (excluding those offered for CLE or CPE credit), you must pay an annual membership fee, and you may then elect to have your name included in the list of professionals who want to receive fee-generating referrals at no additional cost. The annual membership fee depends upon your level of professional experience; Legal/Accounting Professional Membership Level I for 1 - 5 years experience is $75, Legal/Accounting Professional Membership Level II with 5 years or more of experience is $100.
Do I have to carry malpractice insurance to volunteer?
If your volunteer duties include providing legal or accounting advice to an artist or arts organization, then yes, we require volunteers to carry malpractice insurance. If you are not insured, but would like to volunteer in other ways, such as by teaching seminars, writing articles, or assisting with marketing/promotion, then you do not need to carry malpractice insurance.
What if I have a traffic ticket/want to file for divorce/get arrested?
Problems that are not considered arts-related include traffic violations, criminal and domestic matters. If you have a problem in one of these areas, then you’re probably on your own. We cannot provide referrals for these types of issues.