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Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum's Mini-Golf Course Will Reopen With Tribute To Negro Leagues Baseball

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson-Atkins Museum's Art Course was closed during the 2020 season.

The Nelson-Atkins' mini-golf course will reopen March 19 with a new hole modeled on Radcliffe Bailey's "Mound Magician."

Bob Kendrick is “tremendously excited” to play the new hole on the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s mini-golf course. Each of the nine holes of Art Course is a tribute to a piece in the museum’s permanent collection — and this new one’s all about baseball.

The newest hole is called “Eyy Putter Putter,” a riff on Radcliffe Bailey’s “Mound Magician,” which is on display in the art gallery. It is also a tribute to Satchel Paige, and the 100th anniversaries of the formation of the Negro Leagues and the Kansas City Monarchs.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
"Mound Magician" by Radcliffe Bailey served as inspiration for the new Art Course hole.

Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, says the players of the Negro Leagues made baseball an art form.

“So, it’s only fitting that the Negro Leagues would be the source of inspiration for artistic expression. And no one was more artistic at their craft than the legendary Satchel Paige,” Kendrick says.

He laughs while talking about Paige, and says that if the legendary pitcher were alive today, he’d be the “biggest star on the face of the planet.”

Satchel Paige statue_AK.jpg
Anne Kniggendorf
KCUR 89.3
This Satchel Paige statue stands on the mound at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Paige’s career began in 1926 and lasted until 1965. Kendrick says it’d be easier to list the teams Paige did not play for than those he did, but he lived and died in Kansas City, and led the Kansas City Monarchs to win five Negro League pennants.

The art that inspired the new mini-golf hole has Paige's uniform number — 25 — at the center. It replaces a hole called “Pedal,” which was a tribute to Evelyn Hofer’s photograph, “Girl with Bicycle.”

The new hole was designed by Dimensional Innovations in Overland Park. Public relations specialist Weston Owen describes the hole, a gift from Bill and Christy Gautreaux, as imitating the shape of a baseball diamond or stadium—the same shape as “Mound Magician.”

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
"Eyy Putter Putter" is the new hole in Art Course and is modeled on the art "Mound Magician" in the museum's permanent collection.

“One person will stand in essentially the batter’s box, and the other person goes through and grabs the golf ball and puts it in a chute that pitches it to the other person waiting to hit the ball,” Owen explains.

He says designers included three chutes so that the pitcher can send a fast ball or a right or left curve ball.

The Nelson-Atkins chose the original hole designs from 75 entries submitted by artists, students, and designers and the designs were executed by Strategic Initiatives for the course’s opening in spring of 2019. The art-inspired mini-golf course was popular, with tee times often fully booked. But the course was closed for the 2020 season due to COVID. It is scheduled to reopen on March 19.

Kendrick says that he knows he can’t sit around and wait for people to go to the Negro Leagues museum; he wants to go where people are already gathering.

The 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues was in 2020, but Kendrick and his team have extended the celebrations into 2021 with the Negro Leagues 101 educational initiative that’ll include digital programming and digitization of some of its exhibitions.

“The style and creativity that made Negro Leagues baseball a fan favorite lends itself beautifully to artistic expression and is a wonderful tool to spark greater interest in this rich history,” Kendrick says.

Art Course hours from Friday, March 19 through Saturday, May 22 will be during museum hours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Starting May 23, Art Course will be open each day the museum is open: Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. After Sept. 7, Art Course will return to weekend hours, and it will close to the public on Oct. 24. The public can reserve tickets on the museum’s website, www.nelson-atkins.org. The cost is $16 per person, or $12 per person for members.

Anne Kniggendorf is a staff writer/editor at the Kansas City Public Library and freelance contributor to KCUR. Follow her on Twitter, @annekniggendorf.
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