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Seven Great Art Installations in Kansas City

By Edited Jun 13, 2014 1 0

Kansas City is a cultural crossroads and a creative mecca.  If you're planning a trip to Kansas City for any reason at all, you'll want to check out these great displays of creative art.  There are many great art museums in Kansas City, but checking out these seven public installations is one of the best things to do in Kansas City.

Kansas City created a 1% for Art program in 1986, devoting a set percentage of tax revenues aside for public art installations.  While there is a lot of stuff to do in Kansas City, these seven public art installations are a few of the best.  No more looking around for what to do in Kansas City!

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Art lovers will enjoy these monumental public art installations in Kansas City


Barnacles in Kansas City
As with all major downtown areas, Kansas City is home to many parking garages.  The Power & Light District is home to a majority of them, in fact.  One in particular is adorned with a 72' wide art display called 'Barnacles.'  Installed in the Fall of 2011, Barnacles was designed by local firm egawa+zbryk.  You can see the Barnacles project on the 1300 block of Walnut, in downtown Kansas City.  

Strange Sam

Strange Sam
The Kansas City Zoo is always a great adventure, and it boasts one of the most unique public art installations in the city.  The artist known as Dufford created the imaginary creature as part of the zoo's emphasis on education, and included a playful walk-through of how the creature survives in varying terrain using numbered medallions around the piece.  Situated at the entrance to the Kansas City Zoo, Strange Sam can't be missed. 

The River

The River(118270)
There's simply no better name for an art project in Kansas City than 'The River'.  Designed by artist Wopo Holup in 2007 and made of bronze and limestone, The River has more to it than meets the eye.  Designed to represent the Missouri River's large population of wintering eagles, the project maps out a metaphorical Missouri River, from Kansas City to St Louis, on the campus of the Kansas City Police Academy and Shoal Creek Police Station in the Northland.  

Starting with bronze inlays at the entry of the Police Station, the river runs through the parking area and parts of the lawn from the Academy to the Police Station. At various points along the way, bronze and limestone eagles sit atop carved limestone perches, visible at the entry of the campus and on the benches at the outdoor seating areas at both buildings.

Strange Attractor for Kansas City

Strange Attractor for Kansas City
This interesting piece by Alice Aycock represents human flight, communications, and some might say aliens.  Designed to look like two trumpet bells facing away from each other and attached in the middle like a giant mirrored cornucopia, the bells both emit a soft light and are accented by three orange zig-zaggy 'waves of communication.'  This piece is located in the long term parking area at Kansas City International Airport.

The artist describes the piece like this:  “The sculpture evokes the spaces created by wind tunnels, which are used to test the aerodynamics of airplane designs. It also suggests future travel through wormholes or time machines imagined in science fiction as well as the astrophysics illustrations of Stephen Hawking. From a distance, the interior space draws the spectator in and gives the long-term parking area a strong focus. The sculpture also suggests a device that could broadcast information from and out into outer space. The neon antennas are designed as a vertical counterpoint to the curvature of the tunnel. They also mark the spot and suggest that energy is radiating out into and down through the sculpture.”


Pulse Art Installation in Kansas City
Another great parking garage art installation is 'Pulse,' a project that incorporates LED lighting, computer circuits, sound and speakers.  Located at the parking garage between 11th and 12th Streets on Oak Street in Downtown Kansas City, the interactive piece adds a touch of "aliveness" with pulsating music that plays in response to passers-by.  

The project includes 15 arrays of blue LED lights situated in between floors of the parking garage, and can be seen from both inside and outside the facility as it adds a dim blue hue to the facade of the garage.

A collaboration of Kansas City artist Elwood (a mashup of Kansas City artist James Woodfill and architectural firm el dorado, inc.)

The Race is Not Always to the Swift, Rabbit Hiding from Fox and Two Doves Sitting on a Branch Up High

The Race Does Not Always go to the Swift
The Lakeside Nature Center is home to these three bronze sculptures by Ken Ferguson.  The Race is Not Always to the Swift is a piece depicting the fabled tale by Aesop of the Hare and the Tortoise, the Center's icon, in a race to an unexpected finish.  Rabbit Hiding from Fox comes from Southern folklore revolving around a witty, survivalist (of course!) rabbit.  In a piece overlooking the Center, Two Doves Sitting on a Branch Up High represents love and peace, and how, the artist says "we should all see the world."

Modern Communication

Modern Communication
Depicting both no one in particular and yet everyone at the same time, artist Terry Allen's 1995 bronze piece calls attention to the importance of communicating clearly.  With his tie over his eyes, his fingers in his ears and a shoe in his mouth, while standing atop his briefcase the figure calls to our attention the necessity of being open to communication.  Whimsically placed in front of the Kansas City Communications Center, this piece ought to serve as inspiration to improve the world around us through better communication.

If you're looking for things to do in Kansas City, make a day trip out of visiting these seven public art installations.  You'll be glad you did.  If you enjoy art, you may also want to check out the many art museums, including the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  And be sure and check out the Kansas City Art Institute, all you budding artists!

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