Editor’s Letter, January/February 2024

KC Studio editor Alice Thorson, photo by Mark Berndt.

The coming year is rich in exhibits and events celebrating books, reading and knowledge. First and foremost is the Kansas City Public Library’s 150th anniversary, which will be marked by a full slate of programs and exhibits throughout the year at all branches (see Arts News, page 22), as well as congratulatory gestures, including a library ice cream flavor from Betty Rae’s, a commemorative library beer from Vine Street Brewing and a signature library cocktail from Rieger & Co.

Also worthy of celebrating is a relevant and revelatory new exhibit at the Linda Hall Library. “Chained to the Sky: The Science of Birds, Past and Future,” marks the Kansas City exhibition debut of the library’s new president, Eric Dorfman, who organized the exhibit with co-curator Eric Ward. Through photos, illustrations, bird skins (ornithological specimens stuffed with batting), and texts spanning three galleries, the exhibit “tells the story of the human relationship with the avian world, the threats birds face today, and what we can do to protect them.”

Displayed in glass cases, the bird skins, on loan from the Field Museum in Chicago, include examples of the extinct Passenger Pigeon and the Carolina Parakeet, along with accounts of the human behaviors that led to their extinction. Other cases display rare books containing early historical illustrations of birds. One gallery is devoted to the contributions of John James Audubon and Charles Darwin, another to recent conservation efforts and what the public can do to protect birds today. Watch for our story on the exhibit in the March/April issue.

The month of May brings “World on The Move: 250,000 Years of Human Migration,” to the Kansas City Kansas Main Library, one of 15 libraries in the country selected to host the traveling exhibition, developed by the American Anthropological Association and the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

At a time when migration is a contentious issue in the U.S. and countries around the world, the exhibit “aims to change the public conversation about an important, yet difficult topic,” according to the show’s extensive website. A key point stressed in the show is that “movement is not new: there is evidence of population movement for as long as we have traces of humans on the planet.” With stated goals that include helping visitors to gain greater empathy toward migrants in their communities and elsewhere and to feel proud of their family’s migration stories, the exhibit “presents case studies from throughout human history and from the world.” Among the topics addressed are Human Origins and Early Migration, Climate Change and Forced Migration.

In the meantime, migration stories abound in “A Layered Presence/Una presencia estratificada,” a vivid and heartwarming exhibit of works by 22 Kansas City artists with ties to Latin America at the Nelson-Atkins, reviewed in these pages by Matthew Thompson, page 42.

At the Miller Nichols Library, Stuart Hinds can be counted on to bring forgotten and little-known histories to light, as seen in the recent exhibit “The Kansas City That Never Was.” Coming this fall, he says, is a show about lesbian activist and biblioholic Barbara Grier, who during her time in Kansas City wrote for The Ladder, the publication of the first lesbian rights organization, founded in 1955 in San Francisco. Following her contributions to The Ladder from 1957 to 1972, Grier and three other women went on to found Naiad Press in Kansas City in 1974, “the first and ultimately largest press devoted exclusively to the publication of lesbian literature,” Hinds said.

The current issue contains a sneak peek at one of the major book events of the year: the opening of The Rabbit HOle museum of children’s literature at 919 E 14th Ave. in North Kansas City. Steve Paul’s column pronounces the soon-to-open experience, with its giant and colorful immersive exhibits inspired by children’s books, “destined for general amazement.” Timed tickets for the Rabbit HOle’s March 12 opening day are now available at www.rabbitholekc.org/tickets.

CategoriesLiterary Visual
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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