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Each week, KCUR's Adventure! newsletter brings you a new way to explore the Kansas City region.

Kansas City's artist-run spaces offer havens of creativity and collaboration. Here's a guide

Two rows of people, each on separate sides of a room, work at pottery wheels. In the background, the entrance to the space is glass windows and a glass door, with the words Epic Arts seen in reverse on the windows.
Epic Arts
A pottery workshop at Epic Clay.

Artist-run spaces are a key part of the artistic ecosystem, beyond traditional galleries and museums. Around the Kansas City metro, these spaces create opportunities for emerging and less-established artists to create, showcase, and network — and often provide more than just a blank wall to foster a diverse range of creators.

This story was first published in KCUR's Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

While the Crossroads remains the central art hub of Kansas City, artists across the metro have established their own spaces to create, collaborate and showcase their work.

With spots in the West Bottoms, North Hyde Park, and Kansas City, Kansas, among others, these artist-run spaces allow an affordable and accessible alternative to traditional galleries or museums.

Artist-run spaces are the lifeblood of any local scene because they focus on uplifting emerging, less-established talent, and connecting them with the public. They offer an opportunity to network with other professionals, including fellow creators, curators, gallerists, and writers.

It’s more than just a blank wall to hang a painting. Many artist-run spaces resemble studio complexes, combining galleries with theaters, public workshops, stores, and even mini art schools designed to engage the community.

We’ve chosen seven artist-run spaces where you can view ongoing exhibitions, participate in workshops, purchase merchandise, products, and publications, or even propose your own event!

Kansas City Artists Coalition

People in groups of two or three mingle in a white walled gallery space.
Kansas City Artist Coalition
The exhibition space at Kansas City Artist Coalition.

The Kansas City Artist Coalition is one of the longest-running artist-run initiatives in the metro. Officially founded in 1976 by a large group of like-minded creators, KCAC has grown into a powerful organization with multiple gallery spaces and a rich variety of programs for artist development and community engagement.

Each year, KCAC announces an open call to find new artists to showcase. Anyone can apply as long as they can submit at least 10 work samples. The coalition also collaborates with local businesses to introduce emerging local talents to different audiences, including a beautiful window display at Midtown KC Now on 39th and Main streets.

For artists themselves, KCAC provides studios in a collective environment and hosts workshops, open studios, lectures and other events to help with exposure.

KCAC’s exhibitions explore “the diversity of expression that shapes contemporary culture, art, and ideas.” For example, Marissa Shell’s upcoming solo features a series of multimedia weaving on reclaimed quilt squares, using materials like high-gloss vinyl, chain, fiberglass mesh and insect screens to explore our relationship with Earth’s ecosystem.

KCAC also partners with local institutions, such as the Kansas City Art Institute, to give undergraduates a place to show their work. This is a great place to discover local and regional creatives before they enter the art world’s main stage.


Close up view of graffiti style art work by artist Figürm.
Xiao Faria daCunha
KCUR 89.3
Installation image of work by artist Figürm in “Between Realms" at PLUG.

Formerly known as the “PLUG PROJECT,” PLUG in the Historic 18th and Vine district combines artist studios and gallery spaces.

Their Agnes Studio, named after the street where it’s located, has a current roster of occupants who are heavily focused on assemblages, sculptures and installations. You’re likely to find more experimental pieces that look like they belong in a Tim Burton movie than in other places in Kansas City.

The project space was founded in 2011 by five Kansas City-based artists: Nicole Mauser, Amy Kligman, Misha Kligman, Cory Imig and Caleb Taylor. Its mission is to exhibit challenging new work and connect Kansas City with the national scene. Nowadays, PLUG brings in a new head curator every two years to ensure the space always has a fresh perspective.

PLUG has a profound tradition of centering around themes like queer identities, the perception of self, stereotypes and redefining one’s experience. One past exhibition titled “Don’t Call It a Selfie” explored the emotional meanings behind selfie culture and considered how we perceive ourselves through camera lenses.

Currently, the Plug Gallery has a solo show called “Between Realms,” featuring local artist Figürm, who experiments with the human figure through painting, sculpture and installation. The artist covered the space's traditionally spotless white walls with doodles, objects, written words, and abstract color blobs to resemble different rooms in someone’s house, then placed each piece in the appropriate “room.”

Kiosk Gallery

Exterior view of Kiosk Gallery, with the gallery name on the window.
Kiosk Gallery
Kiosk Gallery, run by Eric and Erin Dodson, is inside the Stockyards Building in the West Bottoms.

Inside the Stockyards building, Kiosk Gallery is a small yet robust space that bridges Kansas City’s scene with the rest of the Midwest. Since opening its doors in 2012, Kiosk has put on 75 shows featuring more than 250 local and regional artists.

Founded by Kansas City husband-and-wife team Eric and Erin Dodson, Kiosk Gallery builds all its programming around four keywords: Listen, Learn, Amplify and Act. The gallery collaborates with local curators and collectives, including Beco Gallery, also on this list. It also holds itself accountable for providing a platform for underserved and underrepresented individuals by inviting everyone to email the owner directly with their portfolios and ideas all year.

On view right now is “Puff Puff Puff Pass,” a collaboration between four artists who were college friends, including Kansas City-based SunYoung Park. The pieces are passed from one artist to another, who each adds their personal touches: colored pencils, paint, textiles, ceramics and more. Taking away art’s seriousness, this project is all about a group of friends having fun, and invites the community to feel the relaxing playfulness in collaborative artmaking.

Holsum Gallery

Holsum Gallery is the West Bottoms brainchild of artist Garry Noland. Neighboring five floors of studios and newly-opened gallery spaces, Holsum Gallery is well attuned to Kanas City’s emerging arts scene and does not restrict itself to any specific medium.

A visit to Holsum is almost always full of surprises. Noland is willing to accommodate everything, including traditional paintings, sculptures, woven and mixed-media pieces that cannot be defined by a single genre or discipline.

Holsum Gallery calls itself a project space instead of a traditional gallery, suggesting that its programs are standalone projects with specific themes and narratives.

Right now, the public can explore works from Alyssa Mae Sipe and Gaylin Eugene Nicholson, based in Kansas City. Titled “Heirlooms Wilted Brown,” the duo investigates memories and sentiments behind family heirlooms.

Sipe’s “Plate of Roses” is made with oil and drawn-thread embroidery on muslin, whereas Nicholson’s “Heat Wave” uses old house fan blades as the canvas.

Beco Gallery

On a white wall, a quilted art work hands next to a wood panel with images on it. A dollhouse shaped sculpture of rough found material is in the foreground.
Beco Galley
An eclectic collection of art works from Beco Gallery's November 2023 exhibition "What We Take Forward."

Once upon a time, Beco had a physical address; a flower shop converted from an old garage in the heart of the Crossroads. After losing its curator and spending several months vacant, artist and curator Elise Gagliardi took over Beco in 2018. Gagliardi had previously shown her work in the space.

Nowadays, Beco Gallery is a “floating” collective that collaborates with venues across the Kansas City metro, led by current head curator SK Reed. It highlights experimental artists who often venture beyond a single genre or work with nontraditional materials.

Beco’s productions tend to have a focused narrative. “Spotty Boogaloo,” featured in our March exhibition list, was about growing in solitude. And “What We Take Forward,” a group exhibition last November utilized sculptures, installations, photography, found object assemblages, drawings, and textile art to investigate how we carry memories from our past and passed down through the generations.

Vulpes Bastille

On a white wall is the words "Closure is Not Justice" and below the words a toy fire truck on a pedestal. Beyond the wall to the left is the entrance to gallery space with people in the background.
Andrew Jackson
Installation image from "Closure Is Not Justice" at Vulpes Bastille.

Vulpes Bastille was established in the heart of Crossroads in 2012 by Kansas City Art Institute graduate Caranne Camarena. The space occupies a 100-year-old building on the corner of Locust and 18th streets, and contains working artist studios and two galleries on the main floor. The monthly exhibitions are filled through an annual open call, and can shift between solo, two- or three-person collaborations and curator-led projects.

Vulpes Bastille is also the best studio and gallery in Kansas City for students, recent graduates, early-career artists, and those without formal training because the director is open to nontraditional and multi-discipline proposals. Nothing seems to be out of the discussion, with themes varying from social justice issues and anticolonialism to deep conversations with the self.

Closure is not Justice,” on view during September 2023, was a research project organized by local writer Andrew Johnson on the 1988 explosion that killed six Kansas City firefighters. In the blast's aftermath, propaganda turned neighbors against each other, leading to multiple wrongful convictions. The exhibition included archived materials, audio stories from those who experienced or witnessed the tragedy, and written letters collected from family members of the wrongfully convicted.

Epic Arts

A white walled gallery space with brown tiled floors. Paintings are on the walls and there are three pedestals  displaying small sculptures.
United Colors Gallery
At Epic Arts, the exhibition "Whistling through a blade of grass" is on display at the United Colors Gallery.

On the other side of State Line Road, Epic Arts is home to two artist-run spaces: United Colors Gallery and Epic Clay.

The studio, Epic Clay, is a gem in Kansas City’s ceramics scene. With classes suitable for all skill levels and ages, it's the perfect place to get your hands dirty, have fun with your family, and take home a piece of art you created yourself. (Check out our previous Adventure! about pottery shops and the local ceramics scene.)

In the Epic Arts lobby sits United Colors Gallery, formerly Curiouser KC. Overseen by Kansas City creatives Cesar Lopez and Samantha Hann, the gallery showcases a mixture of emerging local and regional talents, nationally established figures and artwork from private collectors around the metro.

Epic Arts's third and most interesting component is a shipping container outside the building. A previous project filled the container with sand and invited viewers to walk through the space, listening to the sound of their muffled footsteps.

The container isn’t always open, so check United Colors Gallery’s website and Instagram for the latest programs.

Originally from China, Xiao daCunha covers arts and culture happenings in the Midwest, specifically focusing on the Kansas City metro and Chicagoland. She has written for KCUR, The Pitch, Sixty Inches from Center, and BRIDGE Chicago, and spent three years as Managing Editor at a Chicago digital publication, UrbanMatter. A practicing visual artist herself, Xiao combines her artistic talent with her writing to contribute to public art education and explores topics relevant to BIPOC artists, gender identity, and diasporic identity. You can reach her on Instagram and Twitter.
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