Urban Hero: Spotlight on Rebecca Koop, arts champion

Rebecca Koop, center, is flanked by her fellow Urban Hero honorees last April at the Downtown Council’s Urban Hero reception. The 2023 honorees included (from left) Brian Williams, Folly Theater; Lisa Pena, Urban Hikes Kansas City; Rebecca Koop, Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and arts advocate; Shanita McAfee Bryant, The Prospect KC; and Edgar Palacios, Latinx Education Collaborative.

Since 2005, the Downtown Council has recognized more than 100 small businesses and individuals as Urban Heroes. Each is passionate about making the urban community a more vibrant place to live, work, and play throughout the 22 adjacent neighborhoods and districts of greater Downtown KC. 

As a lead-up to introducing the 2024 class of Urban Heroes at the Downtown Council’s Annual Luncheon on April 12, today’s story is part of a series that showcases last year’s award winners, including Rebecca Koop. 

Rebecca Koop: Catalyst, Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, & Artist, Back Door Pottery

Rebecca Koop is a force of nature in her beloved neighborhoods of Historic Northeast Kansas City. 

She is not only an enduring presence and active supporter of the community’s thriving artistic, cultural, civic, and commercial center, Rebecca has been doubling down on her commitment for the past 25 years … and is still going strong.

A lifelong resident of KC’s Historic Northeast, Rebecca is a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute; a board member of North East Arts; owner/operator of her beloved  Back Door Pottery; and long-time Events Manager for the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce/Community Improvement District … and those are just for starters.

Rebecca welcomes all to Kansas City’s Historic Northeast – including refugees, new arrivals from other parts of the KC metro, new businesses, and long time residents. She knows that Downtown’s future depends upon the extent to which we celebrate diversity and seek to create welcoming and engaging environments  – where all can live, play, work and thrive. 

Rebecca proudly plays leadership roles in more than 50 events each year that recognize and celebrate the many countries, cultures and people who call this diverse and welcoming slice of Kansas City home. 

Rebecca Koop makes time to share the virtues and special events of her Historic Northeast Kansas City neighborhood.

“I’ve been a member of Northeast Arts KC for more than 20 years. One of our main missions is to promote the arts” she said, explaining her driving force as an artist and community champion.

A snapshot of her involvement reaches from the annual Chalk Walk Festival at the Concourse Fountain to leadership roles in community gardens, outdoor concerts and musical festivals, art shows, to painting art walls and outdoor murals, to organizing monthly coffees and business recognition programs, and to playing a supporting role in the “truck-eating bridge” mural on the low-ceiling bridge on Independence Avenue between White and Topping.

Rebecca Koop’s artwork is a playful means to promote the annual Chalk Walk festival – coming July 27 to the Concourse Park Fountain, in conjunction with Ameri’Kana Music Festival. It is one of many examples of Rebecca pouring her heart and her talent into art and soul of her beloved Historic Northeast Kansas City neighborhood.

Her Back Door Pottery business was founded in 1979 and opened at its present location 3922 St John Avenue in April of 1986. The studio is located in the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood just blocks from the historic Kansas City Museum, Corinthian Hall.

Originally built in the 1920’s it has served as an auto repair shop, machine shop, hardware store and Laundromat  before serving the community as a neighborhood pottery shop. 3922 St John is where all creative work is produced, with a show room in the front. Weekly pottery classes are held in the evenings and are open to beginners, as well as advanced recreational potters ages 16 to adult.  

The studio is a beloved reflection of Rebecca both as an artist and a fierce community champion.

“You know, Kansas City is an arts space… an arts place,” she says with a smile. “Our future depends upon the extent to which we celebrate diversity and seek to create welcoming environments.”

Click here to learn more about Rebecca Koop and her journey via the Downtown Council’s 2023 Urban Hero video profile.