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Arts & Life
KCUR's Gina Kaufmann brings you personal essays about how we're all adapting to a very different world.

In A Kansas City Deserted By Coronavirus, People Express Solidarity With Signs

Gina Kaufmann
A hand-painted sign outside of Greenwood Social Hall on Kansas City's Westside. The small art and music venue is run by Kansas City artist Peregrine Honig.

With gathering places shut down, signs once used to attract customers and audiences are being re-purposed to break through isolation.

On March 24, 2020, Kansas City's emergency stay-at-home orders went into effect. To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, people were to stay home except to handle essential business: trips to the grocery store, urgent medical visits.

It's been almost a month since then, and many of us now live in a virtual city accessed through computer screens, operating through connections with people, not places.

Meanwhile, what used to be the busiest parts of town are now abandoned, or close to it, and the casual interactions that brought life to bars, restaurants, music venues, art galleries, churches and schools have disappeared.

But if you do go out for curbside hand sanitizer, or make a socially distanced grocery store run, or even just take a car ride to break up the monotony of your surroundings, you might notice that the signs around town have changed. People have started using these messaging platforms to send out smoke signals of love and hope.

Signs Outside Country Club United Methodist Church
Gina Kaufmann
Makeshift yard signs outside of Country Club United Methodist Church on Wornall Road spell out "You Are Not Alone" one word at a time.

The signs ask nothing of their readers, because for now, there is nothing to sell or promote.

They've become simple reminders of community, humanity and love at a time of isolation, hardship and fear.

Sign At The Brick.JPG
Gina Kaufmann
When the staff at The Brick in downtown Kansas City left the premises on March 25, they also left notes for their regulars on the windows.

Some businesses without signage have written notes on the windows, in an attempt to say just one more thing to their customers before temporarily shutting down brick-and-mortar operations.

These messages are like fond farewells trapped in glass.

Signs At Mike Kelly's Westsider.JPG
Gina Kaufmann
Mike Kelly's Westsider on Westport Road closed until further notice on April 7, but the watering hole still wants patrons to smile.

In Lawrence, the quiet on the streets feels even weirder because of the youthfulness of the college town, where Jayhawks' sports, indie rock, craft beer and block parties have always drawn out boisterous crowds.

Sign At Granada.JPG
Gina Kaufmann
The marquee at The Granada, a popular music venue in Lawrence, now promotes solidarity instead of upcoming shows.

Without the signs, you could imagine that you'd dreamed up the crowds you remember from before. The signs provide comforting acknowledgment that what's happening now is not normal, and that you're not alone in feeling unsettled by it.

Sign At Checkers.JPG
Gina Kaufmann
Checkers, a grocery store, has a big sign visible to drivers entering Lawrence via K-10. It usually advertises deals. It now urges safety and calm.

And even the signs meant for particular audiences, like school children, take on universal meaning.

You are missed. You are loved.

Sign At Border Star.JPG
Gina Kaufmann
Border Star, a Montessori public school in Brookside, leaves a message for the students who can usually be seen playing outside at recess.

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