Home to Moshe Sofdie’s stunning Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the luminous Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the Kansas City Art Institute, and 661 arts and entertainment businesses employing more than 13,000, Kansas City undoubtedly has a vibrant arts and culture scene. The “jazz and BBQ capital of the world” just wrapped up its 3rd annual Kansas City Design Week – seven packed days of events and presentations celebrating the many facets of the visual arts, including architecture, urban design, and graphic design. The Kansas City Area Development Council generously invited Inhabitat to check out this year's events - read on for our on-scene coverage!
The kick-off event was a Cu t& Paste battle – a fast-paced design competition that tests the skill, speed and stage presence of contestants as they create original designs in timed rounds. Since 2009, Cut & Paste has become a global movement of artists, firms, and media working to strengthen creative networks through events and local support. Their mission is to “help designers be better understood for better opportunity.”
Some of Kansas City’s best artists, architects, and designers competed to impress a panel of judges as they demonstrated mastery in their respective fields. Audience members watched the creative process in real time via large-scale projections, while a local DJ provided the beats. Kansas City’s Cut&Paste 2D and 3D champions were Garrett Fuselier of T2 + Back Alley Films and Chad McClure of Burly Studios.
Hatch Show Print is an American institution for preserving a nearly extinct art form – the letterpress. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Hatch Show Print was started in 1879 by the Hatch Brothers who created advertising posters to promote vaudeville, circus, and minstrel shows across the country.
Over the last 133 years, the iconic Hatch Show Print has made posters for the entertainment industry, including stage, film, and music, as well as posters for political campaigns and sporting events – all by reusing the same letters and hand-carved images to communicate unique and powerful messages.
Manager, curator, and chief designer, Jim Sherraden, gave an informative and entertaining presentation on the history of Hatch Show Print, where he explained the business’ mantra, preservation through production. “You achieve this,” he explained, “by keeping the dust off the back of the woodblocks and ink on the front.” Hatch Show Print is currently in the planning stages of recreating the original workshop using architectural blueprints from 1923 .
Kansas City Design Week 2012 hosted the area’s 15th Pecha Kucha night at the Atkins Auditorium. Among the presenters were three of the Nelson-Atkins Pavilion finalists, including winners Tom Proebstle and Mike Kress (pictured) of Kansas City-based Generator Studio. The jury, lead by the Nelson-Atkins Bloch Building architect Steven Holl, chose the eco-friendliest of temporary structures to sit in the Kansas City Sculpture Park during their forthcoming design exhibition, “Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851-1939.” Generator Studio’s “Sun Pavilion” is not only made of old shipping containers which can be broken down and repurposed – its most interesting feature is its fragmented canopy of solar panels conceived with the help of LA-based artist Tm Gratkowski.
Designer, writer, curator, and educator Ellen Lupton humorously introduced a new exhibition surveying graphic design over the past decade titled, Graphic Design- Now in Production. The exhibit, which will be at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum on Governors Island in New York from May 26 – September 2, 2012, is the largest museum exhibition on the subject since the Walker’s seminal 1989 exhibition Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History, and the Cooper-Hewitt’s 1996 comprehensive survey, Mixing Messages: Graphic Design in Contemporary Culture. Watch the dry-witted and highly insightful Lupton wax philosophically on the subject of graphic design here.
Included in the Design Week’s program was a walking tour of the old industrial mecca of Kansas City, an area known as the West Bottoms. Lead by architectural historian Cydney Millstein, the tour took participants through abandoned buildings that once thrived at the turn of the 20th century.
The West Bottoms, an early trading post between French trappers and Kansas Indians, and later a railroad hub for the stockyards, held over 90 percent of Kansas City’s value before its economic collapse – largely due to the floods of 1903 and 1951, and the end of WWII. However, the area has recently been going through somewhat of a renaissance. With help of the PIEA (Planned Industrial Expansion Authority) through generous tax breaks for private investors, brownfield funds to clean up environmental problems, federal grants for a new sewer system, and studies by urban design experts and students, the area has begun to attract businesses (like Good Ju Ju and Re-Runs) and artistic tenants, helping to revive and reestablish the historic West Bottoms district of Kansas City.