Visual Arts

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

A white police officer with his arm around the neck of a black man. Officers standing in a line, wearing helmets and carrying rifles. These images are not from photographs taken this year or last year – as you might guess – but during the Civil Rights movement many decades ago. 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, like many museums, maps out exhibitions in advance – often years ahead.

John Sleezer / The Kansas City Star

The roar of the fans, the daring runs on the field, and the click of camera shutters all go together at a major league sports event. When you're a photographer on the field, you get a different perspective of the game.

Photographers and Kansas City-area residents John Sleezer of the Kansas City Star and Denny Medley of USA Today Sports told Steve Kraske on Up to Date that being in the moment is crucial — the action can be fast and furious or few and far between.

On getting the shot 

courtesy: Empty Bowls KC

One man has been driving all over Kansas City for eight months transporting hundreds of fragile handmade bowls.


“I show up with newspaper and a mish-mash of boxes that I’ve grabbed. Right now, I’ve probably got four or five boxes [of bowls] and before the end of the day I will have a few more,” says ceramic artist LeRoy Grubbs.

David Chancellor - kiosk

Cecil the Lion’s death at the hands of a trophy hunter made headlines around the world a few months ago but that type of hunting is common in Africa. Photographer David Chancellor documented the people who participate in the sport, along with the big game targets they kill in his documentary series, Hunters.

Courtesy of Reynolda House Museum of American Art

Artist Thomas Hart Benton was a larger-than-life figure. A muralist who's well-known in Missouri, where he was born and lived the last three decades of his life — he's not as familiar as he once was outside the Kansas City area.

But that's starting to change. 

Photograph © Nick Vedros 2015

The lives of inmates in prisons across Kansas is a world away from the aesthetics of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

Kansas City photographer Nick Vedros is bringing those worlds together with his Faces of Change photo essay — inspired by a unique self-help program in Kansas prisons. The exhibition is set to open at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art next month.

This is the story of a man who built the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas; the man who purchased and cared for the sculpture environment nearly a century later; and the town whose survival increasingly depends on grassroots art.

Gina Kaufmann / KCUR

Sculptor John Hachmeister remembers the first time he saw the Garden of Eden, a mysterious outdoor sculpture environment built in Lucas, Kansas, right after the Civil War.

Byron Motley

Byron Motley was born in Kansas City, Mo. but the first time he stepped off the plane in Cuba he knew he was home. He talks with Steve Kraske about expressing his love for the country and its people in his book Embracing Cuba

Courtesy photo / Belger Crane Yard Studios

Kansas City artist Peregrine Honig spent time this year in artist residencies — one in China, and, an unofficial one, closer to home at the Hotel Phillips. 

Some of the drawings and prints she created will soon be on display in a replica hotel suite — inside the Belger Crane Yard gallery. Sexuality and vulnerability, power and luxury — and privacy all collide in a new multimedia installation called Suites

Courtesy Wabaunsee County Historical Society

It's a familiar sight around rural Kansas: Some old, falling-down building, obviously abandoned long ago.

One of those buildings was in Volland, which can’t be even be considered a town — it's just four houses (three of which are empty), a boarded-up white building and an old brick store about an hour and a half west of Kansas City, just beyond the town of Alma (population 800).

courtesy Grand Arts

After a 20-year run in the Crossroads Arts District, this First Friday will be the last for Grand Arts. The closing reception for the exhibition "Universe of Collisions," by The Propeller Group, a collective based in Vietnam and California, marks the end of the non-profit arts residency venue.

Founder Margaret Silva announced plans last year to donate the Grand Arts building, a former auto shop at 1819 Grand Boulevard, to the Kansas City Art Institute for its graduate program.

Courtesy / the artists

Anne Pearce made her name in Kansas City years ago, as a painter and as director of the Greenlease Art Gallery at Rockhurst University, where she also teaches art. Two years ago, during sabbatical on the other side of the world, Pearce had a profound experience — one she's now sharing with her students.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Cicadas sing the rhythm of late summer as plein air painter Patrick Saunders and his wife, photographer Kimberly Saunders, sit at a picnic table beneath the shade of a tent — the living room in their new life together.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Large puffy, clouds float overhead as Alex Hamil mixes water and pigment in the shadow of Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. "Bag of tricks: brushes, water for watercolor," he says as he pulls out supplies.

Alex has entered a plein air painting competition and is trying a new style of painting he knows well but has been reluctant to explore.              

Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art

Kansas City residents who'd like to experience nature in air-conditioned comfort have the option to do just this inside the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. Three site-specific installations on display through September explore "what we have taken from nature and what we do to nature," says executive director Bruce Hartman.

Courtesy of Gary Staab

You know those gigantic dinosaur models you see in natural history museums, frozen in mid-roar? There's a good chance they were made in Kearney, Missouri by a guy named Gary Staab. From his encounter with Lucy (the famous skeleton of our human ancestor) to a mummified human known as the Ice Man, Gary Staab takes us face to face with prehistoric life. 

Courtesy of Gary Staab

Gary Staab might appear to be an ordinary guy.

He lives in small-town, rural Kearney, Missouri, with his wife, Lissi, and their two teenage sons, Max and Owen. He plays guitar for the Mechanical Prairie Dogs, and is learning to play cello in his spare time.

But for a living, Staab sculpts prehistoric monsters and ancient human ancestors. He constructs wooden skeleton bases, shapes and welds bodies with wire, crafts muscles and eyeballs and molds resin flesh with epoxy.

Kansas City Art Institute

The Kansas City Art Institute's ceramics department dates back to the 1960s – and has a storied history, with larger than life professors who shaped the program like Ken Ferguson, Victor Babu and George Timock. 

This summer, Kansas City firms Helix and McCown Gordon Construction collaborated on a $750,000 renovation of "the old kiln room." 

Photographer Lara Shipley discusses Devil's Promenade, her photo series that depicts life in the Ozarks, where she grew up.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

Joe Williams enlisted in the United States Marine Corps after the post 9/11 invasion of Iraq and served for seven years. He survived rocket and mortar attacks. A fast learner and natural leader, he rose through the ranks and was about to start officer candidate school when something went terribly wrong.

Wikimedia Commons

The car is a mechanical work of art. There are people who obsessively design, build and restore cars... and others crash them with just as much passion. From the Art of the Car Concours to the  demolition derby.


  • Tony Jones, interim president, The Kansas City Art Institute
  • Mac McLanahan, artist and demolition derby driver
photo: EG Schempf / Collection of the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California

Brooklyn-based artist Adam Cvijanovic paints on sheets of a tough, durable product called Tyvek. It's often used to wrap or protect a building during construction, but for Cvijanovic it provides the canvas for his large-scale portable murals.

"I am really interested in narrative because I'm very interested in time," says Cvijanovic. "And I think painting as a plastic art, as a frozen moment in time, can offer insights into it."

Judith G. Levy

For her installation at La Esquina as part of an exhibit called Disturbances in the Field, artist Judith G. Levy tells succinct family stories, focusing on disconnects.

There's the stark contrast between the side of her family that supported Nazi Germany and the side that had to flee Nazi Germany. And what about the gap between her great-uncle's wife's appearance and the family's insistence that she was a Sephardic Jew, rather than Ethiopian?

Ashley Gilbertson

When heading into a war zone, not many choose a camera over a rifle. This edition of Up To Date explores the lives of two war photographers who covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the States. 


courtesy: Municipal Art Commission

For two decades, the public artwork Modern Communication has caused controversy in front of Kansas city's police and fire department downtown. A bronze businessman stands on a briefcase – he has a shoe in his mouth, fingers in his ears, and a tie flapping across his eyes. 

courtesy of the artist

For the past 35 years, artist and YJ’s Snackbar owner David Ford has been traveling to Guatemala.

His interests in the area have ranged from local foods and recipes to indigenous festivals and politics. But recently, his focus has narrowed — he’s become totally obsessed with broken doll heads, called muñecas, used in bustling marketplaces to advertise hair-braiding and hair-wrapping services to white tourists.

“It’s an advertising thing,” Ford explains.

The oldest culture on the planet, Aboriginals have inhabited the Australian continent for more than 50,000 years. National Geographic photographer  Amy Toensing spent three years documenting their lives and captured how their ancient tradition lives on in the modern world. 

Hear More: Amy Toensing speaks Tuesday, March 17 at 7:30 at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre. For information and tickets, click here.