Kansas City Makes Room for Art in the Midwest

Article excerpt

Kansas City is one of the hottest cultural metropolises in the United States, according to its art-savvy residents. Forget the windswept plains, rural living and rampant tornados depicted in the Hollywood version of the town. In real life, this Midwestern city has been a mecca for music, food, art and culture for decades.

Kansas City has been a cornerstone of American jazz since the 1920s and '30s when greats like Count Basie, Andy Kirk, Joe Turner, Hot Lips Page, Jay McShann and Kansas City's own Charlie "Bird" Parker played here. It is also known for its amazing BBQ--there are more than 80 barbeque restaurants in town. It also boasts perpetually sunny skies, inexpensive living and a well-educated, youthful population. All these things have made the town one of the fastest-growing cities in the Midwest, and its residents and visitors have made it a haven for art.

The Heart of It All

Kansas City is literally the heart of America, found at the junction of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers and located approximately 1,900 miles from each coast. But its central, spacious location is anything but small-town or rural.

Kansas City's metropolitan area, a bi-state region that encompasses parts of Missouri and Kansas, is home to more than two million residents and continues to grow due to a growing job market, a strong corporate presence, low living costs and a well-educated workforce.

"Kansas City has become a mid-American magnet, not only for business, but for individuals seeking the stability and opportunity of this quintessentially American city," said Tim Cowden, senior vice president of business development for the Kansas City Area Development Council.

Museums and Institutions

All this adds up to a growing and thriving arts community. Joan Israelite, president and c.e.o, of the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City, claims the area ranks "definitely in the top five" places in the country for a wide range of art. "We have a creative community here that is fostered by the Kansas City Art Institute and sustained by such companies as Hallmark," she said.

Indeed, some of the most notable art destinations in Kansas City are its museums and art institutions. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art opened its doors in 1933 and has since become a haven for art lovers throughout the Midwest. The museum has been lauded for its extensive collection of Asian art and its European and American collections. It also boasts a picturesque sculpture park and sprawling lawn area that is host to the country's largest collection of Henry Moore sculptures and the permanent home of several iconic badminton-themed sculptures, entitled "Shuttlecocks," by acclaimed sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Additionally, the museum has recently broken ground on a $200 million, 160,000-square-foot expansion designed by world-renowned architect Steven Hol. The building, set to adorn the museum's east side, is slated to open in 2006.

Another significant Kansas City museum is the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Forged in sparkling stainless steel, the museum is Missouri's first museum designed specifically for contemporary art. It boasts an extensive and growing permanent collection that includes work by such artists as Georgia O'Keeffe, Dale Chihuly and Louise Bourgeois.

Plus, the Kansas City Art Institute, which has roots dating back to the 1800s, is a nationally recognized college of art and design that educates its 600 plus students in all aspects of art. Among its celebrated alumni are painters Robert Rauschenberg and Keith Jacobshagen and sculptor Robert Morris.

Galleries Galore

Art doesn't end at the doors of Kansas City's acclaimed museums and art institutions, however. …