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For First Friday, Drink Wine At Home And Visit Virtual Galleries In Kansas City's Crossroads

Leedy-Voulkos Art Center
One of the images in 'Synestheseizures,' by artist and musician Kris Schmolze, at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center through May 30.

Art galleries are considered "non-essential" during metro-Kansas City's stay at home order, so April's First Fridays in the Crossroads Arts District is canceled.

With their doors closed to the public, gallery owners and directors are looking for new ways to highlight their artists and to interact with art lovers. Some galleries will open for visitors only by appointment and others are expanding their digital offerings.

Belger Arts Center gallery associate Mo Dickens, who's known as a storyteller and tour guide, says there have only been a few times when the Belger didn't participate in First Fridays, such as when it fell around a holiday weekend. 

"But this feels almost like we're doing a public service by not being open," Dickens says.

On its website, the Belger Arts Center features artists' work through digital exhibitions and highlights from the Belger family's extensive collection. "Flash sales" are scheduled through April 22; next up are artists Samantha Bachman, Elaine Buss and Nicole Aquillano. Online instructional videos are in the works, including "Making a Pinch Pot." And the Crane Clay Yard is still selling clay for pick-up or delivery.

Credit E.G. Schempf / Haw Contemporary
Haw Contemporary
Archie Scott Gobber's solo exhibition at Haw Contemporary Crossroads, 'Just Desserts,' is only open to visitors by appointment. The gallery is closed due to the metro-wide stay at home order.

ArtsKC-Regional Arts Council, in partnership with KC Crew, presents "Friday Night Arts: A Night with Artists" with performances and talkback sessions to "get up close and personal with the artists ... (and) hear about their work." This Friday's artists include Matt Hopper, Vi Tran, and Jenny Hahn, among others. ArtsKC has also added a new category to their online arts calendar for virtual events

Blue Gallery is offering virtual installation and consulting services: If you provide a photo and the measurements of a space, the gallery will create a possible installation from their roster of about 60 artists, including Jane Booth, Peregrine Honig, Lisa Lala, John Ochs and William Rainey. They'll also provide "white (sterile) glove porch deliveries" in the metro area.

Cerbera Gallery has partnered with platforms such as Artsy, 1stdibs and Artspace to showcase its current exhibition, “Symbiosis” by Rachel Hubbard Kline, which has been extended through April 26. 

At Haw Contemporary in the Crossroads, Archie Scott Gobber's solo exhibition "Just Desserts" opened on March 13, and closed just a few days later. Owner Bill Haw, Jr. filmed this walkthrough for people who aren't able to make an appointment to visit before the show closes on April 22. 

Leedy-Voulkos Art Center invites the public to virtual First Friday openings with three new exhibitions, including "Synestheseizures," by artist and musician Kris Schmolze through May 30. 

Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art has postponed its April/May exhibition. Instead, the gallery is featuring the artwork of Hung Liu, Anne Austin Pearce and Mary Ann Strandell on the website. In an email, they wrote, "But the gallery is more than just a business, it is a labor of love built on relationships with artists, art lovers, cultural institutions and our neighborhood."

Credit courtesy Weinberger Fine Art
An installation view of the virtual gallery for Laura Berman's 'Fuse.'

Weinberger Fine Art also launched a virtual gallery for a new exhibition of paintings, collages and prints by Laura Berman called "Fuse." Owner and chief curator Kim Weinberger said she and her team started collaborating by Zoom on the project as soon as the gallery closed in mid-March.

"She's been working on this body of work for 18 months, specifically for this show," said Weinberger. "We decided that we needed a way to show her work. And since we're not there physically, let's get this up and going virtually." 

Weinberger also expanded services to include digitally curated proposals and Photoshop installations of work in a potential client's space. And the gallery features artwork each Thursday, on the website and social media, of the more than 40 artists in their roster, including Linda Lighton, Miguel Rivera and Jim Woodfill.

Jeff Owens, vice president of the Crossroads Community Association, says about 50 restaurants in the Crossroads are still open for business, with take out, curbside or delivery services. But he's not anticipating the district will host another First Friday event until June, at the earliest.

"In a perfect world, we wouldn't have anybody come to First Friday just to try to help get this thing (the coronavirus) under control as quick as possible," he says. "You know, the last thing we'd want to do is open up too quickly and make the problem worse."

Despite all of the galleries' efforts to approximate the monthly experience, the Belger's Mo Dickens says it's the people who activate the artwork in a gallery or museum.

"I do miss my visitors. You know, I do miss the interaction with the people that come to the gallery and sharing the art shows with those folks," Dickens says.

"And I hope to see them soon."

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can follow her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.

Laura Spencer is staff writer/editor at the Kansas City Public Library and a former arts reporter at KCUR.
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