For 10 weekends, Aug. 25 – Oct. 28, Kansas City’s parks, urban spaces, galleries, performance halls and outdoor stages will be transformed into a citywide exhibition of creative and innovative works of art and performances.

Get ready Kansas City, Kansas, Missouri, the region and even the nation, Kansas City’s s stature in the art world is about the be energized by the new biennial Open Spaces Festival kicking off Aug. 25.

The City of Kansas City, MO, private art investors and their corporate partners have invested $3.5 million to put on this festival they believe hope will engage the local community, but also attract people to the city.

What exactly is Open Spaces? It is visual art, music, dance, theater, film, poetry and culinary arts, based in Swope Park, but spread into other areas of the City with major arts installations, plus other art displays and performances put on by partners to the event. Surprisingly, much of it is free.

Each weekend, Swope Park will be the core of Open Spaces, with exhibits, performances and events. A key area in Swope Park will be the Village, which will feature performances, handmade goods, food and more. Each weekend, the village will spring to life with a stage for music, dance, spoken word and theatre, a Makers Pavilion, and plenty of food and beverage options. Those who live in KC can come back for a different program every weekend. The live music alone covers a full range of jazz, folk, rock, hip-hop, Americana and chamber music.

Oct. 12-14 is billed as “The Weekend.” Three evenings of live performances at Starlight Theater, also located in Swope Park. Kansas City native Janelle Monae returns home for a performance on Sat. Oct. 13. The Roots are on the lineup for Fri., Oct. 12. They’re joined by a lineup of great musical and dance artists including some Kansas City standouts, like the McFadden Brothers, but some international favorites like Sankofa Danzafro, an Afro-Colombian and Afro-contemporary dance group with live drumming and singing.

These performances are ticketed. Friday and Saturday tickets range from $39.50 to $99, and Sunday tickets are $20-$50.

A key part of Open Spaces is the visual art. Works by more than 40 visual artists across a diverse range of media have be installed in public places across Kansas City as part of the “Open Spaces” event. Thirteen of the pieces are in Swope Park. So spread out from the Village and make sure to take these in. The 18th and Vine Jazz District has five pieces. It’s not surprising that Crossroads, Kansas City’s growing arts district, has 12 of the arts pieces.

Other Open Spaces arts installations include: 12 pieces in the Plaza/Midtown Area, and a 20 piece collective, “Paradise Lost and Found on the Paseo,” is a collection of mixed media pieces dotted along the Paseo Parkway from Independence Ave to 85th St.

It’s great that the art work includes works from both national and international artists but doesn’t fail to highlight Kansas City’s local art standouts. The pool of both visual and performing artist is also very diverse. Kansas City Mayor Sly James says the goal was to have something for everyone.

“I envision anybody in this city or anybody who wants to come to this city to be the audience. I don’t want it to be exclusive. I want it to be in places where anybody who wants to partake can go, whether it’s kids on the east side or the Muslim community or the Latino community, people from north of the river, south of the river, wherever the hell you’re from. Everybody can experience this on some level, and they get to choose the level,” said James in an article for KC Studio, a local arts magazine.

That means there’s plenty for Community Voice readers to enjoy. There’s a great mix of hip-hop, R&B, Jazz, and dance performances in the performing arts lineup, and a number of local and international artists of Afro descent have contributed visual art pieces to the exhibition.

There’s still more, we have mentioned the expanded projects being put on by members of Kansas City’s art community in support of Open Spaces. Every weekend, they’re hosting a great mix of events, some free and some ticketed.

An App for That

With so much going on over the 10-week festival, get a guide. That’s the only way you can have a clue of what’s going on where. Free Open Spaces guides can be downloaded on the events official website, openspaceskc.com. For the more modern among us, download the app. In addition to the event schedule, the app allows you to explore each work of art from the artist’s vision and initial inspiration to its final presentation. In addition you can share your adventures with fellow Open Spaces explorers, plus you’ll get up-to date festival news.

There’s an awful lot to grasp at Open Spaces. Lucky Kansas City residents can take their time and take a lot of it in. Out of towners, should plan their visit. To maximize your enjoyment, check out the schedule of events, learn more about the participating artists and by all means plan to see the great art installations.

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Kurt Oswald

Kurt joined The Community Voice team in 2021 as the company’s chief executive. He is responsible for the business side of the company including sales, distribution, and operations. Kurt brings to the...

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