In Memoriam: Ronald Chaney, the Artist

Ron Chaney and Selina ONeal, September 2020, in front of EthnicArt Gallery, site of the historic Jones Barber Shop & Billiard Parlor, 1516 E. 18th Street. (photo by Marty Marley)

This isn’t THE story on Ron Chaney. This is A story.

Do you remember your first visit with him? At the EthnicArt Gallery on 18th & Vine, or the second floor of the Troost building, or the spot on Gillham? What about when he was really getting to know about the kind of art he would go on to champion for three decades, when he was working with the women of Culturally Speaking back when the Historical 18th & Vine Jazz District was just reemerging?

Those were the days, he told me, when he started to see what was really possible when it comes to Black art — art about Us, for Us, by Us. Art that proved we were here, that we belonged and that we could define that belonging for ourselves.

Do you remember when you were first subjected to the bottomless well of questions? How about the sincere intensity that made it clear that he really wanted to know about YOU — who you were, where you came from? What was it like to walk away from the interaction realizing that he was going to remember your take on the latest political situation affecting our community, or what you thought about Black people collecting art? Did that exchange challenge you to think a little deeper about what you did think, knowing he’d reengage you the next time you met?

When he showed you the art on the walls at EthnicArt Gallery, did you feel the pride he took in sharing the work with you? Collectors of all shades were encouraged to support Ron Chaney in his mission to directly support artists with exhibitions and sales and to expand the knowledge of and appreciation for collecting original work within the Black community.

Something beautiful for his children’s walls. Something that represented their inherent worth. Images that let them know they were timeless, that they were seen. Art like that needed a worthy presentation, a noble framing, and so he learned how to do that for them.

After years of working in the Greater Kansas City area as an engineering professional and mathematics educator in KCMO School District, Ron took his hobby of framing and married it to his love of original art.

How many of us told him that, in his attention to the quality and aesthetic of the frames he built, he too was the artist?

2018 EthnicArt Interiors, LLC, opens back up on the Vine. In a building owned by the City of KCMO, and with the help of countless friends and colleagues, legacy artists and loyal collectors, tourists and neighbors — the walls started to hum.

There he’d be at the Blue Room, posted up at the bar, taking a load off after hanging a show or entertaining a visiting artist. Live music from the cool, dark room giving a soundtrack to the latest gossip from the District, as he watched the people from all over the city — from all over the world — enjoying Black Culture.

And he belonged.

Ronald L. Chaney (1950-2020),
owner, EthnicArt Gallery,
passed away September 19.

A Brown Bowtie Celebration in honor of Ronald L. Chaney (Nov. 19, 1950 – Sept. 19, 2020), owner of EthnicArt Gallery in the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District, will be held October 11 from 3 to 6 p.m., with a toast at 4 p.m., at Soiree Steak & Oyster House, 1512 E. 18th St. The host of this Creative Black Tie Affair is Chef Anita Moore; in lieu of flowers, for donations toward event expenses or to Family, please contact Selina ONeal by text 816-721-5311 or memirosearts@gmail.com

About The Author: Selina ONeal

Selina ONeal

Selina ONeal is an artist living in her hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. Through Memirose Arts & Management, she serves to expand the resources for, and recognition of, the underrepresented artists and creatives in her community. 

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