Editor’s Letter, January/February 2021

KC Studio editor Alice Thorson (photo by Mark Berndt)

The new year brings positive thoughts as the country prepares to welcome a new president, and a vaccine promises an end to the cultural depredations of the pandemic.

With the announcement of the first group of panelists, there is great cause for optimism about the art to be commissioned for Kansas City International Airport. The inclusion of respected contemporary art experts such as Bruce Hartman and Erin Dziedzic is highly reassuring. Both possess the skill and experience to distinguish between professional public artists who know how to write a convincing proposal but create work that is literal and pedestrian, and artists who approach our current reality with imagination and a command of metaphor.

Just as important to a great lineup of work at the airport is public art administrator James Martin’s commitment to diversity in both the panels he is assembling and the artists the panels will commission.

One of the great joys of my tenure has been working with the talented Townley family, first with Wyatt Townley, former Poet Laureate of Kansas, who has provided “KC Studio” with several wonderful poems over the past several years and also curated a set of poetry pages by multiple authors for the magazine. Wyatt also provided a tip for a fun story last January about her son-in-law, Spencer Lott, and her daughter, Grace Townley-Lott, who created the puppets for the Mr. Rogers movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

In the current issue we feature an alluring short story by prominent Kansas City author Roderick Townley, whose “Paris Time” offers readers a thoughtful diversion in the cold winter months.

Readers will notice the absence of our regular Tom Toro cartoon in the January/February issue. That feature has sadly come to an end as Toro moves on to pursue other creative opportunities. We thank him for the wry humor he brought to the publication for the past several years and wish him well in his new endeavors.

This issue’s Honors column on Kansas City artist Vivian Wilson Bluett includes a drone shot of the Black Lives Matter mural she created in Brookside. Credit and thanks for the image go to photographer Dylan Spencer, who also allowed us to use his amazing drone shots of the Black Lives Matter murals in our September/October issue. Spencer is eager to take on drone shot jobs; contact “KC Studio” for more information.

“KC Studio” would also like to recognize the generosity of Jon Dickson. Dickson, a landscape and architecture photographer residing in the Greater St Louis, Missouri, area, kindly provided us with his striking image of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on a summer day as the lead image for our story on the museum’s recent layoffs.

Dickson says he first developed his passion for photography in Europe and Africa, where he lived for over a decade. Although he enjoyed initial success as a landscape photographer, he has developed a keen eye for architecture as well as street photography. He has most recently delved into the world of infrared photography.

The fall layoffs and ongoing curator departures at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art bring to mind the gradual evisceration of the arts and culture department at “The Kansas City Star” and represent a similar de-valuing of Kansas City’s intellectual capital. Thanks to publisher Guy Townsend and many generous donors, “KC Studio” was able to step into the breach and provide a new forum for many of the talented writers who lost their posts at the Star. In that spirit, we invited Jane Aspinwall, who was let go from her position as curator and collections supervisor of photography as part of the recent Nelson-Atkins layoffs, to contribute an article in the current issue.

We are also delighted to announce that thanks to a lead gift from a generous donor, Aspinwall will be contributing four dedicated pages of photography coverage beginning with our March/April issue.

In addition to the trauma and uncertainty the Nelson layoffs caused the 36 individuals who lost their jobs last fall, there remains a question of balance between financial concerns and professional credibility. Museum officials cite the institution’s long-term sustainability as the reason for cutting staff and leaving vacant curatorial posts unfilled, but many are wondering just what it is that is being sustained, given the enormous loss of the intellectual firepower that has been such an important part of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s identity and stature.

About The Author: Alice Thorson

Alice Thorson

Alice Thorson is the editor of KC Studio. She has written about the visual arts for numerous publications locally and nationally.

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