Arts News: Charlotte Street Foundation Honors Six KC Artists

The Charlotte Street Foundation recently announced this year’s recipients of what are possibly this city’s biggest awards for the visual and performing arts.

The winners of the 2017 Charlotte Street Awards are Karen McCoy, Stephen Proski and Samara Umbral in the visual arts category and Amado Espinoza and Cat Mahari in the performing arts category.  Each receives an unrestricted $10,000 cash grant.

The visual arts awardees include veteran Kansas City Art Institute instructor, Karen McCoy, who was the school’s department chair of sculpture from 1994 to 2003 and continues to teach today. Her large-scale artworks interpret the differences between nature and culture. McCoy’s place in the history of site-specific sculpture, earthworks and environmentalist art is attested to by her inclusion in numerous books on these subjects published over the last 30 years.

Stephen Proski, who graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2010, has made a large impact on the KC art and music scene. Known for his loud, colorful graphic paintings, Proski incorporates elements of Minimalism and Neo-Geo into a unique collage style. In 2015, Proski’s artwork was featured on the cover of “NEA Arts,” the National Endowment for the Arts magazine. In addition to his work as a visual artist, Proski is a prolific musician, having played in punk and noise bands such as Meat Mist and Human Traffic, and he was one of the founders and organizers of the underground club and gallery Negative Space.

Samara Umbral is a 2009 KCAI graduate known for her hyper-realistic paintings of teenage girls. Umbral often works on a miniature scale, creating paintings no larger than a cell phone screen, and she often works from photographs taken on cell phones. Umbral’s paintings have elicited some controversy, as many of her artworks reference youth selfie culture, depicting young girls displaying their sexuality as captured on their own cell phones.

This year’s two winners of the foundation’s generative performing artist awards draw from multiple cultural traditions. Amado Espinoza, a native of Colombia, is a musician well known for his wide repertoire of world folk music. He specializes in the Bolivian charango guitar, but is skilled in over 40 different instruments, including a wide variety of Latin, African and Arabic percussion instruments and flutes from around the globe. While he is knowledgeable of many folk traditions, his music is often a fusion of many styles. In addition to performing, Espinoza is a talented craftsman of musical instruments.

Cat Mahari is an interdisciplinary performance artist, with roots in a wide variety of African dance styles as well as traditions including theater, breaking, club, ballet and street performance. Mahari is a Fulbright scholar who received her M.A. from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London and is the founder of 31st&Brklyn, a dance and performance center in Kansas City.

CSF has also announced the winners of this year’s Art Omi Fellowship and Byron C. Cohen Award.

Rodolfo Marron III will participate in the prestigious Omi International Artists Residency in rural New York State.

Marron, a 2016 Visual Artist Award Fellow, is a young, rising artist in the KC scene, with recent exhibitions at the Nerman Museum and Kemper at the Crossroads. Marron’s artwork is a mixture of painting, collage and installation that focuses on his own family history, Mexican heritage and invented personal mythologies. His drawings often utilize natural substances like flowers and berries to create pigments, which are then combined with found objects and ephemera to create shrine-like installations.

In addition to being a 2017 Visual Artist Award Fellow, Samara Umbral is the recipient of this year’s Byron C. Cohen Award, which will enable her to attend a leading international art fair of her choice.

Works by the Visual Artist Award Fellows will be featured in the “2017 Charlotte Street Visual Artist Award Exhibition” at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, dates to be announced.

Images: Charlotte Street Foundation

About The Author: Neil Thrun

Neil Thrun

Neil Thrun is a writer and artist living in Kansas City, Missouri. He is a 2010 graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute and was a resident artist with the Charlotte Street Urban Culture Project in 2011 and 2012. He has written for publications including the Kansas City Star, Huffington Post and other local arts journals.

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