Category Archives: Visual

Windows Between Realities

Jurado1-KCS-ArticleThe Photograph Works of Leonor Jurado-Laspina
By: Annie Raab

It begins and ends with the body. The photographs of and by Leonor Jurado-Laspina are surface vibrations caused by disturbed waters deep below. There is an ominous narrative enclosed in each image, and they have been condensed and cropped to focus on the point of highest tension. These stories are told through body parts, intimate and disturbing moments reflected in a bowed hand, or a covered head. Alongside these fragmented portraits are broken natural structures, such as fallen trees, large branches, and deer skulls, seemingly at the tail end of decomposition. We are taken into a story created through many small, single-subject images. A palm, the bottoms of two feet, or half a torso are photographed with softness, yet the shadowy space beyond the figure is left invisible. This dark space that occupies the photographs is, in many ways, exactly what Jurado-Laspina is exploring. Jurado describes her personal longing for art movements passed, which may explain why some of her figures shield themselves from the lens, denying their inclusion in the canon. An alternate version of reality emerges to overtake the existing one, and so the truth of each photograph becomes more difficult to identify using the framework we possess in this world. How many of these images bear a semblance to the world we are viewing them from? Are the images, like the scarred hand pressed onto glass, living in a world just beyond our reach? If, in this alternate reality, we find truth and answers, would they carry over with the same weight into this reality? Each image lives an antiquated lifestyle. Even when photographed with an iPhone, they seem unassociated with today’s fast-paced technology and self-obsessed social scene. Perhaps they are visitors from the past.

Presented with these human parts in another context, we would swell with a kind of love, an instinct to protect, or at least intimate familiarity, but Jurado-Laspina’s series does not take us there. Our memories are disrupted by the macabre, Gothic sensibility of these images and we are denied some of our humanity in favor of fiction. The images truly represent those intimate pieces of ourselves and each other we protect the most, but even through their exposure they remain trapped and inaccessible. Some are more tactile, like the hand pressed against a clear, hard surface, presenting the audience with a long scar cut across the supple palm. Others have more abstract narratives: branches laid out alone or in a cluster of exposed roots and antlers removed from their original posts. In these shots of nature the medium speaks louder than the story, exhibiting her skillful usage of antiquated cameras and old fashion processes. Any photographer to come of age before the digital revolution can appreciate the deftness by which she wields these dinosaur tools, although eventually every image becomes digitized. Such is the photographic way for those on a budget. The truly hands-on process is not in the images, but the porcelain mounts the photos have been transferred onto. She uses old fabric doilies, some of them from her own familial origins. The objects become heavy with clay as she continues to press them into the wet material, giving the images the weight of physical labor and personal history.

Three large prints of the female form appear low-quality and unflattering. Jurado reveals the secret: These photographs have been shot with her iPhone and blown up much larger than the device is capable of shooting. In just three photographs of the canonical female body, Jurado is posing some provocative questions for Western culture. The otherness of the iPhone “selfies” defies both sets of rules for sexting and profile-pic-ing. They are not shot from the most flattering and publicly appealing angle, nor do they condense sexuality into expressions in the eyes, face, or erogenous zones of the body. They are forthright and bold, grainy and unfocused, and are more evocative of the (long replaced) female standards of the past. There are no frills in the black and white triptych. Jurado is only using the device to propagate the media to propagate the culture, and in doing so has challenged us to think about the edits we make to ourselves when we turn the camera (app) around.

When asked about materials, Jurado begins to discuss the negation of the materials and process she is using. As a photographer living in the digital age, she is quick to recognize her practice as having to evolve. A photograph still asserts itself as a photograph, but embraces the digital age whenever necessary. When I ask Jurado about her relationship to memory, she has a surprising reply. The series, she asserts, is not about the memory of the subjects, but the history of the art and subject matter. This feels existential and I consult the images for affirmation. I imagine the subjects weighted down by past lives and false memories of their condition. Gothic in content with Baroque references, the figures are trapped. Jurado talks about her photographs like a disturbed person might talk about another living thing. “I’m not afraid to put my subjects in precarious situations. They are the manifestation of entrapment and internalization of a situation”. She says this with tough love, and concludes “I want the work to feel slightly religious and spiritual without being preachy, like Bill Viola can accomplish in his works.” She expands on the research she has been doing on Viola, but is right to recognize her work as different in many ways. “I’m just very inspired by him right now,” she says, “but I could never make work on that scale.”

The shows larger theme is “displacement”, as enforced by Jurado’s statement. She doesn’t mention it in the show, but she’s moving back to Ecuador this year, leaving the United States behind. Everything she owns will be under scrutiny: Do I take this? Do I have ties to this? Will I be in contact with you? Her home country has become increasingly more appealing to her in the last few years as American policies continue to behave this way. When we know this bit of personal information about the artist, suddenly the broken branches and isolated figures mean that much more. This series is overwhelmingly a study of the past and a longing for a world different from the one we remain in. Just as the figures in the photograph appear to be trying to escape, we are trying to enter.

You can see Leonor Jurado-Laspina’s show at Paragraph Gallery (23 E 12th Street) on April 4th until the end of the month.

Posted in New Mediums, Visual | Leave a comment

Artist Matthew Dahaemers offers up RE-TREAD

RE-TREAD by Matthew Dehaemers
3-14 – 4-18
Exhibition Hours
Tues – Friday 10 a.m. – noon
1 – 4 p.m.
Saturday noon – 4 p.m.
Exhibition Talk, 3-15
Saturday Noon – 1 p.m.

Artist: Matthew Dehaemers Navigating A Way Material: Wood, plywood, speaker system, steel, 15 minute Audio piece created in collaboration with the originally conceived poem by Jose Faus and original audio sound recording and mixing by Jeffrey Keirsey. Year: 2014

Artist: Matthew Dehaemers
Navigating A Way
Material: Wood, plywood, speaker system, steel, 15 minute Audio piece created in collaboration with the originally conceived poem by Jose Faus and original audio sound recording and mixing by Jeffrey Keirsey. Year: 2014

Studios Inc Exhibition Space is pleased to present RE-TREAD, an exhibition featuring resident artist Matthew Dehaemers, on view from 3-14 to 4-18 with an opening
reception Friday, 3-14 from 6- 9 p.m. RE-TREAD is an exhibition that embarks on a body of large and small-scale work, both sculptural and two-dimensional, by Matthew Dehaemers. The imagery is inspired by
family past and present-an exploration of relationships from personal and universal perspectives. Some of the work is an introspective look at being a father, son and husband. Matt explores these ideas through variety of materials.

Matthew received his BFA in painting and printmaking from Creighton University. After college Matthew spent a year teaching on the Navajo Reservation in St. Michael
Arizona. A few years later he completed an MFA in sculpture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Graduate Fellowship.

He has created numerous installations locally and around the country both for the gallery and for the public art realm. Matthew’s work has been commissioned by numerous organizations including the LA County Arts Commission, the City of Casper, WY, The Kansas City, Missouri Public Municipal Art Commission and The Kansas City Chiefs.

Dehaemers’ received a community award by the Johnson County chapter of the NAACP for his projects that have drawn attention to issues of race and discrimination. His work has been featured at numerous art spaces including the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, The Bemis Center of Contemporary Art and the Salina Arts Center.
Matthew has had the opportunity to be a part of various artist residencies around the country.

Matthew Dehaemers is a resident artist at Studios Inc. The Studios Inc provides studio space, professional development, networking, and exhibitions for mid-career artists in Greater Kansas City. The 2013 – 2014 Exhibition Series has been made possible through the generous financial support of Jane Hunt-Meade and Benjamin Meade.

Posted in Visual | Leave a comment

Fire Over Kansas

Michael Wickerson, associate professor and chair of sculpture at Kansas City Art Institute, understands land. He is woven into it like the very fabric of the earth, as a weaver takes yarn through a loom. Yet, his creations are impermanent. At Wickerson Studios, in Kansas City, Kan., Wickerson and his wife, Beth and their two young sons, look at the land as something that provides joy, energy and inspiration.

The family treasures the land as another living being, similar to the depiction of land in a Thomas Hardy novel. And much like the heath of Hardy’s world, the 11 acres are unkempt and wild, full of spirit and interest. In Return of the Native, Hardy describes the heath early on as “The somber stretch of rounds and hollows seemed to rise and meet the evening gloom in pure sympathy, the heath exhaling darkness as rapidly as the heavens precipitated it.” In the dictionary, a heath is “an extensive area of rather level open uncultivated land.” Like the heath, the rolling acreage seems to have a wild, untamed spirit, much like the family that lives upon it.

To capture the land, Wickerson has partnered with Polish photographer Jaroslaw Rodcyz. The works are a fusion of architectural design, theater and fire performances, mixed with Rodcyz’s artistic digital imaging techniques. This first series is now known as Fire Over Kansas.
The images from Fire Over Kansas will be making their collective way around Europe and North America. Rodcyz says these first images are just the beginning. He and Wickerson have known each other for 20 years, having met in Wickerson’s native Canada. Future plans could include documenting Wickerson Studios in different seasons.

Ashley Anders, KC Studio’s KC Connect curator, attended KCAI and has worked with Wickerson for years. Her labors have included making hundreds of bricks and serving as coordinator for Fire Over Kansas. She helped manage the volunteers and even fed the fire for the photo documentation on the cover photo. Anders has traveled with Wickerson to share a presentation on the work.

During the documentation process, Anders says, “We all agree that the chance to document the work is critical … The direction and ultimate realization of his work is comfortable being in constant flux. The allowance of free thought and dreaming on this 11-acre land has led us to create and display the prints. In collaboration with Jaroslaw Rodycz and Erik Muelenbelt from Holland, Michael has reached a point with Wickerson Studios in which a great deal of appreciation, contemplation and critique are in order …”

One of the first steps in understanding Wickerson is to understand his joy in working the land. “I am most content and tranquil while shoveling. Digging the earth provides me with more material, both physical and psychical, that I could ever acquire by any other means. I firmly believe that everything we purchase is basically free of charge and that we are only paying for processing and transportation of that material. Looking to the land and what is beneath my feet allows me to ‘stand my ground,’ fundamentally and conceptually, and, in turn, manipulate, transform, and reflect upon all that it provides. …

“There is a time to dig and mix the earth after a rain. Transporting and processing occurs when the earth is dry for about a week. The grass is utilized to bind and ram the adobe mixtures. The sod is employed at the right time of year and the earth clay is pressed and kiln dried in the anagama kiln. There is a season for everything, and the climate dictates what must be done. Most importantly, it won’t get done on its own. “I build what I need because I need to …”

The various rough-hewn buildings are carefully preserved in the photos: Little Otik known as Oscar’s Tower, Hamlet’s Mill, the anagama kiln called Moby Dick, Cupola, Cupola (the burning ship) and the Grieve Foundry. If Wickerson continues to describe his work on the land, it’s appears as a combination of a Roman settlement in ancient Britannia meets Native American structure.

“Understanding the method of construction for each of the buildings is directly tied to gaining knowledge about the content of each of the structures themselves. In an attempt to ‘build ruins’ I have experimented and researched and developed several different processes while aspiring to create these structures,” Wickerson says. Another strength of his is to show how work can be done with brawn and brain. The largest motor used in moving the various timbers has been his 2001 Prius. Again the land and the use of simple tools such as a block and tackle are Wickerson’s first choices.

“My efforts and ambitions seem to be moving beyond my personal development and exhibition of sculptures and ideas. I feel the need to expand my efforts in the arts. My American arts community has grown from 12 students in 2001, when I moved here from Canada, into an international exchange of ideas spanning the globe,” he says. “Beginning to develop my private studios on an institutional level will allow me to continue to serve the alumni and artists that I have come to know. I look forward to creating new artworks, all the while, serving other artists with the same enthusiasm and drive that has inspired me to make a life for myself in America that develops personally and professionally with creative individuals.”

No one who steps on Wickerson Studios leaves unaffected by the family’s passion. “Although I do not feel able to define passion in a general sense, I do believe that the following Mantra sums up the passion I have for the studio and the time I have on earth,” he says. There is a detailed mantra that is defined online, in print and each and every day. The mantra is: work outdoors; value the seasons; utilize natural light; watch the sunrise; follow the moon; let the weather control the temperature; it all returns to the earth; everything exists in a long-term landfill; endure, breath, move; the heart is the only motor; all we are is our mind and our health; and shovel, dig, make bricks.

Wickerson says there is a philosophy of success in his artistic career and personal life. Wickerson’s sons have been raised on the land with his second son, Max, being born at home. His son Oscar has helped in shaping some of the projects and the workload. His wife, Beth Wickerson, according to Wickerson, is the physical embodiment of the heart and passion of Wickerson Studios. “She is the creator of our two sons, Oscar and Max. The latter of which struggled and was born on the floor in front of our family fireplace (hearth and mantle) at Wickerson Studios in 2011.”

Wickerson’s wife, Beth, a web designer, says, “To me, passion is working for yourself in every aspect of life – whether it is reshaping the land to your own private oasis, growing your own food, or running your own business. It is the desire to make life worth living, to put all your energy toward doing the things that make you happy, and to remove yourself from the things that don’t.

Sharing Fire Over Kansas is still somewhat unfamiliar. “I am still processing the meaning of the series of digital prints; I believe that I have come to understand that it is collection of analogue images that center on the same concept, place, and time: the Wickerson Ranch. Similar to Greek theater, the collaborators, attempted in a very short period of time to immortalize a happening that was framed by several years of building and planning,” he says.

“I hold very dear to me the statement that Ashley Anders, a long time participant at Wickerson Studios, has demanded an answer to and what the series of works resonates and captures. Although I remain completely overwhelmed with the outcome, Ashley manages to simply and clearly uncovered the critical moment that all involved in the project are currently facing: ‘In collaboration with Jaroslaw Rodycz and Erik Meulenbelt from Holland, Michael has reached a point with Wickerson Studios in which a great deal of appreciation, contemplation and critique is in order. [Their} accomplishments call for internalization by individuals not only in our community but also around the world.’”

Coming shows will be in Krakow through the middle of March. Wickerson also expects a show in Canada too. “I wish to further develop the private studio and sculptural landscape of Wickerson Studios by facilitating it with additional equipment, supplies and materials in order to serve a growing community of artists,” he says.

On a final and invitational note, whatever the future does hold, Wickerson will continue to seek out the new and different. That’s why he enjoys art and design. “Please feel free to contact us, should you be interested in proposing a site specific work or would just like to shoot around some creative ideas with a herd of deer or a rafter of turkeys.”

Learn more about Wickerson Studios and the Project Overview of Fire Over Kansas.
Collaborator: Jaroslaw Rodycz, concept/photography & editing
Collaborator: Michael Wickerson, production manager/buildings, artworks and forms
Collaborator: Erik Meulenbelt, consultant/logistics & personnel
All images © Rodycz Wickerson

Posted in Kellie Houx, Visual | Leave a comment

Post Internet: From Instagram to The White Cubicle

New Charlotte Street resident Lindsey Von Eskind, Bard College alumni curated Objet Boutique's sister show LYLAS (Internet lingo for "Love You Like a Sis" at Paragraph Gallery.

New Charlotte Street resident Lindsey Von Eskind, Bard College alumni curated Objet Boutique’s sister show LYLAS (Internet lingo for “Love You Like a Sis” at Paragraph Gallery.

While the contemporary art world has spurned many sub-categories of aesthetic preferences delineated by the artist’s medium, the majority of the American masses cannot specify any revolutionary art movements within the last two decades. Many art history classes in secondary schools stop with “post-modern art” and to describe the dilemma of not being able to categorize what has developed hereafter, will slop the messy title “post-postmodern art” in frustration.

Since the rise of the Internet and distribution of contemporary art resources and artist property through analytical search engines, it seems there are many encompassing niches for any kind of art which is being made, if one only knows the URL. Sites such as Tumblr, Instagram, 4chan, and Pinterest have all grown sustainable audiences whose creative projects take on similar forms and represent what is “cutting edge” and “hipster” in the marketplace today. While Internet art, more commonly referenced as “net art” (1994-early 2000s) has been created since the World Wide Web was originally instated, Post Internet art (2006- ) deals with our art which is a direct yield of our time on the Internet. Think Peggy Noland’s Social Media dresses, decorated with screenshots of news feeds, or of many younger artists who are photographing subjects in studio and then elaborating their compositions with idealistic objects found via the Internet. This work is publicly inclusive, at least to those who know of its channels, but yet exclusive to older generations who only frequent galleries to see fine art. What are the benefits and disadvantages of this new art field, and why are we just beginning to see it bloom in Kansas City?

Perhaps my generation is one of appropriation, but to me I see the radical changes in our art scene as a reaction to globalization and urban culture. Many students graduating with liberal arts degrees this year count their blessings from the small padding they had from the 2008 economic crisis. Any closer, and we, like our friends, might have graduated with the general warning: “What are you going to do with that degree?” Some schools including KCAI closed some of their commercial art departments, believing that there was no marketplace for the “luxury” of professional aestheticism. During the post-WWII 1960s, the United States’ economy expanded exponentially, leading to a redistribution of funds to many who now had the means and interest in art patronage. This created an art boom, allowing young artists the chance to make it big as pop culture stars. This newfound wealth gave birth to pop culture and a certain appreciation for luxurious goods. Today as our economy is pulling itself out of stagnation and we can now reflect on a solid year of positive growth, a wave of materialistic appreciation is growing as well.

The world and promotion of the fine artist has landscaped itself dramatically different in the last 20 years. Whereas before artist representatives and gallerists often would discover artists and promote them in accordance to their talents, now artists are self-reliant on that marketing via the internet. It has been said that rather than the art object, artists are made based on “personal empires” which are shaped through internet posts and web styles. Based on a well-designed website an early career artist may win out on commissions over a more technically advanced, late career professional. “Internet Aware” is the mentality of the artist which recognizes that whether or not they choose to distribute their work on the internet, it will be cast into this realm to be devalued, revalued, and distributed. To recognize this fate and consider its effect on the art object may affect any number of layers of production from original composition, digital collaging and time-based video and gif work, to simply how an art object is documented and edited. Adjusting the levels of a piece to read more clearly online inherently changes the content of an artwork.

We are encountering a new realm of art presentation. Twentieth century art practice taught the artist to value and consider context of art creation. As styles and movements rapidly evolved, the contextual intent of the artist’s influence and studio practice defined the importance of the piece itself. Internet surfing-as-art and the juxtaposition of found materials photographed in luxurious and isolated compositions against that of idealized cultural icons from the internet speaks to the art historical precedents of Duchamp’s specification-as-art and more recently, consumption-as-art. While appropriation considers the owner of a material and the right to reproduce its likeness, this new wave of Internet art views the forms of our everyday household and wardrobe as a form which represents today’s manufacturing and Internet profile. The “face of the Internet” is considered heavily for thousands of artists who create images with the direct intention of uploading to Tumblr, Instagram, or Pinterest. Indeed, in Art Institute critiques we hear the term “Tumblr art” as a descriptive aesthetic term.

So where does this movement find its way into the gallery scene? In terms of KCAI students, the majority of the painting department has decidedly been moving away from traditional painting to Post Internet digital work. Interestingly, so too has the Ceramics department. As students begin to experience their first recruitments and press recognition via the internet, their interest in the art object wanes and a fixation of image manipulation and presentation reigns. Objet Boutique, currently on display at Paragraph Gallery displays the work of many ceramicists, local printmakers and fibers artists who have taken a departure from hang-on-the-wall white cube gallery work to create functional house goods and wearables. For as much time as the floor-planning and gallery curating took, the creation of promotional imagery and their Tumblr blog easily took as much precedence. In the words of Joseph Beuys, “If you want to express yourself you must present something tangible. But after a while this has only the function of a historic document. Objects aren’t very important anymore. I want to get to the origin of matter, to the thought behind it.” Text and typography have a high conceptual value in these art works as well, as printing costs become elevated and less-accessible. Many Post Internet pieces today center on the use of typographic elements which are distorted or used as graphic elements to represent the collapse of the print and text empire.

This "Google Me" spandex dress is customizable to the buyer's preference - by Peggy Noland

This “Google Me” spandex dress is customizable to the buyer’s preference – by Peggy Noland

While this art movement has been gaining relevance and use for the last 10 years, we are still slim to see it in Kansas City’s gallery scene. A large reason for this is that the work is meant to exist in alternative spaces. As Instagram photos and photo documentation become more readily accepted art forms and credible institutions such as The Nelson-Atkins teaches “Instagram Photography classes,” we see a melding of our everyday surroundings and installation art. Local gallery Plug Project’s #lostandfoundart initiative offers users of any social media to tag their photos in exchange for a potential cash prize. This art is new and devoid of the traditional conventions of the art world, and therefore has had problems with its presentation in the white cubicle. But as the movement becomes more serious and noteworthy, its practitioners invariably wish to see it regarded with the prestige of a gallery institution. New media used to be displayed in a very isolated setting, but now is becoming more co-mingled.

Objet Boutique - a pop-up shop, in the main gallery of Paragraph, is filled with semi-utilitarian objects created by upcoming artists based in traditional materials such as ceramics, fiber and printmaking.

Objet Boutique – a pop-up shop, in the main gallery of Paragraph, is filled with semi-utilitarian objects created by upcoming artists based in traditional materials such as ceramics, fiber and printmaking.

Lindsey Von Eskind, a recent Charlotte Street addition and alumni of Bard College

curated LYLAS, a conjoining show to the Objet Boutique which presents a number of her friends working in the Post Internet theme. Their work is progressive and sometimes even offensive, showcasing everyday objects, girlish colors and the nude body, but also a deliberate awareness of how the exhibition will be photographed as well as contemporary Internet themes. Lindsey’s work is in edited video, showcased on VCRS with padded materials and wrappings which engage the viewer. Her actors are hired on 4chan, paid small amounts of money to read to her, pose for pictures or even come to her exhibitions and participate in an installation. One corner of the gallery had a nail-painting booth manned by a local magician hired from Craigslist.

Is this art? Does it offend you? Does this vapid materialism define to you the lost generations of our capitalist society? While many in Kansas City have just begun to consider these questions in terms of internet and new media, I think we can agree that this is a vital argument to have and that it is long past time for our local art institutions to play host to this conversation.

To read more and subscribe to The Bohemian Zine, visit

Posted in Carrie Riehl, Columnist, New Mediums, Visual | Leave a comment

KC Connect and Discovering Undergrowth

By Annie Raab

As it stands, the Kansas City art community is relatively hidden away from the rest of the nation. In the city we have our own thriving systems, our own delicate balance of life and art, our respective seasons of feast and famine. Within this system artists move about like loose seeds, planting and growing and popping up in unexpected places as the whole environment changes. Like any well-balanced forest, there are spots of land with more sunlight or richer soil.

KC ConnectIn one sunny clearing, Ashley Anders peers through a magnifying lens to observe the growth. “After graduating KCAI, I saw my peers struggle to keep their studio practice structured. I wanted to help facilitate their growth and build a program that would provide opportunities.” KC Connect has emerged as one of those opportunities. A series under the umbrella of KC Studio Magazine, KC Connect tills the land in search of emerging artists that would benefit from a more direct connection to the local supporters of the scene, like a new plant exposed to the sunlight.

The goal of KC Connect is to bring these artists together with the sponsors that help sustain the larger creative community, encouraging lasting relationships and demystifying each party’s greater role. Artists can have somewhat of a shrouded practice — often moving fluidly between platforms and media — and businesses can be unsure of how to proceed when they take a creative route. With this series of events however, both parties are guaranteed to make an appearance and begin to understand what they need from one another.

It isn’t just about growing Kansas City’s profits in different sectors. KC Connect has put out a call for 25 artists, whose work will be distributed throughout Kansas City’s most popular galleries (such as Leedy-Voulkos and the Mid-America Arts Alliance) in May through November of 2014. Artists will have a chance to show their work in places of high-volume, with the added bonus of meeting sponsors face-to-face. Receptions will be held in honor of this connection, providing a greater opportunity for the artist to demonstrate their unique ways of solving problems creatively to those businesses that may be looking for exactly that. Selected artists from the series also receive a spread in KC Studio Magazine, featuring their work and a personal story about themselves. The deadline for artists to submit to KC Connect was in mid-December.

Unlike Ashley’s last undertaking, the Gorilla Event series that focused on urbanism and street-art, KC Connect will be bigger and more encompassing of the art scene today. Ashley fills me in on the details. She tells me KC Connect is creating an opportunity with these events to help artists cultivate public interest and for businesses to see how art can improve both image and economy. I ask her about the selection process, which in itself can be a turn-off for the less-exposed artists in the city. She assures me it will not be carried out by chilly businesspeople looking for a cheap hire.

Ashley took upon herself to sift through applications and meet with the artists face to face. She wants to make sure they are having their creative goals met in the show and are in a good position to leave the event with lasting connections. She hopes to connect every single artist with a patron, employer, or gallery. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s not. Her BFA and MBA practically make her the ideal bridge between the business end and creative end. She is careful to underline her motivation: “There’s a fine line for business involvement in the art world. I’d like to be the filter that protects the exploitation of artists while allowing growth between the two.” Ashley talks about wanting sponsors to feel more involved in the art scene without exploiting artists exclusively for their own monetary gain. She laughs, saying she wants sponsors to know they won’t just be a logo at the bottom of a coaster, but a genuine participant in the art community.

“It takes an honest effort to make lasting connections,” Ashley says of the sponsors, who also receive a supped-up media package in exchange for their support. If there’s a way to make a positive impact on artists, it definitely comes down to supporting the work they do for the world.

The Bohemian’s upcoming partnership with KC Studio Magazine means more good news for the emerging young artist! The magazine has allowed Bohemian to contribute a page of its own design to each issue. This little page finds its way into the hands of more than 20,000 subscribers, who likely are using the magazine to discover the exciting ideas and projects created by the younger crowd. It’s no small victory for this little zine, whose majority contributors are under the age of 30 and are working in the arts in some capacity.

If KC Studio is a more “suburban friendly” magazine, integrating the “conceptual-urbanism”then The Bohemian could bring readers the kind of uncomfortable curiosity that attracts them to new shows. A new audience means more outsiders who are willing to explore new ideas and become involved in more meaningful ways. This kind of exposure brings us one precious step closer in using art to perpetuate culture and being folded into the greater community. So keep your eyes open and encourage your friends and family to read!

Posted in KC Connect, Visual | Leave a comment

The Next Big Step

InterUrban_ArtHouse1-KCS-OnlineWhat happens with the power of one? One person with a vivid and productive imagination can decide to dream. And what does this one person dream about … the future of the arts in Downtown Overland Park and the metropolitan community. As a matter of fact, that dream has become reality as the InterUrban ArtHouse and continues to expand each and every week under the guiding merits and abilities of the ever-energetic Nicole Emanuel.

A few years ago, Emanuel spent time with artists, arts organizations and civic and business leaders in and around northeast Johnson County. The need for an artistic “hub” rose to the forefront.  This creative and cultural hub would be another anchor point in the growing metropolitan arts community with the Crossroads and the Downtown Kansas City art scene that also reaches into Johnson County with the Nerman Museum and the Johnson County Community College programs.

Emanuel has surrounded herself with artists and supporters. She has found a cadre of supporters, both personally and professionally to take the existing building at the intersection of Conser and West 80th Street and turn it into a true artistic center. With the addition of a proposed sculptural park, InterUrban ArtHouse will take up the block from Newton Street to West 80th and Conser. Rick Howell, PLAID, is the landscape architect whose job will be to take the half of the land designated residential and create a park. Howell’s credentials include the Henry Moore Sculpture Park at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. “It’s about a quarter acre that we could use for outdoor lessons and of course, space for art. It’s going to have a very green and ecological bent. We are aiming for sustainable materials in the garden.”

And Emanuel wants to make sure the garden is a continuation of the inviting nature of the center. “We want the neighbors to come and share in this sort of European-feel garden space. It’s going to be communal.” The garden space could also be used to show outdoor films and other community activities. Howell sees the garden as a way to utilize any and all space for accessible arts.

InterUrban_ArtHouse3-KCS-OnlineThe construction team is led by Pat McCown of McCownGordon. Chris Heinz with Hollis & Miller takes charge of architecture and Bill Zahner is creating a new grand entrance (metal elements) that will cover both stories and create an artistic vision from the moment people see the building, Emanuel says. As much of the materials as possible will come from Planet Reuse. Many of these leaders are also part of the strategic partners team.

Emanuel’s cadre of supporters also includes those who will be tenants. Tatiana and Stanislav Ioudenitch will have classrooms and studio space. Rita Blitt will continue her drawing center and she also plans to have space that will serve as a satellite space for the Kansas City Art Institute. The U.S. Post Office will retain some space. Two significant tenants are Public Glassworks KC and Snow & Co.

Sara LaGrand, owner of Public Glassworks KC, met Emanuel in 2012 through friend and fellow glass artist Dierk Van Keppel. “He knew I was looking for space and introduced us. Initially people were a little concerned about my flame working, but the glass working studio space got the green light from city officials and the fire marshal.”

While her work is on the smaller scale as she describes it, LaGrand brings knowledge from the broader world, having studied and taught all over Europe and Canada. “How lucky we are to have Nicole. It’s easy to champion this space. We need more access for enrichment in Johnson County. The arts community is thriving, but quiet. That should change. We have artists who live on the Kansas side who need affordable space. When you choose a city to live in, it’s not only the job and schools, but the cultural opportunities we have.”

Jerry Nevins and Andy Talbert of Snow & Co are taking their frozen drink business and their business acumen to InterUrban. This will be their second location. Talbert and Emanuel met over a Passover meal. He was taken with Emanuel’s energy and creativity. “It’s thrilling to think that we can be part of a rising artist community,” Talbert says. Nevins says the two men may also offer artists some classes and workshops to be better business people.

On the second floor, artists will go through a selection process and can find artists’ spaces. The other offices on this floor will be the Art & Recreation Foundation of Overland Park, the offices of InterUrban ArtHouse, Nicole Emanuel Studios, Reggie Banks and Kelvin Banks Sr. of Blackberry Castle, Sherri Jacobs Art Therapy and the Arts Council of Johnson County.

InterUrban_ArtHouse2-KCS-OnlineArts Council of Johnson County Executive Director Sarah Van Landuyt says she met Emanuel at an art forum in 2011. “It was interesting to offer support amid the difficult economic and political atmosphere of the day. Listening to Nicole talk about needing to get out of her basement studio space just proved that many suburban artists had similar needs. What she wants fits in with the 2005 study that urged for the creation of an arts center. By having our office there, it’s going to put us in an arts-centric environment. We can help with the professional development and make sure our resources are aiding those who need them. I believe we will complement each other’s strengths.”

ArtsKC Regional Arts Council President Harlan Brownlee is also supportive of Emanuel’s efforts. “As the regional arts council, ArtsKC’s strategic partnership with the InterUrban ArtHouse is built on the idea that the arts are a regional proposition and the InterUrban ArtHouse represents an important area of the region outside of the downtown corridor. As individual artists mature, establish families, and put roots down into a community, many of them choose to live in suburban environments,” he says. “Whether in the Crossroads Arts District or in downtown Overland Park, the arts benefit the region in two primary ways. One, they are an economic engine, encouraging development and tourism and two, they build communities, magnetize neighborhoods, and  encourage intergenerational activities. The needs of artists across the region are universal in the sense that they need places to do their work and to be engaged with their community. We believe that the InterUrban ArtHouse meets the needs of artists living in Johnson County and are pleased to be one of their strategic partners.”

While the physical structure has yet to be renovated and expanded, InterUrban ArtHouse has been busy. Assistant Executive Director Nick Carswell maintains the statistics on how many people are impacted through the four concurrent program strands: ArtWORKS, ArtMATTERS, ArtsCONNECT and ArtSMART. The first is aiding in professional development training; the second promotes and supports artistic excellence for artists of all ages. ArtsCONNECT is the community networking and outreach strand and the fourth is the educational programming. “I keep the engagement piece and we have more than 2,700 individual arts experiences through all this programming,” he says.

After Emanuel shepherds this project to its opening, hopefully in the summer of 2015, she plans to step back from her role as executive director and focus on her art. She expects that a director will be hired after that.  After all, she has helped propel a project similar to this in San Francisco where she facilitated community murals and found the artists living and working spaces in the 1980s. One of the core objectives of the InterUrban ArtHouse is to create space for artists to work in that is both sustainable and affordable, similar to her San Francisco model.

Reggie Banks gives Emanuel the credit for steering this project. “She knows how to bring like-minded people together. She brings out the best in what they do and it all benefits the larger community. She is a great conduit to make this happen. The others agree. Nevins and Talbert call her collaborative and gifted in cross-pollinating the project. Reggie Banks says, “We are folks who believe in the grassroots effort and all of us have strong skill sets.

One of the core objectives of the InterUrban ArtHouse is to create space for artists to work in that is both sustainable and affordable. Our business model allows for below-market rental space for artists and non-profit arts organizations and is designed to be self-sustaining within 3 years. What does that mean? It means that the full renovation and installation of the facility within our capital fundraising campaign will then allow for artists to take leases that are at an affordable rate, ensuring that the InterUrban ArtHouse is a viable economic model to be self-sustaining into the future.

Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach sees the InterUrban ArtHouse as a response to the growing number of local and regional artists who have located in Downtown Overland Park, a strong move by the area’s creative class. “This is all part of an effort in creative placemaking,” he says. “Arts can be the differentiating factor for a community that attracts companies and individuals. Nicole is further fostering historic Downtown Overland Park as a much desired location for various forms of art, from visual to performance, with her InterUrban ArtHouse.”

Carswell, who works hand in hand with Emanuel, knows that the InterUrban ArtHouse is a national pilot that has gained National Endowment for the Arts funding. The Arts & Recreation Foundation of Overland Park, in collaboration with Emanuel and the City of Overland Park, is one of the grantees and will receive $150,000 to help fund the InterUrban ArtHouse project. Through Our Town, the NEA supports creative placemaking projects that help transform communities into lively, beautiful, and sustainable places with the arts at their core. InterUrban ArtHouse also received a $50,000 grant from the Kansas State Arts Funding. The $50,000 Creative Economy Project Support grant funds initiatives “that encourage dynamic partnerships between public, private, and cultural sectors that create jobs, generate real income, promote economic development, revitalize communities, and attract cultural tourists.

“We are excited to collect stories and share the data,” Carswell says. “It’s going to take that excitement to get the funds raised and see this project to completion.” That makes Emanuel smile. “The arts are a bridge. The state line can be ignored, but the arts can’t and they connect people in ways that are deeply felt. The InterUrban ArtHouse will be that incredible instrument for years to come,” she says.

Posted in Visual | Leave a comment

Transferring Experience to Inquiry

kc studio fashion for a cause-onlineWhen reminiscing on a favorite First Fridays experience, what first flashes through your memory? Is it a specific artist or artwork, or the cacophony of street vendors, performers, smells from food trucks, and musicians as you wove through busy Crossroads streets? Where does a party become a serious event, and how does an event become an elevated experience? In the city most densely populated with art organizations per block in the country, it is no wonder that solutions for drawing passerby from the street are becoming more prevalent and creative. Those artists who are brainstorming these solutions are some of the most infectious and acclaimed in the community.

Because Kansas City is so globally accomplished in the commercial arts of advertising, design and illustration, it’s no wonder that companies like Hint, (formerly known as T2) have taken off as lead innovators in this field. Without a huge separation in the art and design fields, our town breeds collaboration and experimentation even from the largest brands.

Through the work of Interactive Design Director Garrett Fuselier who graduated from Kansas City Art Institute in 2008, Hint has pioneered a department which does not effectively exist otherwise regionally. Think back to Fashion for a Cause 2008. Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts visitors had a prescribed idea of how a fashion show in the Midwest would exist. This idea was shattered as a giant spandex screen which covered the stage bore life to large aesthetic-driven graphic projections and then was sucked into a conical shape, from the center of which walked the first model. The model’s footsteps were recorded by, shockingly, microphones from Hallmark greeting cards. The small chips which are used to play music or a recording when the card is opened were reprogrammed to sense the proximity of the model on the catwalk above. The projection on the Spandex tube grew and breathed to the pulse of the model’s pace. Simple and inexpensive, yet so seamlessly integrated into the heartbeat of the event that the fashion show goers invariably felt more tuned into the mechanics of the work. They have also worked with immersive video experiences for the Kauffman Center and The Nelson-Atkin Museum of Arts’ patron dinners.

Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 1.19.46 PMVideo has a high propensity for viewer engagement because it engages our senses through visual and auditory components.  Directly relative to exhibition design, both encourage the viewer to interact spatially with the art piece through a prescribed pathway. Experience design considers the ephemeral nature of time and happening. They present those elements to the viewer and allow them to easily design their own memory. Famously Whoop Dee Doo, headed by Jaimie Warren, would kick off their art happening television shows with a dance party, and then introduce local drill teams and performers in front of a live audience. At their venue’s closing party the entry corridor was lined with white trash bags, pulsating from the jet streams of many hidden fans. Emptying into a tiny room filled with eccentrically dressed spectators, a couple of punk kids ran onto a small platform and rolled around the ground playing guitar before destroying their instruments on stage. Drinks were thrown, fur coats were ruined and everyone left with a vivid memory of the night’s crazed happenings.

Rises Zora, the immersive series of events by last year’s Charlotte Street curator-in-residence Jamilee Polson Lacy was perhaps so successful because of its attention to experience manufacturing. Gorgeously designed handouts were distributed at each event, creating a degree of recognition which readers were able to later identify as a physical memory. Parking lot film screenings, gallery openings and garden parties were constructed to engage art goers with sensual social experiences. The happenings employed blindfolds, mazes and treasure hunts to engage the attendee both aesthetically and almost “selfishly,” and the consequences were stupendous. Social media bore the excitement of these art goers for months following the events. Garrett Fuselier coins this bond to an experience as the “sponge state.” In this mental capacity the spectator moves into an interactive role in which they begin to transfer their past knowledge of the present elements and become completely enraptured and curious. What is required to trigger this state is dependent on the audience. Older viewers are more fearful of technology, Fuselier states, and you have to hide the receivers and wires because they worry they might break them. Younger audiences actually enjoy having the interaction of texting or holding a device.

Maria Montessori, pioneer of the early education philosophy of hands-on experiential learning philosophizes the stage from birth to age three as the age of “unconscious creation.”  During those early developmental years children use senses to engage and evaluate their surroundings instinctually. Based on this postulation, one could host an exhibition made purely from color projection and create something very representational, although it is devoid of any deportable object. Electronic music and dubstup employ primal urges: fades and beats set at the beginning of a song meant to draw an audience to the dance floor references the muffled beating of a mother’s heart from within the womb. “You can go intimate, you don’t have to make something big,” Fuselier said.

Interactive design is historically involved with web and interface technologies, on your laptop or touch-screen device. Trade shows are a huge venue for the concept as well, encouraging visitors to a booth to immerse themselves in order to leave a lasting impression of a company’s brand.  Where these “next-level” technologies cross with our public events and gallery practice, a path is illuminated towards some of the most popular and successful artists in the Kansas City scene. Consider some of the most popular art instillations in the last five years and what have made them so successful.  The Rain Room by Random International at the MOMA often attracts lines up to six hours to walk through an interior space which rains yet never gets the visitor wet. James Turrell’s Skyspace in the Guggenheim soaks the viewer into its magnificent palette of projected color.

As the year unfolds and warmer weather allows for more outdoor and mobile activity, stay on the lookout for the art movement towards experiential rather than statically interactive work. Exhibitions which allow the viewer to emotionally reciprocate and co-create a space not only engages for a longer duration, but may actually create a memory stronger than any costly print or branding campaign. Upcoming events utilizing this philosophy include Hello Art’s annual fundraiser on February First Friday, based at Hotel Phillips downtown. For more information regarding experiential artwork and who is riding at the top of this trend, pick up a January copy of The Bohemian and check out our featured article on experiential design.

To read more and subscribe to The Bohemian Zine, visit

Posted in Carrie Riehl, New Mediums | Leave a comment

A Creative Cause

KCS-RedDirt-NovDec13Sometimes enthusiasm isn’t just a noun that defines zeal or fervor, it can become a heartfelt drive issued from two people that a couple of dozen buy into … and that is what happened with Red Dirt’s co-founders Christina Eldridge and Dawn Taylor and the two-dozen and increasing number of artists producing cool art that has been added to phone cases.

Without any further description, it sounds like any start-up entrepreneurial story, but Eldridge and Taylor are more than business owners, they are women with great hearts. Those hearts have been affected by trips to Africa. Eldridge has served with Medical Missions while Taylor traveled with the Change the Truth organization, founded by local photographer Gloria Baker Feinstein.

“ keeps its headquarters here and they are a nonprofit aimed to provide access to safe water and sanitation in Africa, South Asia and Central America. We are focused on emphasizing the needs in West Africa. We want to give them opportunities and the ability to solve problems,” Eldridge says.

Taylor says social impact comes not just at the end of the year because of the time of the year, but for Red Dirt, it’s with every transaction. For every purchase of a $37 case, Red Dirt gives $5 to According to Taylor, the ability to give someone clean water for life is simply selling 5 cases for a donation of $25. “We believe businesses can make a measurable difference in the world and help solve problems within our lifetime—not as a year-end decision, but with each and every transaction. With the company, we know that the art is tangible and vibrant. We purchase the art and feed the artist ecosystem here.”

Red Dirt launched with 18 designs and every Monday, a new design is rolled out, Eldridge says. “The core artists are from Kansas City. They are creatively helping the world.” The two prove to be driven team where the phone cases are just the first product line. “The next product line will include T-shirts and that should be launched by late fall,” she says. “The phone cases are simply a first. We are growing the conscious capitalism. Is there a story behind what you buy?” Taylor says.

Here are the stories of four artists from the Kansas City metropolitan area who jumped into the first cadre of artists. More than two dozen local artists have shared their work with Red Dirt. The four artists are also able to enjoy the philanthropy and what the future may hold for Red Dirt.

Ada Koch is a painter who prefers oils and acrylics also shares her skills with others at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Holy Name School in Kansas City, in locations around the Crossroads and out of her own studio. “I moved here 23 years ago and took up painting. I ended up studying at the Kansas City Art Institute. It was about 21 years ago that people started buying my art,” she says. Some of her art is mixed media with oils and acrylic paints, sometimes collaged with papers and oil pastels.

Koch’s work has appeared in book illustrations and designs. “I know Dawn and she knows my work; she has been to my studio during First Fridays. Being commissioned to provide a piece of art, I was frankly thrilled. Christina and Dawn recognize that art is valuable and that we artists are valuable. I feel like the art makes the product a little more valuable. There are many places where people can get phone covers, these are unique.”

Along with sharing her art, Koch says the chance to help provide clean water for those in desperate need in Africa is altruistic. “What could be a better cause than helping provide clean water so that folks can help themselves,” Koch says. “Knowing the two women as I do, I was more than happy to participate. It is all for a greater good. Every step of the way, they are helping artists and helping villages get water. I think about how and when we spend our money, there is an appeal with this buy local concept, plus it is making our purchasing dollars have more impact.” Along with teaching, Koch is finishing up two paintings for a show in Florence, Italy that starts in early December.

Bren Talavera graduated from art school in 1986. She worked as an art director for Hallmark while continuing her own studio work. After a time, she left Hallmark and pursued her own art full time. Fellow artist Tammy Smith worked with Talavera at Hallmark and she had already done a phone case design for Red Dirt. “Tammy gave them my name because she told me that Dawn and Christine were actively searching for artists. I was contacted by e-mail; I did a little investigating and Tammy told me about the charity work. It was a way to contribute in a bigger way to come up with a phone case. A surface design on a product can have a short life, but I really liked that my art would be a vehicle to give back over and
over again.”

Talavera is an artist who taught herself computers during her first job working for Boeing Airplane. She designed airplanes for government proposals. “I always looked at computers early on as not an end-all, but essentially another pencil or technical pen. I don’t go strictly digital. My customers and consumers want to see that I did the artwork. The work is not perfect and to me, that adds to the charm.”

Charm and benefit combined when Eldridge and Taylor asked her for a piece of art. “I was just thrilled to have them appreciate the art. We don’t think about fresh water, but I want my kids to see the things we take for granted. If my artwork can reach further, that is wonderful. I could see the relationship continuing and I feel indebted to them.”

Talavera’s artwork depicts her love of the sea. “I like to use a mix of both conventional and digital methods to create my work. I love watercolor, ink, graphite, and cut paper. I usually scan my art, and then play with color and composition on the computer combining digital imagery and textures.”

Mike Savage grew up in Kansas City, Kansas and has been a local artist since his time studying at the University of Kansas. “I went to work as an art director. I even bought into a design firm. No matter what, I set up my easel and kept painting. In 1999, I sold my part of my business and turned from working all week and painting on the weekend for myself to painting all week long.” Dozens of his works were in JJs on the Plaza. “If you have a passion, it is about playing it a day at a time. I learned the fundamentals as a junior at KU. I keep those fundamentals viable. I learn from everything I do and make those corrections.” Savage’s work is colorful and whimsical, but the image is realistic in its depiction of whatever still life he is painting. “He works mostly in acrylics and oils. Savage is observant and enjoys capturing many Kansas City landmarks in his art.

As for joining the Red Dirt organization, Savage initially says it’s because he believes. “When Christine and Dawn told me what they were striving for, water to live for families all over the world, it seems like a no-brainer. Even in this country, there are needs. I knew I needed to do something for Red Dirt. I know you can’t do everything, but we are a generous community and we do our best.”

Savage harkens back to what archeologists find. “Think about when they dig up ancient civilizations, there are recipes to make beer, artifacts and art. There’s often beauty and a chance to learn. It comes down to education. The more you learn about people, you gain respect. Something like this comes along, you see the good work and the excitement.”

Melissa Dehner is another artist tapped to create the art for a phone case. She received an e-mail from a friend who told her about Red Dirt. “I went to school to be an illustrator. I want my work to be thoughtful in a positive way. I draw from life and keep my work light-hearted and full of humor.”

Dehner has offered work for Art Unleashed through the Humane Society and Wayside Waif’s Strut With Your Mutt. “I like animal and children’s charities. I am not a doctor or nurse. What I do best is art. I know art is a luxury item, but with the phone cases and other accessories and clothing, art can be affordable. I support what Red Dirt does. I would rather have my art out there and making people happy. Red Dirt has a good heart and good intentions.”

She appreciates that the artists receive a stipend for their artwork. “The Red Dirt women are aware that we are business people. The other joy is that there are about two dozen of us who are local for the most part and it’s like shopping local.” As for her future work, Dehner plans on more prints, a new series, an alphabet to illustrate and a children’s book. “My goal from college was to send my parents to the store, and let them see a product packaging I designed.”

Dehner’s designs are often a combination of acrylic paint, graphic pencil, Illustrator and Photoshop. “It’s a nice mix of hand-created art with some digital enhancements. This particular design, with the black dog, is a little tribute to all the wonderful black dogs (and cats too) that have such a hard time getting adopted from the shelters. I’ve been ‘lucky’ enough to have owned a wonderful black cat as well as a black lab mix for years!”

Author and illustrator Shane Evans, who provided art for Red Dirt, also spent time with the children of St. Mary Kevin Orphanage of dialoging through sketches. When Taylor went to Uganda as part of the Change the Truth organization, she found a couple of artists that needed to be part of the artist cadre. Brian Okecha and Opio Nicky are two in the inaugural collection. Taylor found the two when she volunteered in December 2011 at the orphanage. Okecha helped pay for his educational fees when he received his stipend and Nicky used his to take his National Examination.

Other local artists include Morgan Georgie and Carrie Kiefer of Ampersand Design Studio, Brady Vest and Hammerpress, graffiti artist D. Ross “Scribe,” illustrator Laura Huliska-Beith, glass and light painter Lisa Lala, urban designer and illustrator Phil Shafer/Sike, copper letterpress plate and lead type artist Eric Lindquist, artist Garnet Griebel, pen and ink artist Janelle Dimmett, toy designer and illustrator Jeremy “MAD” Madl, Angie Dreher-Bayman and Michelle Dreher of Two Tone Press, painter and sculptor Tom Corbin, acrylic texture artist Tina Blanck, artist and surface designer Tammy Smith, oil canvas artist Suze Ford, painter Steven Haskamp, and naturalist Jeremy Collins.•

Posted in Visual | Leave a comment

An Arts Place

studiobig sky_1-resizedDirector Colby Smith is a sort of chameleon. He’s as comfortable wearing grubby work clothes and a beat-up cowboy hat as he is wearing a suit and tie. The space he helps direct is also a sort of chameleon that has been camouflaged near downtown, but like a chameleon, red lettering spelling out STUDIOS INC may be the start of stepping into the light.

Studios Inc started in 2004 with the hope to offer mid-career artists residencies of two to five years. After some evaluation, the decision from the board was to offer three-year residencies with current artists able to apply for an additional three-year stay. “We don’t want any artist to move out of here when he or she is on the cusp of major projects, installations or significant exhibitions,” Smith says.

The 51,000-square-foot building at 17th and Campbell has space for 13 artists and gallery space. Smith says at least two artists are rotated out during the annual process. “It’s a joy to see artists who are at the point they can move forward with all this knowledge they gained here. The progress is always so substantial.”

Substantial also describes the process for the artists and the selection committee. “It’s a tough task. We have a couple of our board members, four arts professionals and one artist who is exiting to help with the process.” The process can stretch from August to December. “Once the artists are vetted, they have to create a plan,” Smith says. “We usually have between 40 and 50 applicants which are narrowed down to 20 to 25 and the panel then looks at 6 to 9 finalists. They visit current studios. For me, it’s a great part of the job to invite the selected artists to join us.”

Before the story moves any further, let’s define mid-career. Smith says an artist must be seven years past being in the educational system, actively showing work and seeking out more opportunities. “Our goal is to find the best and brightest who can articulate what they are doing and their needs. There is a great deal of support for emerging artists, but those working artists with a modest career and often families to support are fighting the good fight but need more support. We at Studios Inc try to lift the burdens that are hindering them. We alleviate some of the stresses.”

And here’s one more piece of background information from Smith. “When I was in sixth grade in Emporia, Kansas, I would pass by this hotel and former art professor Rex Hall took me in and showed me the art he did and the grand hall. In my young mind, I thought about how artists could use this space. They could have rooms and then a great area to show their art. It really all started there.”

In 2003, he opened Gallery HQ, an alternative contemporary art space that occupied locations in the West Bottoms and in the Crossroads Gallery District. A year later he teamed with Brad Nicholson to found the Studios Program. “There really was no existing model for us so we developed in an organic way. There is a somewhat clear pathway for an artist. You get degrees and then start looking at ways to build your career. The trajectory can be upward, but then often a plateau. It’s not a sprint, but a long distance race and often not a lot of people will lift you up when you stumble. We realized we could fill that void.”

Recent visitors to Studios Inc have come from China. Smith says a contemporary art specialist was thrilled with the facility as well as with the contemporary artist movement she saw in Kansas City. “We are looking at ways to let people know about the artists working in their own backyards. They are folks who are helping make Kansas City a great place.” The facility has played host to the Alliance of Artists Communities where 60 directors from programs around the United States marveled at Studios Inc. “We have had people tell us ‘you can’t do this’ and we just smile and say we can.”

As an example, working artists are rotated in the gallery space and the community is invited in. On Sept. 13, the second Friday, Diana Heise’s works will be on display. She is a contemporary artist whose works include photography, video, sound and installation. Smith says she runs the artistic gamut. The exhibition is up through most of October. Studios Inc’s gallery is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays when exhibitions are up.

Smith says the success of the artists pleases him. In the future, expect steps toward even more sustainability through local foundation support and creating an endowment to be used for the long-term care of the building. He also expects the Corporate Collector’s Program to expand and the Studios Patron Program to continue to provide the opportunity for a heightened level of dialogue between resident artist and patron through studio visits and exhibitions. As with the patronage concept during the Renaissance, the patron funds an artist’s studio, learns about the creative process and tries to provide additional career advancement assistance.

Along with supporting mid-career artists, Studios Inc also supports art interns who get a robust education in the way the “art machine functions,” Smith says. “The interns can’t believe how it all works and connects. The trick is to be approachable. We are always encouraging the artists to see that every endeavor is linked.”

Artists work according to their schedules and not one forced on them, Smith says. So it can be a bit of a surprise as to which artists are in and working. One day, only a couple of artists were in. First, Robert Bingaham was in his studio. He paints large American landscapes, but the residency is allowing him to explore some new concepts. He’s working on 16 palm tree paintings with colors inspired by fashion magazines. “Palms symbolize luxury and paradise,” he says.

Bingaman has been producing and exhibiting his work professionally since 2007. He earned a BFA from the University of Kansas in 2005, and an MFA from the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis in 2007. He is currently a lecturer in Painting and Foundations at the University of Kansas, where he also serves as the Union Galleries Curator and Fine Arts Advisor. “It’s a huge honor to be part of Studios Inc. I knew about the place for years and I wanted to get in,” he says. “I respect the process and the other artists. It is a chance to have an art space, freedom, respect, shows and exposure. It’s a reward and an award to get what you need and want as an artist. This can be a game changer.”

Matthew Dehaemers graduated in 2002 with a master of fine arts from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dehaemers was one of 10 graduating master’s students in the country to receive the Joan Mitchell Art Fellowship. Five of Dehaemers’ projects have received national recognition by Public Art Network’s Year in Review as outstanding and innovative public art projects. Recently, he completed a public art project for the L.A. County Public Art Commission.

Right now, he is working on a piece for Arrowhead Stadium. He is using Osage orange wood, a common tree on the Great Plains, which was used for bow making by many native tribes. Dehaemers takes branches that attach to these finely-hewn pieces of Osage orange to depict how a team is shaped. “There is the rough, raw material and in the center is a football or seed that is nurtured. Lamar Hunt had a playful side and the folks at the stadium are keeping that,” he says.

In March 2014, Dehaemers will have his solo show at Studios Inc. He has created some large structures such as a monster truck that people will interact with, thanks to the toys of his children. “Being a dad is inspiring,” he says. “Being here affords me the ability to create large projects and make connections. I have a great work space and I’m in proximity with other artists. We are forming relationships with each other and the patrons.” Smith agrees. The goal is to be welcoming to everyone.

“We can use the art as an educational opportunity. We can have more engagement. We can help represent the Crossroads and the art scene in this cool metropolitan area.”

Posted in Visual | Leave a comment

Toy and Miniature Museum Staff Prepare for Work to Become the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

By Kellie Houx

logoIn about three months, the Toy and Miniature Museum, nestled on the UMKC campus, will close and in about a year, sometime in early 2015, will reopen officially under the name of the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.

The official announcement about the name change came in late October 2012 during the start of the museum’s 30th anniversary celebration. Within the turn of the calendar, more than $8.5 million has been raised of the needed $9.2 million for renovations and the timeline has been set.


The museum’s last official day will be Jan. 5, 2014. On Jan. 6, the museum closes for about a year as major renovations begin to the facility including the replacement of the HVAC system. Along with the improvements to an aging structure, the museum staff will also gain new exhibition spaces and more interactive displays.

Board Chairman Vincent Gauthier says the national search, the museum staff and board selected Oakland, California-based West Office Exhibition Design to create a master plan and craft new exhibitions for the museum. Steve Wiersema, principal, was in town for the announcement. “We are going to focus on visitor experiences and making them better. There will be engagement and new information. We are going to help move the museum from a collections museum to that national museum where people know the untold stories.”

The museum board has also hired the firm of Helix Architecture + Design to work with West Office Exhibition Design and McCown Gordon will manage the construction project. Gauthier says the University of Missouri-Kansas City has also been helpful in planning. The museum opened on October 20, 1982.

Museum Director Jamie Berry says the combined efforts of the board and staff with the help of benefactors and community philanthropists should make up the needed $700,000 before the end of the year. After the museum closes, the community can follow the renovation on the museum’s Facebook page or the new blog. Donations can be made right now, she says. “We want to keep the community engaged,” she says. “The steps we are taking put us on the pathway to becoming nationally accredited.” After the museum has closed, the community can follow the renovation on the museum’s Facebook page,, and new blog,

Gauthier hopes that when people are heading to the Plaza, they think of three museums to visit – The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. “There is going to be real opportunity to see lots of improvements to this world-class museum. Personally, over the next decade, I also want to make the grounds more appealing.”

Before the doors close for about a year, there will be several opportunities to take a stroll through the museum.

Into the Night Sea

Saturday, November 16

6-9 p.m. | Free

Between waking and dreaming there lies a magical, haunting world. Into the Night Sea navigates the unsettling world of childhood nightmares through a series of short films combining visual art, photography, and dance with an accompanying soundtrack of re-imagined traditional lullabies. Don’t miss the family-friendly project’s free public screening and live performance at the museum. For more information about the project visit

Family Day: Optical Illusions

Friday, November 29

10 a.m.-4 p.m.

You won’t believe your eyes! Skip the long lines of Black Friday and bring the family to the museum to explore the magical world of Victorian optical illusion toys. Search for these toys throughout the museum to experience the fun and simple technologies that led to modern-day animation and film. Then, create your own spinning optical illusion toy and participate in the earliest form of cinema: a grand magic lantern show. Have fun and be mesmerized during this special family day! Included with the cost of admission.

Coleman Open House

Saturday, December 7

10 a.m.-4 p.m. | Talks at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3 p.m.

Explore the museum’s largest dollhouse from the inside out at this special event! Once a year, museum educators open the doors to the nine-foot tall and seven-foot wide Coleman House for visitors to discover the treasures hidden inside. Find evidence of gas lighting and much more during three special talks. Included with the cost of admission.

Father Christmas

Sunday, December 22

1:30-2:30 p.m.

Hear stories of Christmases past from Father Christmas himself! Before passing along your wish list, assist professional storyteller Jim “Two Crows” Wallen as he tells interactive tales of the role of Santa Claus throughout American history. Included with the cost of admission.

Simple Strings

Saturday, January 4

1-2 p.m. and 2:30-3 p.m.

Relax after the holiday hustle and bustle with a free concert at the museum. Simply Strings will fill the museum galleries with merry 19th century tunes played on a variety of stringed instruments. Included with the cost of admission.

Posted in Leisure, Visual | Leave a comment

Local Festivals and Arts Events Define Cool This Fall

The Kansas City metropolitan area is full of art. That’s a pretty cut-and-dry statement, but what about the where and when? Sure, the Plaza Art Fair runs Sept. 20-22 and the Unplaza Art Fair is Sept. 21-22. The Westport Art Fair, designed exclusively for Kansas City artists, is Sept. 6-8. Here are a few dates and events that might be worth checking out.

Brush Creek Art Walk

The Brush Creek Art Walk’s goal is simple, “to help unify the artists and the people.” Unlike the Plaza Art Fair and Westport, this is a chance to see the artists, whether performing or visual artists, creating their art from start to finish,” says painter and co-program chair Greg Summers. “The city wanted a way to get people to find out more about the new Brush Creek Streamway that they had been working on since the flood during the early 1990s. Splitting the four miles into four different zones that the artists painted in helps in our own little way to get people east beyond the Country Club Plaza. And for those who can’t get there along the streams to see the artists paint, you can always learn about the area through the eyes of those artists when the work goes to the Bruce R Watkins Cultural Center for exhibition and sale.” The other co-chair is Anne Garney.

The art walk is Sept. 13-15. Plein-Air painters will have three days to complete paintings on-site along the creek. Music is planned for Sept. 15 at Theis Park amphitheater. Some of the line-up includes Barclay Martin & Rick Willoughby, Marking Music, Az One, She’s a Keeper and Expassionates.

Artists will enter their finished paintings for a chance to show in the gallery at Bruce R. Watkins on Oct. 3. The art opening is from 5-8 p.m. The exhibition is juried and the art will be for sale.  The paintings will remain on display for three weeks until Oct. 24. The gallery, located at 3700 Blue Parkway, is open to the public: Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

RAW: Kansas City presents TRANSLATIONS

On Sept. 26 at the VooDoo Lounge at Harrah’s Casino, artists who work in fashion, music, film, performance, photography and hair & makeup gather together for a RAW event. RAW: natural born artists is an independent arts organization, for artists, by artists. The mission is to provide independent artists within the first 10 years of their career with tools, resources and exposure needed to inspire and cultivate creativity. As of the end of July, artists committed to the event include fashion designers, hairstylists and visual artists.

RAW currently operates in nearly 60 cities across the United States, Australia, Canada and London, England. Brie Henderson, a local actress and model, is currently serving as emcee for the year’s productions. “It’s important to support RAW as a community because it is a unique opportunity for a select few artists to showcase and sell their work to a wide variety of people who may not have seen it otherwise. The shows themselves are hybrids, part art show, part concert, and part party, to be honest. The public gets a chance to experience local art and talk with the people who created it, which I also think is a very special thing. I hope that Kansas City’s RAW community continues to expand and reach as many artists and art lovers as possible,” Henderson says.

Robert HoopsPhotographer Robert Hoops, who has participated in past RAW events, explains the benefits. “I’ve met models, designers, other visual artists and more and we stay connected to help each other out with our own various projects.

Bringing in other creative friends and giving them a chance to network and show off their work to the public has been great too. At the last event, four of the other featured artists were some of my best friends. And thirdly, it makes you create work. You go in to a show a few weeks out thinking ‘All my stuff is old, it’s been seen already!’ so it makes you create new work. I think I value that the most.”

Jewish Arts Festival & Events

Jill Maidhof, the director of Jewish Life & Learning, calls the Jewish Community Center a cultural powerhouse, offering some of the most vibrant and varied arts experiences in the metropolitan area. Here’s a small sampling of fall events. Victoria Tzykun, a well-known set designer for opera companies all over the world and art direction for Lady Gaga’s ABC Thanksgiving Special, is coming to town to be the scenic and costume designer for The Kansas City Lyric Opera’s presentation of The Capulets and the Montagues, based on a Renaissance legend (rather than Shakespeare’s play) about the  tragic consequences of a bitter and  longstanding  political feud. The opera strikes a personal chord with this highly accomplished artist, who gained a powerful understanding of conflict and the human condition during her youth in the unstable and often violent Middle East. At 7 p.m., Sept. 11, she will share a stage at the Jewish Community Center with Deborah Sandler, CEO and General Director of the Lyric Opera.

There’s the Community Arts Fellows Program, where in early 2013, eight prominent artists gathered at the JCC to explore Jewish sources on the subject of rebellion. The group, recruited in partnership with the InterUrban Art House, included a poet/muralist, painters, choreographers/ dancers and installation artists from widely diverse backgrounds. For months, they learned from visiting scholars and artists about art as a form of defiance during the Holocaust, the current feminist movement among observant Jews, spiritual revolt, and Jewish values related to armed conflict. The community is invited to engage with their stunning and often disturbing works from 3-5 p.m., Sept. 29 at the Jewish Community Center.

2010 dance sessionAll these events lead up to the Jewish Arts Festival. The one-day festival, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Oct. 6, comes around every three years and usually brings in 5,000 to 7,000 in attendance, Maidhof says. ARTicipation, a program of the Epsten Gallery is hosting a sukkah or booth created by three canvas walls waiting to be painted by anyone who’s at least 8 years old.

ArtistFor seasoned patrons, the festival will, in a separate pavilion, offer  the general and Judaic works of a small number of nationally and internationally acclaimed artists including Israeli David Sharir, silver master Robyn Nichols, Mordechai Rosenstein, Yoshinori Hagiwara and, for auction, a piece by potter Ken Ferguson.

Iron Chef Deborah Gold“We also will offer some food demonstrations similar to an Iron Chef competition,” she says. “It’s going to be a great way to start folks thinking about the 2014 anniversary of the center. The Jewish Community Center opened in 1914 in midtown Kansas City. Look at how we have grown! What we recognize at the Jewish Community Center is that the cultural arts can provide powerful tethers to our traditions while allowing us to share that vitality.”

Posted in Visual | Leave a comment