“Disco Cloud,” a celebration of LGBTQ+ joy by Fred Trease, decorates KC Streetcar #804. (Art in the Loop)
“If you put yourself into a piece and someone finds something in it, it brings us together,” says Fred Trease about his work “Disco Cloud,” a celebration of LGBTQ+ joy. Pairing vinyl designs with a playlist of classic and contemporary disco music, the work decorates KC Streetcar #804.
“Disco Cloud” is one of eight installations in this year’s Art in the Loop, the annual public art project that enlivens downtown Kansas City. The artists were selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants by a panel of arts experts and community members. This year’s theme is “Celebrate.”
Like Trease’s piece, several other installations for Art in the Loop include multimedia and three-dimensional aspects. Madeline Marak’s piece “Flower Garden” at the River Market West Streetcar Stop emphasizes community celebration, as members of the public were invited to assist Marak with installing the flowers to “make the garden bloom.” Celebrating the varying comfort levels in creative languages, Marak conveys the joy she discovered in allowing people to participate in that process.
Community joy also shines through Bubblegum Kurt’s “Party Balloons” at the Crossroads Northbound Streetcar Stop. A progressive installation, Kurt’s piece evolves over four painting sessions, an approach intended to demonstrate evolutions in art as well as to serve as a capstone for a series they had done in college. Kurt’s mural includes acrylic paint, house paint, sharpie, highlighter and other materials, and encourages exploration and contemplation about who we are as people.
Several pieces speak to themes of Black joy. Khyneesha Edwards’ piece “Black Boy Joy” at the Union Station Streetcar Stop disrupts the deluge of negative images of Black men and boys we frequently see in the news. Edwards’ composition portrays a Black man and a Black boy engaging in a playful and intimate moment together, demonstrating that Black men and boys can be soft, happy and warm and should celebrate that joy in themselves.
Isaiah Lee’s piece “Demonstrations 3” is about his personal story and how he never knew his father after turning 7 years old. His work speaks to navigating expectations of fatherhood according to Black stereotypes, and like Edwards’ work, Lee’s piece portrays the love felt between a Black man and boy, who embrace through fields of color and light.
Adrianne Clayton’s mural “The Little Princess” will stay up for two years on the ARTwall Billboard at 13th and Grand. In her piece, Clayton addresses all the women who have persevered so that the newest generation of Black girls can experience more ease and stability in their personal journeys. Clayton says, “I’m great because they are,” referring to both the famous Black women and the young girls included in the composition.
Kaitlyn B. Jones and Arin Yoon take a personal approach to their displays. Jones’ piece “How to Build an Altar for the Living,” located at the Library Southbound Streetcar Stop, is inspired by a conversation she had with her 101-year-old great-grandmother. Growing up in Texas, her great-grandmother recalled making chewing gum from the bark of a wax tree. Jones’ work creates a visual celebration of Black legacy and lineage and seeks to “honor ourselves while we are still here and still alive, despite all of the horrors around us.”
Yoon’s piece “Here, With You” at the River Market North Streetcar Stop represents the impact of war, trauma and healing. In the piece, she portrays herself and her daughter, wearing traditional Korean dresses, turning away from the viewer. Her piece pays homage to Chinese and Mexican rail workers, who have made immigration possible, yet are so easily forgotten. Yoon celebrates her family’s culture and the opportunity to make new memories with her children.
Art in the Loop, a project of the Art in the Loop Foundation, is supported by public, corporate and foundation funds. Project partners include the Downtown Council, Downtown Community Improvement Districts, KC Streetcar Authority and the Kansas City Art Institute.
Art in the Loop installations can be seen along the Kansas City Streetcar route through Nov. 8. For more information, www.artintheloop.com.