Fall brings two immersive van Gogh exhibits to Kansas City, one at Starlight, which is co-sponsored by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and another at a yet undisclosed location. In our current issue’s Artist Pages, seven KC arts professionals propose exciting alternatives to the van Gogh spectacles, in the form of immersive works by contemporary artists.
This spring, the Parade of Hearts, an outdoor display of large, prefabricated, fiberglass hearts that artists are being paid to decorate, will be installed throughout the city, much like the Cow Parade two decades ago.
Feel-good productions like these offer a reprieve from the oppression of the pandemic, but if Kansas City is to retain its reputation as a vital center of contemporary art, populist ventures must be balanced by challenging and provocative art.
Fortunately, Kansas City’s arts organizations continue to present programs and exhibits that make us think, question our existing beliefs, and change our minds about things we thought to be true.
At The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the “Testimony” exhibit of works by Kansas City’s African American Artists Collective, does all those things; as did the Charlotte Street Foundation’s recent “With Liberty and Justice” exhibition, highlighting “the omissions and erasures of BIPOC voices in American history,” according to curator Kimi Kitada. Similarly highlighting underknown talents, Kemper Museum’s new Atrium Project celebrates individuals connected to Kansas City’s salsa music and dance communities with large-scale portraits by New York-based artist Aliza Nisenbaum, who was born in Mexico City.
Composers, too, plug in to contemporary issues. The Spire Chamber Ensemble’s Nov. 20 production of Reena Esmail’s 2016 “This Love Between Us: Prayers for Unity” takes inspiration from the seven major religions of India, introducing both performers and audience to the teachings of each religion and the languages, tonalities and instrumental colors of India’s music. (See Concert to Come, page 42.)
Kansas City’s theater community can be counted on to provoke thought, as seen in the Unicorn Theatre’s “Pipeline,” described as “an emotional and profound story about striving for a better life when the system is rigged against you,” which ends its run Nov. 7, and Kansas City Actors Theatre’s recent production of “Four Children,” exploring themes related to the Auschwitz exhibit at Union Station.
This fall’s big news is that things are slowly returning to normal, with performing arts organizations posting full schedules and museums mounting new exhibits, including the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, which under new director JoAnne Northrup will open the “Charlotte Street Foundation Fellows – 2020” exhibition (postponed due to the pandemic), November 4.
Looking ahead, “KC Studio” is pleased to announce publication of our annual Holiday issue, cancelled last year due to the pandemic, which readers will find stocked with recommendations of great gifts, holiday outings and a special 12 Days of Christmas package of artworks created by the artists in the Johnson County Developmental Supports Emerging Artists program. Watch for the issue Thanksgiving week and prepare to be delighted.