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Central Standard

A Small Victory For Fun: Hammocks Outside The Kauffman Center

The Crown Center Fountains may be off limits, but there's a hammock with your name on it downtown. 

After a recession-inspired hiatus, the Avenue of the Arts program is back with seven new public art installations. Each one can be found along Central Avenue from 9th to 16th Streets.

Although the Avenue of the Arts program has been around since 2000, it's been inactive for the past two summers. During this break, accepted proposals were asked to stay on hold until funding became available, with many proposals evolving in the meantime. Each participant receives $5,000 towards their projects, with the funds coming from the One Percent for Art program.

Porter Arneill from the Municipal Art Commission explains that the summer installations are part of an effort to brand downtown as a center for the arts. “It was deemed the avenue of the arts, I think, a long time ago and this sort of capitalized the idea,” Arneill says about Central Avenue. “It was a method for revitalization.”

[AUDIO] Porter Arneill talks about public art


There always seems to be a nice breeze between the Grand Ballroom and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. At least that’s what artist Jarrett Mellenbruch says, as he sets up his installation Float.

“We’re perched on top of a hill, just over the city, and the wind kind of makes it’s way up here without any interruptions,” he says.

Lying in the first hammock he's set up, there’s an unobstructed view of the Kauffman's shiny curls, and a few acres of perfectly manicured grass. Eleven more hammocks should be up before the end of the day.

“I really wanted something that was going to be interactive and something that would help visitors enjoy the space itself,” he says. He hopes people get use out of them, especially after watching a show or when in the mood for stargazing.

[AUDIO] Jarrett Mellenbruch describes a moment of inspiration while setting up a hammock


One artist remained on the list of accepted proposals even after moving away. Artist Stewart Losee moved to Brooklyn after spending eight years in the KC area. His installation is a crystalline structure that reflects what he calls his “mental landscape.”

“I think I was portraying a chunk of Colorado,” he says about his work on display outside Bartle Hall.

A week before the opening ceremony for the exhibit, Losee was about two hours outside of Denver, and about to go rock climbing.

“It’s been a family vacation spot… You know if you have woods in the backyard as a kid? How you walk into them?” Losee says from his cell phone, near his rocky destination. “You walk further and further into them. It’s targeting your developmental process. Exploring further and further.”


Two other artists in Avenue of the Arts are non-Kansas City based this year. Robert Goetz and Gina T. Alvarez hail from St. Louis.

“It feels like I’m branching out a little bit further,” Goetz says referring to his career.

Goetz, a landscaper and teacher, has taught art since 1995 at college and high school levels. Since late May, his sculpture has been on the grassy corner of Central and 11th Street. Goetz says he was inspired by the idea of creating a visual representation of a poem, or in this case, what he calls a “toddler haiku.”

“It’s simply an intimate moment between me and my daughter. It seemed very natural to me to take her words and blow them up,” Goetz says. “She was 2 years old at the time—was just rattling of a series of short sentences that I strung together. I was kind of blown away… it seemed very poetic to me.”

Also in St. Louis, artist Gina T. Alvarez spent hours in her backyard, cutting up 15 x 40 foot billboards. Then, she hauled all her materials well over 200 miles from St. Louis to Kansas City, where she says it took a week to install on the building.

“There’s text, there’s images, it’s all just distorted and re-appropriated,” says Alvarez says about her display on Central between 12th and 14th Streets.

She used the holes every few feet on the outside walls of Bartle Hall as anchor points, where she weaved strips of recycled billboards into patterns onto the walls. She says felt inspired by a nature special on TV.

“In nature, there’s several strategies for dispersion,” Alvarez says. These elements create movement, and thus, an avenue for travel. She calls her display “kind of organic.”

“We are human strategies,” she says. “There’s so many people that go in and out of that space. It was really kind of fitting. Whether that’s information, ideas, the transference of information.”

Alvarez quite literally stretched that idea across the walls.


Creating a piece for Avenue of the Arts was also bit of a stretch for Marilyn Mahoney, or so she says. She mostly does what she calls traditional paintings and drawings.

“I wanted to use this platform to explore what one of my drawings would look like in a 3D form,” she says.

Her piece called Blueprint is near Central and 13th Street.

“It’s reminiscent of previous days when artists, designers and architects would make blueprints,” Mahoney says about naming the work.

[AUDIO] Marilyn Mahoney describes the step-by-step process behind Blueprint

Also adorning Central Avenue this year: At 10th and Central, artist Christa Dalien draped large pieces of white, blue and grey vinyl on a parking garage. The Lawrence, Kan., artist calls the installation “Ice Storm.”

Then just west of the Grand Ballroom on 16th and Central, artist Sue Friesz has an orange, plant-like sculpture that according to the description, is a “large-scale version of one of her sculptural elements.” The sculpture has an odd shape and patterns that create an unusual shadow when the sun is at the right angle.


The formal opening reception for Avenue of the Arts is 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 15 at the Folly Theater, located at 300 W. 12th Street. Artists are scheduled to discuss their works at the event.