Editor’s Letter, March/April 2019

KC Studio editor Alice Thorson, photo by Mark Berndt.

In a time of crisis and division in American culture, arts institutions are doing their best to foster tolerance and understanding, and in some cases, to directly address issues of financial stress and income inequality.

During the recent government shutdown, the Kansas City Symphony offered free tickets to furloughed government employees for its January 25-27 concerts. In a bold acknowledgment of income inequality, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is offering $12 admission during the run of its Laurie Simmons exhibition, down from the regular charge of $15. The $3 difference represents the pay gap between men and women, who earn roughly 81 percent of what men do.

The run of the Simmons exhibit overlaps with Women’s History Month, which brings a major exhibit about the history of women’s suffrage in the U.S. to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. In a move that may prove prescient as museums address ways to be responsive to the country’s diverse populations, the email announcing “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence” included PDF attachments of two press releases about the show — one in English, the other in Spanish.

In Kansas City, 2019 brings a rash of programs highlighting the accomplishments of women. Female composers took center stage in January and February with “The Music of Susan Kander” and the Bach Aria Soloists’ concert, “Celebrating Women.” In the world of theater, KC Rep is devoting its entire spring season to plays by women, as Robert Trussell reports in the current issue.

Given the number of female candidates who have announced their intention to run for President, the timing of the Kauffman Center’s March 19 lecture, “When Women Ruled the World,” is spot on. See Dana Self’s interview with noted Egyptologist Kara Cooney for a preview.

From artists to authors, administrators to designers, the current issue of “KC Studio” recognizes the contributions of many talented women who share a commitment to building a better world. In this issue’s Artist Pages, emerging artist Fuko Ito shares her quest for empathy in a world of conflicts. In “Concert to Come,” Libby Hanssen delves into the accomplishments and adventures of groundbreaking Kansas City dress designer Nell Donnelly Reed, whose life is the subject of “Nelly Don: The Musical,” which makes its world premiere at MTH Theatre in March. The fashion thread continues in Rebecca Smith’s look at the flamboyant costumes by noted designer Zandra Rhodes, which will be showcased in the Lyric Opera’s production of “The Pearl Fishers.”

For a more critical view of fashion, see our story by Theresa Bembnister on Hadley Sewing School, driven by founder Hadley Clark’s commitment to community and sustainability. The Kansas City designer’s own creations reflect these values, utilizing salvaged fabric that would otherwise go to the landfill.

Women are making their mark in all sectors of KC culture. See our Arts News section for an account of Fishtank Theatre director Heidi Van’s plans for the theater’s new home in the West Bottoms, and a roundup up of what director Jutta Behnen is doing to advance exposure and understanding of German culture at Kansas City’s new Goethe Pop Up.

Hats off too, to Amy Kligman, executive artistic director of the Charlotte Street Foundation, who is presiding over the organization’s $10 million capital campaign and transformative move to the Roanoke neighborhood, where its programs and activities will benefit from a centralized campus. For details of the organization’s plans, see our “Julius A. Karash on Business and the Arts” column.

Kansas City architectural historian Cyd Millstein also can take a bow. Recently recognized as Preservationist of the Year by the Kansas City chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), she also has a new book coming out. Co-written with art historian Carol Grove, “Hare & Hare: Landscape Architects and City Planners,” is a “valuable contribution to our knowledge of our historic landscape,” as Bryan Le Beau reports in his story on the publication.

And don’t miss this issue’s “The Job” column, in which veteran nude model Leslie Miller asserts her agency with brio and determination, countering long-held stereotypes of the passive artist’s model.

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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