Monday, July 19, 2010

Should we call it the Leawood Arts District?

Something artistic is happening out there, and we should take note.

By "out there," I mean what many in the Kansas City Metro think of as "out there" in southern Johnson County, KS.

I'll be the first to grant that southern Johnson County doesn't exactly have a reputation for being stylish or artistic. Much of the artistic community around town tends to think of it with a What's the Matter with Kansas? frame of mind: as a wasteland of white-bread suburbanites in cookie-cutter plastic palaces.

If you think of it that way, however, you haven't been paying attention.

I recently attended the Johnson County Art Crawl, held Friday and Saturday, July 16-17, 2010.  Four of the five galleries on the itinerary are located in a relatively small area between 115th and 119th Streets, bounded on the west by Nall Avenue, and on the east by Tomahawk Creek Parkway--an area that I've started calling the Leawood Arts District. I couldn't get the link to Google Maps to work right, so I've included a screen shot.

A person in good walking shoes could have walked, Kansas City Crossroads-style, between the Prairiebrooke Gallery (A on the map), Eva Reynolds Fine Art Gallery (B), Leawood Fine Art Gallery (C) and The Rice Gallery of Fine Art (D).  However, unlike in the Crossroads, parking was not an issue, so it was easy to drive.  The fifth location was only a few blocks away, at the Tomahawk Ridge Community Center, which now hosts Overland Park's "Art at the Center" series.

There were no colorful crowds on the streets, such as you see on First Fridays in the Crossroads, but other aspects of the event compared very well.  The artwork I saw on display was easily equal to, or better than, much of what you typically see on a First Friday.  These galleries also had efficient air conditioning, decent wine, fresh hors d'oeuvres, and good live music.

The art on offer was a nice mix of local and nationally-known artists.  In several cases, the artists were both nationally-known and local!  Examples are the first Kansas City solo show by Michael Albrechtsen at the Rice Gallery, an exhibition by sculptor Tom Corbin at the Eva Reynolds Gallery, and several new, large paintings by George Jones, featured at Prairiebrooke.  "The Abstracts Exhibition," a collection of works selected by Friends of Overland Park Arts, was the attraction at Tomahawk Ridge, and a group show featuring work by many of the gallery's excellent artists was the focus at Leawood Fine Arts.

These five are by no means the only art galleries in Johnson County--nor are they the only good ones.  What should command the attention of every art lover in the KC metro, however, is the relative concentration of them in this fairly small area, and the uniformly high quality of the offerings to be found in the Leawood Arts District.

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