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Underappreciated Park Near Crown Center Gets A New Outlook Thanks To City Art Project

The grass was still damp from overnight rains in Washington Square Park Tuesday morning as sculptor Will Vannerson stepped away from a section of the galvanized sculptural work called "Moon Garden."

After Vannerson lifted the work from the bed of a pickup truck, he said wanted to get a broader view of the large, silvery tubes in the context of the park’s landscape.

“I think there is something appealingly discordant about having it out here,” said Vannerson. “It’s such a distinct color because it’s a new galvanized finish. In the wet and the green it sort of glows in the dark.”

Vannerson is one of five local artists selected to display their work in the five-acre park near Crown Center and Union Station. Art in the Square is a Kansas City initiative to showcase local artists in public spaces. The project brought together Kansas City’s Municipal Art Commission and the Parks and Recreation Department to increase engagement with a park that is often overlooked.

As Vannerson secured 'Moon Garden' into its new resting place, photographic artist Kati Toivanen worked to adhere a vividly colored foil photograph onto the ornamental cement railing that borders the park. Called "The Flowering Wall," Toivanen's piece consists of seventy bright images along the concrete railing.

Caleb Bowman was assisting the artists with their installations.

“It is a powerful gesture when it comes to art, to literally change your perspective,” Bowman said of Toivanen's flowery images. "With these photographs here, you are drawn to this view of the skyline."

Toivanen said she was pleased to have a chance to display her work in a park setting. “It’s a good opportunity for artists who don’t have a lot of experience in public art to challenge themselves and figure out how to address art in a context outside of the gallery.”

Elizabeth Bowman, Public Art Administrator for the City of Kansas City, Mo., said she hopes to make Art in the Square an annual event. “We want to kind of spread the wealth around,” said Bowman. "We are hoping to move it to different parks around the city just to reach different audiences from different areas.”

Art in the Square opens with a reception in Washington Square Park from 5:30-7:30 p.m. September 10. The work will remain in the park, located at Pershing Road and Grand Boulevard in Kansas City, Mo., through December 21, 2015. More information about the works on display can be found here.

This story is part of KCUR's Artists In Their Own Words series, supported by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

Julie Denesha is the arts reporter for KCUR. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
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