It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

How do Kansas City arts leaders celebrate the most wonderful time of the year? Here’s a stocking-full of favorite holiday traditions as shared by eight movers and shakers on the local arts scene.

Julián Zugazagoitia, director and CEO, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Zugazagoitia’s namesake freedom-fighting grandfather was executed in 1940 in Spain by the fascist regime of General Francisco Franco. This holiday season, the immigrant grandson plans to join his immigrant mother and immigrant sister to once again view the “Don Quixote Frescoes,” painted by Spanish ex-patriate Luis Quintanilla in 1940-41 at UMKC’s Haag Hall and dedicated by the artist to the memory of his fallen friend.

“It’s still something that moves me immensely . . . and, for me, it’s a story of what immigration is about. It is history proving why immigration is right, and how history puts things in motion and that motion enriches. And I’m compelled to be part of that history.”

Cheryl Kimmi, executive director, KC Creates (producer of the Kansas City Fringe Festival)

Kimmi combines her passion for the peaceful outdoors with her traditional visit to the holiday lighting display at Sar-Co-Par Trails Park.

“Lenexa Parks & Rec does a fabulous job with the Christmas lighting display (Sar-Co-Aglow). It’s just so peaceful and joyful, I love it. We can walk and have quiet family conversations and let the grandkids run and play. It’s such a calm environment, and without electronics and the media. We all pledge to put our phones away for this outing.

Carmaletta Williams, executive director, the Black Archives of Mid-America

“On Christmas Day, my two sons and my grandchildren usually gather at my house. After we eat and it gets dark and we’ve laughed most of the day and watched football games, we go see the holiday lights at Christmas in the Park at Longview Lake. I love the happiness that you get there. It’s kind of like the Fourth of July at Christmas. I like the overhead stuff, like the reindeer flying through the air. That’s my favorite.”

Ramón Murguia, trustee, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

“What we have enjoyed most as a family is the Holiday Kickoff Ceremony at Union Station before Thanksgiving. I’m on the (Union Station) board, and I’ve been taking my family down there the last three or four years. When you go into that grand building and look around, you see all of Kansas City represented. Much like the Plaza Lighting Ceremony, there is such a diverse group of people there. It’s a very compelling case for how Kansas City can be together, regardless of ethnicity or socio-economic status.”

Stuart Hinds, curator of special collections and archives, Miller Nichols Library at UMKC

“It’s really more of an escape from the holidays, but I like to go by myself to Kauffman Memorial Garden, usually on or as close as possible to the winter solstice. I’m drawn to the dormant garden, because it’s a nice place to think about the year that’s passed and the year that is to be on that shortest day of the year — the day of transition from dark to light as the days get longer. To me, the solstice (Dec. 22 this year) is the reason for the season, because in pre-Christian times, that’s what was commemorated. And it’s also a good way to extract yourself from the hubbub of the holidays.”

Ralph Caro, interim executive director, American Jazz Museum

The holidays are Caro’s favorite time of the year, and getting together for a traditional Christmas dinner with family members far outshines any other potential activity.

“Typically, we’ll have 25 people for dinner. The fun of it is just the sharing of the experiences and allowing the younger children to hear how we interact with each other and reminisce. It’s about passing down stories — and fables. It’s like with a fisherman or a golfer, the tales get bigger and bigger every year.”

Lisa Browar, president, Linda Hall Library

“I love to go with my mother to see ‘The Nutcracker.’ It’s a total theatrical experience, and it’s something that she and I can enjoy together. My mom’s 96, and she lights up when she sees it. It’s a special thing that we do. I also love to hang out in the lobby (of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts) and watch all the small children engage with it and experience that delight of seeing it.”

Sidonie Garrett, executive artistic director, Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

“I was in ‘A Christmas Carol’ for many years as an actor, and my family and friends would come. I loved that, but now it’s great to be in the audience and still share the experience (at Kansas City Repertory Theatre). I’ve gone with family and friends and people that are close to me, people that I love. Sometimes it’s people that have been in the show with me at some point, and it’s fun to go back and see it together.”

All photos by Jim Barcus

Brian McTavish

Brian McTavish is a freelance writer specializing in the arts and pop culture. He was an arts and entertainment writer for more than 20 years at The Kansas City Star. He regularly shared his “Weekend To-Do List” at KCUR-FM (89.3)/kcur.org.

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