As the pandemic wanes, May and June bring a lot to look forward to, including the opportunity to sit and enjoy a taste of Vietnamese coffee at Jackie Nguyen’s new Cafe Cà Phê in Columbus Park, a dream realized covered by Rebecca Smith.
There is also a spate of new shows at area museums (see Brian Hearn’s summer viewing roundup), ranging from an Art Deco extravaganza at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, to a one-person show by Brooklyn-based artist Shinique Smith at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. Smith premieres a new film, “Breathing Room: Moon Marked Journey,” which, the artist says, “brings together a sensual experience of fabric, color, breath, light, memory, movement, textiles, sound, and sculpture.” Earlier iterations of “Breathing Room” were shown at Open Spaces (2018) and the Baltimore Museum of Art (2020).
Another must-see exhibit in Johnson County is “Redlined” at the Johnson County Museum, reviewed in these pages by Harold Smith, whose own family was affected by the discriminatory housing practices extensively explored in the show.
This issue also celebrates several established local talents, including award-winning documentary filmmaker Brad Austin, and author Andrea Warren, who recently turned her children’s book “Surviving Hitler,” into a new play. And as this issue arrives in mailboxes, there are still two weeks left to see the extraordinary exhibit of unpublished photographs of Thomas Hart Benton by Michael Mardikes, who was able to enjoy seeing his important body of work on display at the Central Library before he passed away late last year.
It was a spring treat to see the April performance of the Black Musical Arts Community Choir at the Warwick Theatre, where director Robert McNichols, Jr. presented a riveting program of spirituals and gospel music by Black composers deserving of wider renown. (On a parallel track, Samantha Ege will perform works by underknown Black women composers in a May 17 Discovery Concert presented by the Harriman-Jewell series).
McNichols will return to the stage in May, when he will perform classical, blues, gospel, and pop songs from the stage and screen at the newly opened MTH Ruby Room in Crown Center. Joining him will be composer and pianist Evangelos Spanos.
Also enlarging our understanding of the American experience is a group of young, up-and-coming Latinx artists in Kansas City, who have been showing work in an ongoing exhibition series called “La Onda.” Brian Hearn introduces their “powerful narratives of family relationships, place/home, identity and contemporary responses to otherness” featured in this issue’s Artist Pages.
We open and close this issue with contributions by two Kansas City artists addressing the heartbreaking situation in Ukraine. Photographer Rusty Leffel heads up our table of contents page with an image from his new series documenting the Feb. 26, 2022, rally in Mill Creek Park in support of Ukraine. This issue’s Gallery Glance features the Ukrainian-themed T-shirts and sweatshirts created by Kansas City artist Kim Lindaberry as part of a fundraising effort in aid of victims of the war. Elsewhere, the historical resonance of the war reverberates through our pages, in Steve Paul’s column looking anew at the Quintanilla murals in UMKC’s Haag Hall, and in remarks by author Andrea Warren and Midwest Center for Holocaust Education co-founder Jack Mandelbaum in Robert Trussell’s essay on “Surviving Hitler.” It all feels like the beginning of something, a change in the world that we have yet to comprehend.