Editor’s Letter, July/August 2023

KC Studio editor Alice Thorson, photo by Mark Berndt.

The National WWl Museum and Memorial showed what it’s made of during the recent NFL draft — inventive, community-spirited, grounded in its mission to enhance our knowledge of the Great War, and with a surprise or two up its sleeve — as when it commandeered the Kansas City skyline with a vibrant projection of poppies on the Liberty Memorial. (See Arts in Brief, page 18.)

Since opening in 2006, the National WWl Museum and Memorial has become one of the region’s leading cultural assets, with an ever-changing roster of special exhibitions joining displays from the permanent collection and a robust series of events and programs.

Current shows include the major traveling exhibition “Bespoke Bodies: The Design & Craft of Prosthetics,” a look at the history and continuing progress in the field of prosthetic design through stories of individual users and a display of artifacts. Why did the museum take a show on this topic? “The design and innovation of prosthetics during this time is just one of the many enduring impacts of WWI,” said Matthew Naylor, president and CEO of the Museum and Memorial.

Other changing exhibits, including “Entertaining the Troops,” address the lighter side of the conflict. The museum never seems to run out of ideas for exploring a wide range of perspectives on World War l, as also evidenced by a rich mix of online exhibits examining topics from “The Trenches of a World War I” to “Fighting with Faith,” the fascinating story of the German Halbmondlager (“Half Moon Camp”) created for Muslim prisoners of war.

Just in time for Memorial Day, the museum completed the renovation of its lower level, which includes an open storage center comprising 4,000 square feet of storage and 190 linear feet of window cases displaying additional objects from the permanent collection. The renovation also includes an updated learning center, gallery, research center and gathering spaces. (For more about the reopening of the lower level and the online “Fighting with Faith” exhibition, see Arts News, page 24.)

The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, which recently completed its largest renovation of the building and exhibits since it opened in 1957, also makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of history and the forces shaping our world. The institution is known for its lively lecture program, dynamic displays and special exhibitions. Here, too, war is a frequent focus, as reflected in the current special exhibition, “Rooted Among the Ashes: Hibakujumoku/ A-bombed Trees,” featuring haunting photographs by Kansas City native Katy McCormick of the trees that survived the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (See “Gallery Glance,” page 112.)

The work of Kansas City photographers is further explored in this issue’s Artist Pages, featuring the alluring, nature-inspired images of Megan Wyeth, and a review by Jane Aspinwall, formerly of the Nelson-Atkins, now curator of photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, of a new book by well-known photographer Mike Sinclair. Sinclair’s “The Paseo & Ward Parkway” records time’s toll on these two urban green spaces, subtly recording their differences and similarities.

The KC arts community was delighted to learn that photographer Deanna Dikeman is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. (See Arts News, page 24.) For decades the artist’s poignant “Leaving and Waving” images of her aging parents in Iowa have been exhibited in galleries throughout Kansas City, and, more recently, have enjoyed growing national and international attention stimulated in part by a widely read 2020 article in The New Yorker and the artist’s award-winning 2021 book, “Leaving and Waving.”

Congratulations, Deanna! Richly deserved.

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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