2018 Kansas City Flatfile & Digitalfile

It’s a hands-on exhibit, put on by Block Artspace for the ninth time in 18 years. The biennial Kansas City Flatfile & Digitalfile is a Kansas City tradition, where viewers don white gloves before perusing hundreds of works housed in big flatfile cabinets, pulling a folder of an artist that interests them and having a close look at everything in it.

It’s a popular exhibit, not least for the affordability of the artworks (starting at $50 — although some are not for sale), which include photographs, prints, drawings, textile pieces and other works that will lie flat in a folder. Another draw is the exhibit’s Kansas City focus. The featured artists, upwards of 200 of them, range from established names to recent Art Institute grads, so there’s always both high quality and something new to discover.

This year’s exhibit, which runs through Sept. 29, is fortuitously timed to overlap with the citywide Open Spaces art and performance biennial, which aims to draw national and international visitors to Kansas City. Expanding on the 16 KC artists in Open Spaces, Block Artspace director Raechell Smith sees the Flatfile as a central clearinghouse for Kansas City artists, who will also be showcased in changing guest-curated selections of works from the file in the front gallery. In addition to local curators, Smith has invited several national curators to do shows as a way to broaden the flatfile artists’ exposure.

Works by many of the artists in the flatfile, including Silvia Abisaab, Lynn Benson, Laura Berman, Madeline Gallucci, Christopher Leitch, Kathy Liao, Harold Smith and Mary Wessel, have been featured in the pages of “KC Studio” over the past three years, but the show also holds new talent aplenty.

In mid-May, with the help of Smith and her staff, “KC Studio” got a digital sneak preview of many works in the exhibit, and our July/August Artist Pages highlight some of the intriguing and entrancing works visitors will find in the flatfile.

Thanks to Hannah L.C. Fine, Block Intern, H&R Block Artspace, for her assistance with this project.

The “2018 Kansas City Flatfile & Digitalfile” continues at H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, 16 E. 43rd St., through Sept. 29. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday. Closed August 8 – 11. For more information, 816.561.5563 or www.kcai.edu/artspace.

All images courtesy of the artists and H&R Block Artspace

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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