Shirley Bush Helzberg Garden of the Stars Fountain
Installed in 1996, the Shirley Bush Helzberg Garden of the Stars Fountain is located at the east entrance of Starlight Theatre. The fountain is dedicated to Shirley Bush Helzberg, known for being a civic leader, developer, and advocate for the arts, as well as the monumental impact on Kansas City with her husband Barnett Helzberg. With great advice from her mother, Shirley learned the importance of involvement and improving everything she touched. She has been recognized for her major contributions to Starlight Theatre, Kauffman Center for Performing Arts, the Kansas City Symphony, and much more.
A detailed look of the brick columns and waterfalls of the Shirley Bush Helzberg Garden of the Stars Fountain at Starlight Theatre.
The Shirley Bush Helzberg Garden of the Stars Fountain.
A view of the Shirley Bush Helzberg Garden of the Stars Fountain extension.
A portrait of notable philanthropist and advocate for the arts, Shirley Bush Helzberg
A photo of Shirley and Barnett Helzberg, Kansas City philanthropists
Backstory and Context
The Shirley Bush Helzberg Garden of the Stars Fountain and garden are located at the east entrance of Starlight Theatre. It was installed in 1996 and dedicated in 1997 in tribute to Shirley Bush Helzberg for her contributions to the theatre. The fountain features ten waterfalls that cascade between eleven 20-foot tall brick columns that surround the pool below. The pool stretches 180 feet west toward the performance stage, creating a stream-like effect that encompasses the gardens and contains vertical water jets throughout the center.
As an advocate for the Arts and generous philanthropist, Shirley Bush Helzberg has had a monumental impact on the vibrancy of Kansas City. Growing up on a farm, Shirley learned hard work and dedication from her parents. Her mother was a great influence in her life, teaching her about the importance of compassion, involvement, and making everything she touched better. She attended Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri before entering the broadcasting and advertising markets, working at agencies and radio stations in the Kansas City area. She married Barnett Helzberg in 1967, established the Shirley and Barnett Helzberg Foundation in 1982, and together have contributed greatly to the city. In 1995, the family business Helzberg Diamonds was sold to Berkshire Hathaway entrepreneur Warren Buffett, which amplified Shirley and Barnett’s philanthropic efforts.
Shirley Bush Helzberg has sustained decades of achievements and contributions to Kansas City. As President of the Starlight Theatre Association from 1991 to 1994, she fostered significant growth in Broadway ticket sales, set a box office record, and launched a 5-year capital investment campaign that would bring many improvements and success for the theatre for years to come. In 1996, the Helzberg's donated $1 million toward constructing the “Garden of the Stars,” which has become a prominent landmark and photo spot.
In the 2000’s, Shirley ventured into the revitalization of the Crossroads Arts District. She renovated several historic structures and was named the Historic Kansas City Foundation's commercial pioneer at the foundation's award ceremony in 2003. Of these historic structures, the Webster School and Vitagraph buildings qualified her for a Capstone Award, which honors top real estate and development projects. In addition, a $10 million donation contributed to the funding and construction of the Kauffman Center of Performing Arts in 2011, including Helzberg Hall, one of two large theaters at Kauffman and home to the Kansas City Symphony.
In addition to her financial contributions, Shirley Bush Helzberg has devoted time and passion to the arts, including involvement in the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Operation Breakthrough, and the Kansas City Ballet. Shirley was also the Board leader of the Kansas City Symphony for 18 years before moving to the Board of Trustees for Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in 2013. That same year she was presented with an honorary doctorate of musical arts by the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Conservatory of Music and Dance. In 2015 she was inducted into UMKC’s Starr Women’s Hall of Fame and was also recognized by the Jewish Federation for her devotion and commitment to the Jewish community. There is no question that Shirley Bush Helzberg has made Kansas City better than she found it.
History Decade by Decade, Starlight. Accessed February 16th 2022. https://www.kcstarlight.com/about-starlight/starlights-history/decade-by-decade-history-of-starlight/.
Grumke, Andrew. Power 100: Shirley Helzberg, Kansas City Business Journal. April 23rd 2015. Accessed February 16th 2022. https://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/feature/shirley-helzberg.html.
Shirley Helzberg recognized for leadership in philanthropy, The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle. December 24th 2015. Accessed February 16th 2022. https://www.kcjc.com/index.php/current-news/latest-news/3520-shirley-helzberg-recognized-for-leadership-in-philanthropy.
A Life of Generosity and Service, University of Missouri-Kansas City. February 23rd 2015. Accessed February 16th 2022. https://info.umkc.edu/news/a-life-of-generosity-and-service/.