Editor’s Letter, September/October 2020

KC Studio editor Alice Thorson, photo by Mark Berndt.

It continues.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a fall like no other in the Kansas City arts world and in the rest of society.

Artists and arts organizations are struggling while trying to devise new ways to connect with audiences.

The financial impact of the pandemic, as detailed in Julius Karash’s story, addressing the losses faced by five of our city’s major cultural organizations, is acute. According to ArtsKC, which recently announced $66,000 in Ovation grants to 22 Kansas City arts organizations, the region’s losses in the nonprofit arts and culture sector are close to $17 million, based on a survey from Americans for the Arts.

A bright spot amid all the closures and disruptions was The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s mid-August announcement that it would reopen to the public with numerous safety measures, including mandatory masks and reduced people flow, on September 14.

“We’re learning how to live with this,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, the museum’s director/CEO. “Everyone is trying to adapt to the circumstances and trying to do things.”

Beginning with the museum’s 30 bathrooms and 15 elevators, handling the logistics of keeping things safe “has been a testament to the super team I have,” Zugazagoitia said.

Compared to the usual 1,000-plus visitors per day, Zugazagoitia expects the museum will welcome 300 or so, who will be spread throughout the museum. “People going back love the museum and will respect the rules. I am confident that they will feel safe,” he said.

The Kansas City Art Institute’s H&R Block Artspace also reopens this fall beginning August 28, when it will open the 2020 Annual BFA Exhibition ahead of the college’s first day of classes on August 31.

Usually presented in the spring, the annual BFA exhibition is always a treat, with works by graduating seniors in animation, art history, ceramics, creative writing, fiber, filmmaking, graphic design, illustration, interactive arts, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture.

It’s a chance to play talent scout and take the measure of a generation. With works chosen by a changing roster of KC arts professionals, this is the place to get in on the ground floor of an artist’s career and see works by artists who will define the future of Kansas City art.

The pandemic has pushed all of Kansas City’s cultural organizations to beef up their online presence. At Block Artspace, viewers can visit the exhibition virtually or in person, with free timed tickets.

Performing artists have adapted to the new reality quickly, as outlined in Rebecca Smith’s roundup of online projects and presentations created since the start of the pandemic and continuing into the fall.

After a summer which included porch and outdoor concerts, some musicians are also turning to time-tested concepts, including Ensemble Iberica (www.ensembleiberica.org), which will present a Drive-In concert featuring guitarist Beau Bledsoe, vocalist Soukayna Jamali, violinist Coleen Dieker and Amado Espinoza playing flutes, charango and percussion at 8 p.m. September 11 at Plexpod, 300 E. 39th St.

Park International Center for Music’s (icm.park.edu) “Stanislav & Friends,” a gathering led by ICM founder and artistic director Stanislav Ioudenitch, will also utilize a drive-in venue this fall. The concert, pre-recorded in Helzberg Hall, will be shown on the big screen at Boulevard Drive-In at 6 p.m. September 17. Topping off a program which includes Behzod Abduraimov performing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and Kenny Broberg performing George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You,” will be a fitting kick-off to election season: a four-pianist rendition of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

The West 18th Street Fashion Show (www.west18thstreetfashionshow.com) is also opting for a drive-in presentation this year. In lieu of the traditional summer runway show, it is producing a feature-length film, “Summer in Hindsight,” highlighting selected designers. Directed by Peregrine Honig and starring Calvin Arsenia as the lead, the film will be shown at the Boulevard Drive-In Oct. 16.

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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