© 2021 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Life

Attention Riders: Enjoy The Art At Kansas City's Streetcar Stops Before It Goes Away

Julie Denesha
Raising a hand in victory, Michael Schliefke tests out an art installation for Don Wilkison, m.o.i. (The Minister of Information) and his assistant Stephen Van Rhein.

Kansas City's new streetcar line presents hazards for bicyclists, but an artist named Don Wilkison, who calls himself m.o.i., for the Minister of Information, hopes his "Rail-Bike-Rail" installation will help them navigate this new environment.

Wilkison's piece consists of a small screen attached to the handlebars of a stationary bike secured to the sidewalk at 9th and Main near the Library. People can climb onto the bike and, as they pedal, the screen plays a video on bike safety.

“I am a big cyclist and I love riding bikes,” said Wilkison. “And I’m kind of fascinated, like a lot of people, by the streetcar.”

Wilkison says he also wants to show people how bicycles can stretch their streetcar rides farther.

“What a lot of people don’t know is how quickly you can get somewhere on a bike in the city," he says. "So if you’re taking the streetcar, which is only a two-mile range, you can extend that by getting on a bike or renting a city bike.”

"Rail-Bike-Rail" is one of six streetcar stops with an art installation along the Main Street route this summer. These open-air exhibits are a part of the 2​016 Art in the Loop Project, which brings temporary art to downtown employees, residents, and visitors. This summer, Art in the Loop presents 27 outdoor exhibits including temporary artworks and performances at Ilus Davis Park, Oppenstein Park and Prairie Logic.

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM
As a streetcar arrives, Wilkison tries to bring up the brightness on the screen.

Program Director Ann Holliday says Art in the Loop brings a stimulating cultural experience to everyday life downtown.

“The interesting thing for me is the opportunity to support our local artists and to give them a way to get out of their studios, get off the stage and out of the theater and bring their art into a public space where they can reach a new audience,” Holliday says.

“You don’t have to buy a ticket, you don’t have to go into the museum, or the gallery to see their art. It’s coming out to you.”

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM
Artist Rachelle Gardner-Roe and Fastsigns Installer Mike Welch smooth out a panel of Gardner-Roe's 'I See You.'

Artist Rachelle Gardner-Roe, whose blue-hued piece "I See You" features two heads radiating with text at the Power & Light stop, says she hopes it provokes thought.

“What I really hope people can do, more now than ever, is really truly see each other beyond superficial physical differences, our own cognitive biases that exist no matter who we are,” Gardner-Roe says. “And that even a perfect stranger you might meet on a park bench or a streetcar bench, in a way we’re all the same. We are one people even though we can look very different.”

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM
Gardner-Roe checks the alignment against another printout before beginning the installation.

Gardner-Roe says she's excited about the chance that streetcar passengers will engage with her work.

“I did really like the idea of having something along the new streetcar line because it’s very Kansas City, it’s very new, and I think it’s added this vitality to the downtown area,” she says. “We just took our first ride on the streetcar, and it was full of people. It was great.”

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM
'I See You' will be on view at the Power and Light Streetcar stop at 14th and Main Street.

Holliday says including the streetcar line has enlivened Art in the Loop.

“The streetcar is such a great new amenity to downtown. It’s hugely important to give people opportunities to connect and to see all the new people who are coming downtown and give them another reason to be here and talk to each other.”

Julie Denesha is a freelance photographer and reporter for KCUR. Follow her @juliedenesha.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with essential news and information.
Your donation today keeps local journalism strong.