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Arts & Life

Art Medallions From Kansas City International Airport Move From The Floor To The Sky

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Anne Kniggendorf
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KCUR 89.3
Shawn Scheffler didn't want to see the medallions of the "Polarities" exhibition forgotten, so he turned them into discs.

Shawn Scheffler, who loves disc golf, hated to see KCI's floor art lost, so he hatched a plan to reimagine the medallions as flying discs.

Like a lot of Kansas Citians, Shawn Scheffler has kept an eye on the progress of the new Kansas City International Airport. In 2019, he read an article about “Polarities,” the 177 artful medallions inlaid in the terminals sparkly blue floors.

Scheffler wanted to help save some of the medallions but learned that the terrazzo housing the art easily crumbles and is spread over eight inches of concrete. It would be hard to separate the two, but he pressed on because the shape of the medallions reminded him of one of his favorite sports.

"For those of us who disc golf, it’s an incredible passion. You start seeing disc golf courses in every park and you start seeing discs in your dreams and in reality,” Scheffler says.

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Anne Kniggendorf
Like regular golfers, disc golfers organize their gear on carts.

Disc golf is sort of a hybrid of regular golf and Ultimate Frisbee, and courses usually include about nine or 18 metal baskets that players aim for with three types of discs: drivers, midranges, and putters. Those who play organize their equipment in carts that they push from basket to basket.

Scheffler set out to secure permission from the artists and the city to use the images on flying discs for disc golf. He also went to the Kansas City Disc Golf board for their thoughts.

Club secretary Lupe Herrada says Scheffler suggested selling the discs for fundraising.

“They’re in a circular shape, they’re Kansas City-focused, and, you know, in disc golf, fundraising is everything,” Herrada explains. “It’s not a sport that brings in a lot of money, whether it be from players or the community or even the city in some cases.”

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Anne Kniggendorf
Kansas City Disc Golf secretary Lupe Herrada releases a disc toward a basket at Rosedale Park.

Kansas City hosts many disc golf tournaments, including the 39th annual Kansas City Wide Open in September, all of which depend on volunteers.

Herrada says, “Fundraising allows us to make sure we have water coolers, or right now with COVID, water bottles for everybody, and making sure the course is in good shape.”

Keeping their courses in good shape is practically a full-time job for the various leagues within the larger club; parks conservation is a major push within Kansas City’s disc golf community with the club even owning lawn care equipment it lends to members.

In June, a disc golf group that calls itself the Rogues of Rosedale completely rebuilt a bridge in Rosedale Park.

"They keep the course clean, they pick up trash, they put out mulch. If a tree's down, they notify parks. They just keep it a really nice course," Kansas City Wide Open tournament director Jerry Patterson says of the Rogues.

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Anne Kniggendorf
Jerry and Tina Patterson are leaders in the disc golf community.

Herrada adds that Kansas City Disc Golf has a tree fund specifically for replacing trees around “courses that are losing their trees like Shawnee Mission, which lost a lot of trees due to oak mite infestations and other tree diseases.”

So, she and the board liked Scheffler’s idea, and he curated the 177 medallions down to 77 flying discs. “Some of them were very abstract,” Scheffler says.

Patterson and Scheffler decided to release the designs one or two at a time through the 2023 opening the Kansas City International Airport’s new central terminal.

Scheffler hopes the discs will help “Polarities” live on, whether or not the actual airport art survives. He says, “I thought about the medallions on the floor, and how many people walk over them and never notice them.”

In hand or flying through the air, the art will be hard to miss.

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