Kansas City

I’m home for a few weeks, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be out exploring some of the awesome things Kansas City has to offer. Like many of the great medium size cities in the US, there are lots of wonderful museums, festivals, theaters, restaurants and activities available if you just make it your business to stay in the loop. If you’ve read anything at all on my blog then you know I love museums, and one that I’ve been wanting to check out here is the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. It is located on the campus of Johnson County Community College in Overland Park Kansas. The 41,000-square foot museum was designed by Kye Sung Woo and has four changing exhibition galleries, three permanent collection galleries, a media gallery, a 200-seat auditorium, two classrooms and a great cafe called Cafe Tempo.

The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art

The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art

So one day this week I headed there for a great couple of hours. What had peaked my interest was an article I had read about a special exhibit there by Michael Rees entitled Pneumatopia. It will be there until October 21, 2018. It just looked like a fun exhibit and when I got there and read about it one of the things that caught my attention from the artist is that he said he was hoping it brought the viewer joy. So right off the bat I felt like I got it! Of course there was a lot of other explanation on a much deeper level of what he was trying to convey but for me it was just about being happy. He describes the works as being composed of images, virtual objects, animations and an interactive app accessed by digital tablets. Monumental in scale but largely composed of air. But mainly it made me feel happy.

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Each of the large pieces had an iPad as part of the visual experience but I only captured it in the top right example below with the pig. Each piece gave you a different perspective depending on where you were standing and not all the iPads were as visible. Plus I just really liked the one with the pig!

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I had time so went up to the second floor to visit the permanent collection rooms and was very impressed with the collection they were showing. As with pretty much every museum they own a large amount of work but only have room to display a certain number. Usually there is a rationale as to how it is displayed - sometimes by genre, sometimes by topic and sometimes by era or style. The room I spent the most time in was very intriguing to me because the pieces were all at first glance to be pleasing and in pretty bright and light colors. But on closer examination they all dealt with pain and suffering, and it made me think about how that can be so true in life. Sometimes when we are going through a bad time on the surface we want to act like everything is fine - put on a brave and happy face.

I like to always pick a favorite - if I had a lot of money which one would I want to buy. So I decided this was my favorite. The painting is in the upper left and from a distance looks like a mosaic.  The other pictures are of the detail when you look closely. The artist has featured photographs of three women that were fighters with the National Liberation Front in the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962). They played an important role in the conflict but received no recognition or equal legal treatment when independence was gained. I was reminded of the movie that I loved called “Hidden Figures.” Seems another movie could be done about these women.

   Mujahidat #11  by Asad Faulwell (American born in 1982)

 Mujahidat #11 by Asad Faulwell (American born in 1982)

This was my second favorite because I thought it was such a cool concept. This work was done by Tim Rollins and the Kids of Survival. The students are identified as being at risk, and the art workshop allows them an opportunity to study literature in a new way. The artwork is developed collaboratively over the course of several days. This piece used the actual pages of the story from a book as the canvas, and on close inspection you can see the pages behind the painting. 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1998   

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1998 

Last but not least is this incredible Soundsuit. The picture does not do it justice. In person it was so captivating and the intricacy is amazing. It is named for the rustling of the materials when it is worn. There were many other wonderful works of art on display including a painting by the famous artist Kehinde Wiley who most recently received a lot of acclaim for his official presidential portrait of Barack Obama. This museum is worth a visit and I intend to go back again soon. And it’s free!

   Soundsuit, 2005  by Nick Cave

 Soundsuit, 2005 by Nick Cave

I mentioned that they also have a cafe that serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks. It is run by the Culinary Institute at Johnson County Community College and they rank in the top couple of culinary schools in the country and have cases of trophies to prove it. So why not treat myself to lunch! And the prices are great too!

Red pepper Gouda soup and a salad with grilled peaches, feta, almonds and other delicious things. Yumm!

Red pepper Gouda soup and a salad with grilled peaches, feta, almonds and other delicious things. Yumm!

We’re also very fortunate to have lots of great live theater here in Kansas City, and one of the best is the Missouri Reperatory Theater located on the campus of the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC). I have attended lots of times in the past and get frequent mailings about what’s coming up. I had received an offer to come to a preview night for the musical Last Days of Summer and it sounded interesting - especially when I read that it was the same team responsible for the great show last year called Between the Lines. That would be the Tony Award-winning producer Daryl Roth and the Broadway Director Jeff Calhoun. It intertwines baseball, fear, prejudice and a special relationship between a sports hero and a young boy. This is the world premier for the show, but much of the cast has appeared across the country including in NYC so I highly recommend seeing it. And having just come back from seeing two shows in  NYC I can’t believe what a bargain it is to see great theater here. We need to support them so go!

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So many fun things to do here there’s just not enough time to do it all. And I’m sure in your towns too so enjoy! I have a few more weeks of fun here and then I’m off again! Check back soon.

                                   Stand close to people who feel like sunshine.