From a streetcar wrapped in a rendition of a poppy field to kiosks adorned with paintings and animations, this summer’s Art in the Loop project promises a visual cornucopia to residents and visitors of the downtown Kansas City area. Now in its seventh year, Art in the Loop has partnered with the KC Streetcar Authority to bring temporary outdoor installations to streetcar stops and along the downtown route.
For the 2020 season, the Art in the Loop Foundation selected 10 artist teams from more than 70 applicants. A piece titled “Planaria Passages” builds on the “Body of Inquiry” project by Jason Pollen, Mol Mir, Steph Nowotarski and William Plummer recently presented at the UMKC Gallery of Art. Other participants include well-known names — Barry Anderson, Ada Koch, Glenn North — while the project provides key exposure for the talents of Will Vannerson, Robert Castillo, Jessica Rogers, Nazanin Amiri Meers, Hubbard Savage, Ari Bonner and Megan Ganey.
“Art is for everyone, and a project like Art in the Loop makes art accessible and presents art as a public service,” said Ganey, whose piece “So Long and Good Luck” is displayed at the River Market West Streetcar stop at 4th and Main Streets. “When travelling, places I remember the most integrate art into infrastructure, and to be a part of a program like that in my community is pretty rad.”
Ganey’s contribution to Art in the Loop speaks to the relevance of human connection and collaboration. Based on a film negative belonging to her great-grandmother, the work uses layering and collaging to depict a family gathered at the railway junction between El Paso, Texas, and Mexico. The artist describes her process: “to look and find the details, to find where people are connecting. To look at people’s hands and their eyes and their smiles . . . I like to discover the universality of relationships. Yes, these people are my family, but they could be yours.”
In prior years, each Art in the Loop program had a theme, but this time the artists were free to approach their craft without thematic constraints. This change allows artists to create works that best reflect their own studio practices, according to Bo Hubbard, art director for Art in the Loop. The only requirement for submissions was that they “interact with the KC Streetcar in some way.”
Integrating the art with Kansas City’s most unique public transportation system is a boon to the area’s cultural wealth and benefits artists. Ann Holliday, vice president of the Downtown Council, says a venue like Art in the Loop is “an opportunity for local artists to test out public art with temporary installations.” The freedom to experiment with new environments, materials and ideas not only empowers artists; according to Holliday, “Kansas City residents, workers and visitors also benefit by having new artwork to experience as they commute about downtown. Kansas City is a creative and cultural mecca — we love sharing art with the community.”
While the organizers, sponsors and participating artists remain united in their enthusiasm and optimism for the program, the Coronavirus pandemic has forced some adjustments. For the first phase of the summer, Art in the Loop will focus on visual work. Later, Holliday said, “As we continue to gain a better understanding of public guidelines, we hope to host a few events over the summer and provide opportunities for performing artists.”