At dusk on Friday, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art celebrates the Bloch Building's 10th anniversary with dance, sound sculpture and light. The free, outdoor event features around 40 dancers, musicians and technicians from the performance art collective Quixotic.
The main stage of “Surfaces: 10 Years of Illumination” is on the north side of the museum, but the immersive experience includes multiple stages, multiple light projection installations and pop-up performances with music and dance throughout the evening.
Anthony Magliano, Quixotic's founder and creative director, says he wanted to create a festival atmosphere for what he expects will be a large audience.
“We really want the evening to be a journey,” Magliano says. “We want it to be something where all the people who come out feel like they’re involved in the performance.”
During his team's initial scouting visits, the pool reflecting architect Steven Holl's building became a point of interest, Magliano says. It led them to invite Garth Stevenson, a Brooklyn-based film composer and double bassist who recently spent a month in Antarctica imitating whale calls with his instrument, to participate.
“We’re going to have some really cool moments where we’re using the water reflection of the Bloch Building and make it look like he’s summoning these beautiful whales,” Magliano says of Stevenson.
Quixotic’s lead visual producer, Stephen Goldblatt, created an animation for dynamic, digital projections including whimsical architectural elements, water-inspired imagery and playful, inside-out versions of the building to illuminate its white surface.
Kansas City audiences may be familiar with Goldblatt’s other digital-projection mapping projects, which include the opening of the Kauffman Center For The Performing Arts, Union Station’s 100th Anniversary and Quixotic’s two previous collaborations at The Nelson.
“Obviously a lot of the projects we’ve done were storytellers, but we need to make the story visually interesting,” Goldblatt says. “We can’t just throw a documentary up on a wall. So it’s a completely different way of thinking about it. We like to mix it up and have fun with it.”
Dancer and choreographer Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye (who until recently was a company member with the Kansas City Ballet) created a three-minute performance for “Into the Sea,” new music by Quixotic’s composer Shane Borth.
The choreography for this new work was inspired by the diverse objects within the Nelson-Atkins collections, Jolicoeur-Nye says, adding that Quixotic's anniversary performance will be ephemeral — unlike the art in the museum’s galleries.
“You can appreciate a Picasso in the same way now as you could when he first painted it,” Jolicoeur-Nye notes. “Dance is something that you can really only appreciate at the time, in the time. And it’s not preserved. I think this performance is a great opportunity for people to see something that they are probably not going to get an opportunity to see again.”
Dancer Rachel Coats (who, like Jolicoeur-Nye, was recently with the Kansas City Ballet) says the unusual, outdoor setting for the performance is what excites her most about the event.
“This custom performance is for the Nelson, it is built be experienced there,” she says. "It can’t be replicated anywhere else, and I think that’s a pretty cool thing. So it is definitely an homage to the Nelson, an homage to Kansas City. And it’s this huge, big free performance that everyone is welcome to come and be a part of.”
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art celebrates the Bloch Building anniversary, 8:30-10 p.m. on Friday, September 8, on the north side of the museum, 4525 Oak St., Kansas City, Missouri.
Julie Denesha is a freelance photographer and reporter for KCUR. Follow her on Twitter, @juliedenesha.