AMERICA: NOW AND HERE

“AMERICA: NOW AND HERE,” A CROSS-COUNTRY TRAVELING DIALOGUE ABOUT AMERICA THROUGH THE ARTS, TO LAUNCH IN KANSAS CITY.

Three Week Art Experience to Feature Paintings, Sculptures, Poetry, Plays, Films and Music from  Local and National Artists??Participating Local Artists Include David Ford, Glenn North, Jose Faus, Mark Southerland,  Ashley Miller, Benjamin Meade, Cynthia Levin, Heidi Van

A collection of the best known and most celebrated artists in America – both Kansas City-based and nationally recognized – are joining together to showcase their visual arts, poetry, theater, film and music for the national launch of America: Now and Here, a landmark cross-country journey to open up a dialogue about America through the arts.

America: Now and Here, which will consist of exhibitions, live performances, youth engagement programs and public workshops, will be held in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City from Friday, May 6 to Saturday, May 28, 2011. Most of the events are free and open to the public.??

The initiative, which launches the First Friday of May, will offer a diverse set of community conversations and programming in partnership with Kansas City cultural institutions, including workshops related to art and commerce, technology, fashion, city, and community health, among others; screenings of locally-produced films; local performances of theater; and visual art that explores American through three themes: America as Place, America as People and America as Icon.

The installation, which will inhabit multiple gallery locations in the Crossroads Arts District but centered at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, boasts an impressive array of work from eminent visual artists including Chuck Close, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, Cindy Sherman, Eric Fischl, Barbara Kruger, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Bradford, Julian Schnabel; playwrights Edward Albee, Marsha Norman, Jon Robin Baitz, and Nathan Louis Jackson; poets Robert Pinsky, Suheir Hammad, Rita Dove and Marc Doty; filmmakers Kyle Bell and Lauren Greenfield; and musicians and composers Roseanne Cash, Joan Baez, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Steve Martin, Fischerspooner, Paul Simon, DJ Spooky and Philip Glass. These individuals have contributed paintings, sculptures, poems, plays, songs and to America: Now and Here, most of which were created specifically for the project.

More than 100 of the Kansas City area’s finest artists will also contribute works to America: Now and Here. These artists include poets curated by Glenn North and Jose Faus, visual artists curated by David Ford, playwrights curated by Cynthia Levin and Heidi Van, musicians curated by Mark Southerland and Ashley Miller, and filmmakers curated by Benjamin Meade. Participating Kansas City based artists include visual artists Roger Shimomura, Peregrine Honig, Jim Leedy, Mike Sinclair, Anne Lindberg, playwrights Lisa Cordes and Philip Blue Owl Hooser, poets Linda Rodriguez, Michelle Boisseau, John Mark Eberhart and Natasha Ria El-Scari,  musicians People’s Liberation Big Band, Ssion, Rex Hobart, Alaturka and Ghosty, and filmmakers MK12, Mike B. Rollen and Todd Norris.

The idea for the project was conceived by renowned artist Eric Fischl, who serves as Founder and Lead Curator of America: Now and Here.  Spurred to action by the level of animosity that has gridlocked America’s civic discourse, Fischl decided to use art as a method of engaging people to see and talk about the American experience in a new way.

“The arts represent an ideal lens through which we can view and understand the unique American narrative, in all its social, moral and cultural complexity,” said Fischl.  “This is a perspective that generations of Kansas Citians have adopted and the resulting dialogue has been crucial to defining the city’s distinctive character.”??

In this midst of what he saw as the fractured culture of post 9/11 America, Fischl began reaching out to peers in the art world, inviting them to contribute to the project pieces that reflected their views on America, which would be brought to communities throughout the country.  The response was immediate and enthusiastic.

America: Now and Here was also conceived as a way to foster a new civic relationship with the arts, and engage audiences who might otherwise see the arts as irrelevant to their daily lives or be disinclined to visit a museum, gallery, theater, or concert hall.

“Where art sometimes divides individuals, America: Now and Here is finding a way for art to unite us, to strengthen our nation’s communities through the shared cultural experiences that define us,” said Abby Sims Beckloff, External Affairs Director of the Mid-America Arts Alliance. “We are so pleased to be a part of this inaugural experience in Kansas City, and we can’t wait to see what great things will happen across the country as the America: Now and Here conversation grows.”

Dorothy Dunn, Director of America: Now and Here, said, “The need to engage with each other is at the very heart of our being as Americans. Art is often the shared experience that brings us together to discuss and debate, and this journey seeks to use the power of art to expand the conversation.”??

A number of Kansas City’s preeminent poets wrote a renga – a collaborative form of poetry – that brings to life the city’s unique character. The work complements the renga written by 54 nationally recognized poets for the project – which began with Robert Pinsky on the east coast and ends with a poem by Robert Hass on the west coast.  The poems by these nationally known poets will be collected in a book, Crossing State Lines: An American Renga, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in April.  The poems are also being adapted into a film directed by Drew Harty and produced by Plan B Entertainment that will be shown in the installation and on the web site.

??In 2012, the traveling programs, experiences, and events will arrive in custom designed mobile truck galleries that will open up  to become a 3,300 square-foot, state of the art space and 4,400 square-foot plaza, pavilion and event space.

America: Now and Here has also created Artist Corps, an initiative that invites young and emerging artists to submit work to the project based on their experiences and new discoveries across America, which will be featured on the Web site and in publications, and will provide opportunities for them to participate in education and community service programs.??America: Now and Here is honored to partner with the Mid-America Arts Alliance, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City Arts Institute, Arts Incubator, the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City, Kemper in the Crossroads, Charlotte Street Foundation, Mattie Rhodes Center, American Jazz Museum, Chameleon Arts & Youth Development and many more.

America: Now and Here in Kansas City is made possible through lead support by The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation with additional support from the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, The Collectors Fund, NIC, Sosland Foundation, Kansas City Life Insurance Company, Grassmere Foundation, Pioneer Services/Military Division of MidCountry Bank, KPMG LLC, Pollenware, and MHC; and through the contributions of Frank Feigenbaum, Gary and Ann Fish, Bill and Christy Gautreaux, Bush and Jamie Helzberg, Alexander and Christine Kemper, Mike and Linda Lyon, Brad and Linda Nicholson, John and Marny Sherman, and the Bill and Peggy Lyons Family Foundation Fund.

For more information, please visit kansascity.americanowandhere.org. A Kansas City-focused Twitter feed for America: Now and Here is accessible at www.twitter.com/anhkc.

About The Author: KC Studio

KC Studio

KC Studio covers the performing, visual, cinematic and literary arts, and the artists, organizations and patrons that make Kansas City a vibrant center for arts and culture.

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