Editor’s Letter, January/February 2018

KC Studio editor Alice Thorson, photo by Mark Berndt.

Welcome, Dan Cameron!

The Kansas City art scene has a new part-time resident, an internationally renowned curator whose stay here will culminate in what aims to be an extraordinary city-wide arts showcase, “Open Spaces,” from August 25 to October 28, 2018.

As detailed in our story by Julius Karash, page 62, the two-month event, centered in Swope Park and encompassing additional venues throughout the city, will feature more than 80 local, national and international performing and visual artists.

“Open Spaces” is the brainchild of artist and philanthropist Scott Francis, who began thinking about mounting a Kansas City version of an arts biennial after visiting the big Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany, in 2002. Through the years Francis kept returning to the idea, and suddenly the time was right.

Francis had discussed what a biennial-style exhibition would involve with Cameron; meanwhile, the Mayor’s office, which had been working on an idea for a three-day arts festival, also got in touch with Cameron. Megan Crigger from the Mayor’s office set up a meeting with Francis and Open Spaces co-founder Susan Gordon, and the group looked at the possibilities of merging plans.

The stars aligned and a deal was struck for a public/private partnership, with Cameron as artistic director for the newly conceived Open Spaces. The aim: Celebrate KC art and expose residents to the work of leading artists from around the world.

Cameron is a seasoned hand at putting together community-friendly art festivals and events that also stimulate tourism. Over the past three decades he has organized biennials and exhibitions at museums in Europe, China, Russia, South America and the U.S., including the Prospect New Orleans triennial, which he founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

And Cameron is not a stranger to Kansas City art. In 1994, he visited the studios of roughly two dozen KC artists as guest-curator of the first of three “Perspective: Kansas City” shows at the Johnson County Community College Gallery of Art (forerunner to the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art). Last fall Cameron focused on lining up the out-of-town artists for Open Spaces, but he also began making studio visits
with Kansas City artists. He is soliciting proposals from artists
in all disciplines through the Open Spaces website,

A pop-up “arts village” being constructed in Swope Park will be the epicenter of “Open Spaces,” which will include an outdoor-indoor contemporary art exhibition highlighted by site-specific sculptures. Cameron is also assembling a roster of high-profile performance artists for weekend performances on the art village stage and plans a weekend musical event for mid-October.

The cost of the estimated $3.5 million event will be shared largely by the city and a growing list of private donors. The impact on the local economy will likely be much more than that: According to the Open Spaces executive summary, the past three editions of Prospect New Orleans have had a direct economic impact on the city of more than $65 million. Moreover, the number of galleries in New Orleans has more than doubled since the 2008 launch of Prospect New Orleans.

There is reason to expect that Open Spaces will have a catalytic effect on KC’s already vibrant art scene. We know the talent is here. It’s time to tell the world.

CategoriesKC Studio
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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