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Kansas City Art: Thinking Outside the Box

Photo by Bruce N. Meyer

Go big with art and fountains in Kansas City

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Maybe it’s the presence of the creative energies at Hallmark Cards or the passionate vision of Kansas City’s earliest leaders – maybe it’s a new generation of artistic and entrepreneurial souls that fill in the palette but Kansas City is indeed a city for art lovers.

From fountains to shuttlecocks to hair curlers on the convention center, this is a place where thinking outside the box is celebrated and put on display for the community and its visitors to enjoy.


Kansas City Art – Big Art

Take a look at the shuttlecocks for instance – 17 feet tall, they are. One of the city’s iconic images, these four sculptures were installed in 1994 on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, a reminder that art can be fun and playful.

The Nelson-Atkins has been an integral part of Kansas City life since 1933 and received international attention in 2006 with the addition of the Bloch building. The Nelson is open seven days a week and is always free of charge, although some temporary exhibits have a special fee.

Another big piece of art is the central branch of the Kansas City Public Library on West Tenth Street downtown. The parking garage looks like a really big bookshelf with the spines of 22 of our favorite books. They reach 25-feet high and 9-feet wide, creating the most imaginative parking garage anywhere in the country and setting the stage for what is recognized as one of the nation’s most outstanding library facilities.

If big spiders are your thing, well, first – you’re nuts – but second, head on over to the main campus of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. A 10-feet tall, 21-feet wide spider adorns the grounds. Less scary but equally intriguing art inside showcases the talents of local, national and international contemporary artists. Café Sebastienne inside is one of the best lunch options in the city.

Kansas City Art
Photo by Bruce N. Meyer

A second branch of the Kemper opened in 2015 in the Crossroads Arts District, a 20-square block neighborhood of old warehouses and storefronts turned into galleries and studios for local artists. The First Friday event here draws 10,000 or more people each month and is widely recognized as the most popular First Friday in the country.

For an artistic lunch spot in the Crossroads, check out Grinders West where the tables and everything on the walls and in the bathrooms have been created by local artists and are for sale.

One of Kansas City’s many monikers is “the city of fountains.” There are more than 200 of them, each with its’ own story and beautiful design. The J.C. Nichols Fountain on the Country Club Plaza is the most photographed, but a City of Fountains Tour is a beautiful way to see the city and enjoy one of its most aesthetic attributes.

The J.C. Nichols Country Club Plaza is not just a shopping and dining venue. It is an outdoor art museum covering 15 square blocks with more than 70 bronze sculptures and mosaic tile murals highlighting street corners and pockets between buildings. Take a self-guided walking tour using a brochure from the Plaza Visitors Center at 4750 Broadway. The Plaza Art Fair each September is frequently recognized as one of the Top Ten juried art fairs in the country and is one of Kansas City’s favorite events.

The man known as Missouri’s artist called Kansas City home. Take time to tour Thomas Hart Benton‘s home and studio – exactly as it was the day he last painted there.


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