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Philanthropist Advocates for Women and the Arts

Bunni Copaken to join Starr Women’s Hall of Fame

The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing extraordinary Kansas City women, preserving the history of their accomplishments and inspiring women everywhere. Bunni Copaken is one of the outstanding women in the 2019 class of honorees.

“Copaken is best known as a philanthropic leader and community advocate who believes unequivocally in the importance of equity and opportunity for women and in the power of the arts to unite people,” says Angela Gieras, executive director of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. 

Copaken is a founding board member of the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey (KCFAA), and a longstanding member of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre board of directors. She shares the belief of renowned dancer Alvin Ailey that the arts break down artificial barriers between people and unite communities. Fueled by this, she empowered and mobilized people to create a community around the arts in Kansas City.

“Copaken’s vision of the arts as a vehicle to promote racial understanding and inclusivity led her to create opportunities for people from disparate backgrounds to meet, connect and create something wonderful together,” Gieras says. “Out of these connections, which Copaken lovingly fosters to this day, has risen a city united and inspired by a common passion in the arts.”

She was instrumental in creating the KCFAA AileyCamp, now replicated in 10 cities nationwide, an award-winning day camp built on the philosophy that the skills needed to learn dance are the same skills needed for broader success in life. 

“Copaken’s vision of the arts as a vehicle to promote racial understanding and inclusivity led her to create opportunities for people from disparate backgrounds to meet, connect and create something wonderful together.”
– Angela Gieras, executive director, Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Her commitment to empowering individuals doesn’t stop there. Copaken is also a founding member of the Women’s Foundation and a past president of the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri. Her work to promote equity, inclusion and opportunity for women has left an undeniable mark in Kansas City.

“Copaken made it possible for women in our community to become philanthropists in their own right,” says Ann Spivak, vice president of development, Women’s Foundation. “She has led us to a place where we can influence decision makers in our community to affect real, meaningful change for thousands of women in both Kansas and Missouri.”

As a volunteer, philanthropist, grant writer and visionary — Copaken has been an excellent example of the power of women as visionary leaders whose ideas and action deeply influence lives.

About the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame

The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing extraordinary Kansas City women and preserving the history of their accomplishments. These women are social reformers, volunteers, philanthropists, civic leaders, activists and educators. They are neighborhood leaders and grassroots organizers, from yesterday and today, both famous and unsung. They are movers and shakers whose tireless commitment to community has made Kansas City a better place to live.

The Hall of Fame honors their legacies by sharing their stories to encourage and inspire women everywhere. A permanent display honoring these women is open to the public on the third floor of the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The Hall of Fame is named in honor of Martha Jane Phillips Starr, a legendary activist and philanthropist who blazed a trail for family issues and women’s rights. The Hall of Fame is made possible through the Starr Education Committee, Martha Jane Starr’s family and the Starr Field of Interest Fund through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.

Published: Mar 12, 2019

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