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By ALICE THORSON
The Kansas City Star

You know Kansas City has arrived as a cultural destination when New Yorkers seek it out as a venue. In recent years, the KC audience has become accustomed to big, multimedia, multidisciplinary events, largely through the Charlotte Street Foundation’s Urban Culture Project, which regularly presents showings that mix poetry, dance, music, performance, film and visual arts. On Friday, much of this local activity and many of its best-known practitioners will be folded into a multimillion-dollar national project spearheaded by NY artist Eric Fischl, a star of the 1980s art boom, and launching in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District. It’s called “America: Now and Here,” and its mission is to “open up a dialogue about America through the arts.” Fischl conceived the project — a traveling show of works by national painters, playwrights, poets, composers and musicians joined by their counterparts from the cities it will visit — “as a way to foster a new civic relationship with the arts.” “We’re not about art, we’re about positioning art for new and necessary kinds of dialogue about America,” said the project’s director, Dorothy Dunn,  […]

in a phone interview from New York. “The time is right to examine precisely who it is we are, what we believe in, what our values are,” Fischl says in an introductory video on the project’s website. With “America: Now and Here,” he says, “We’re taking that out on the road with the intention of having that work that’s in the show begin the conversation.” “America: Now and Here” will not be fully realized until 2012, when it will include a half-dozen “mobile truck galleries” that will open up to form a big exhibit and event space in each city it visits. Project organizers, who are still raising funds for the trucks, say the idea is to “engage audiences who might otherwise see the arts as irrelevant to their daily lives or be disinclined to visit a museum, gallery, theater or concert hall.” The Kansas City launch, including a performance by DJ Spooky (also known as the writer and multimedia artist Paul D. Miller), was timed to coincide with First Friday gallery openings, which attract hundreds of people to the Crossroads each month. It will be centered at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore Ave., and spread out to neighboring buildings and the Mid-America Arts Alliance parking lot, where Spooky will set up at dusk. All of the programming is free. The crux of the production is a show headlined by familiar blue-chip artists including Chuck Close, Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, Cindy Sherman, Alex Katz, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Bradford, Julian Schnabel and Fischl himself, who has had paintings sell at auction for as much as $1.8 million. At his request, big-name artists contributed works that reflect their views on America post 9/11, which was also a criterion in selecting works by 20 Kansas City artists for the local presentation of the show. That task fell to well-known Kansas City painter and performance artist David Ford, who sought area artists who were “active, consistent and professional” and had relevant works. “I curated it for (“America: Now and Here”) on their theme,” Ford said in a recent interview. “I wanted it to be really broad, to have an unexpected mix of people, from Roger Shimomura to a local graffiti crew.” At Ford’s insistence, the Kansas City work will be interspersed with the imported art in the exhibition. “It was the first thing I brought up,” he said. “I really wanted to see an opportunity for artists to integrate vertically instead of always horizontally. I told them I wanted it hung in parity; I told them I want all the (Kansas City) artists to be guaranteed their work will be picked up, hung, insured and returned. “I wanted to be sure they were treated with respect,” he added. “That allowed me to get some different pieces.” The visual arts exhibit features 106 works by 26 Kansas City artists and 52 national artists, Dunn said. But the total number of artists involved in the project, which includes poetry, plays, music and film, is much greater than that. “America: Now and Here” organizers enlisted prominent members of the Kansas City theater, film, literary and music communities to select artists from their genres who will play alongside productions by national artists. Cynthia Levin and Heidi Van chose the local playwrights, whose works will be performed alongside pieces by Edward Albee, Marsha Norman, Jon Robin Baitz and Nathan Louis Jackson. “The (plays) were all written with the understanding that they will happen in the gallery spaces,” said Kathy Dowell, a Kansas City art consultant who is “America: Now and Here’s” regional manager. Local actors will perform the works, which will be presented randomly. To keep the event family-friendly, works involving nudity and language will be reserved for a single evening performance, Dowell said. Kansas City poets Glenn North and Jose Faus selected roughly 30 local poets to participate in the project, which includes national poets Robert Pinsky, Suheir Hammad, Rita Dove and Marc Doty. Both groups will be represented by a renga, or collaborative poem.

Read much more of the KC Star Article HERE

“America: Now and Here” opens 7-9 p.m. Friday and continues at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore, and surrounding spaces through May 28. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. For a complete listing of “America: Now and Here” events, visit kansascity.americanowandhere.org. All programming is free.

To reach Alice Thorson, call 816-234-4763 or send email to athorson@kcstar.com. Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/04/30/2833758/america-now-and-here-multimedia.html#ixzz1LGDe0D1H

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