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Dolphin Closes In The West Bottoms, 'Body Blow' To Art World

Dolphin Gallery's John O'Brien had hinted about a change for months. But, now, it's official. Dolphin, the exhibition space and framing business in the West Bottoms, will close after its last show (slated to open May 17). The Dolphin first opened in 1989 as a frame shop in Westport; O'Brien then moved to the Crossroads Arts District in the early 1990s. O'Brien, along with artist Jim Leedy, encouraged other artists and gallery owners into the Crossroads, establishing it as a hub for the arts. In 2008, the Dolphin relocated to the West Bottoms.

O'Brien told The Kansas City Star he estimates the Dolphin has hosted 175 shows. The gallery represents more than 50 artists, including Terry Evans, David Ford, Archie Scott Gobber, Peregrine Honig, Anne Lindberg, Wilbur Niewald, and Mike Sinclair (a 2013 Guggenheim Fellow).

The Star reports the West Bottoms gallery and frame shop will close after a final show, and O'Brien plans to "pursues his own interests."

According to the article in today's paper:

On Tuesday, O’Brien completed the purchase of two industrial buildings in Independence. He will renovate both of the 7,000-square-foot buildings and plans to lease one and use the other as a workspace for his own design projects.
“I’m not an artist, but I do have similar passions,” O’Brien said this week at the gallery. “Being a visual person, I feel I have another gear. I’m ready to not do retail. I feel like I’ve done what I can do.”

O'Brien studied painting at the Kansas City Art Institute in the late 1970s. And he's championed the artwork of KCAI students and graduates in his exhibition spaces. Through the years, he's also worked on designing interiors for restaurants, renovating buildings for exhibition spaces, likeBill Brady KC, or other venues, like Amigoni Urban Winery.

He told The Star that "finances were not a factor in his decision" to close the Dolphin.

The final exhibition, Thanks For The Warning, runs May 17 - June 22, 2013, with an opening reception May 17, 5 - 10 pm.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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