The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art produced a new five-part podcast exploring issues of race and identity through community members’ stories and encounters with the museum.

Nelson-Atkins leaders say the podcast is part of an overall effort to make the museum more inclusive, welcoming and accessible for all.

The podcast, called A Frame of Mind, is hosted and co-written by Glenn North, a local award-winning poet and educator. He is currently the director of inclusive learning and creative impact at the Kansas City Museum and previously served as the executive director at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center.

North is known for using his poetry to address issues of social justice, diversity, equity and self-empowerment.

“(The Nelson-Atkins) has not always been that institution that has been welcoming to African Americans, as a lot of our museums and institutions across the country have not been,” North said in the first episode titled Something’s in the Air. “What we have to do, and what we have to understand is that these institutions are there. What art has the ability to do is change the trajectory.”

Each episode interlaces the voices of 23 Kansas City creatives, community leaders, museum workers and everyday citizens, including Missouri Representative Emanuel Cleaver II, artist Sonie Joi Thompson-Ruffin and activist Alvin Brooks.

The first two episodes of the podcast dropped Jan. 7 with each of the remaining episodes dropping every Friday in January.

Recorded stories in the podcast include memories about Sunday drives through nearby neighborhoods, dancing two-step in the museum’s Bloch Lobby and North’s memories of never seeing much Black art or Black staff at the museum growing up. 

Through those stories, A Frame of Mind invites listeners to consider how a museum, a city and its people are profoundly interconnected.

“The Nelson-Atkins has shaped, and been shaped by, the cultural, economic and racial landscape of Kansas City,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, director of the Nelson-Atkins. “It has been very exciting to witness the evolution of this podcast, which explores the past, acknowledges the present and looks forward to the future. It tells complex stories about what an art museum can mean to a community.”

North, while conversing with various members of the community, helps the listener see the museum with fresh eyes, look at complicated and sometimes difficult histories and find wisdom and insight in works of art.

“Hosting the Nelson-Atkins’ A Frame of Mind podcast created the space for me to have some of the most profound conversations around race, culture and art that I’ve ever experienced,” said North. “If it can inspire others to do the same, I will be pleased. If those conversations can then lead to systemic changes, I will be overjoyed.”

The Nelson-Atkins is hoping to create a second season of the podcast and there will also be upcoming initiatives to make the museum more welcoming. Learn more about the museum here:

Listen to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Stitcher.

Jazzlyn "Jazzie” is the former senior reporter for our team, who joined the company in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, through the Report for America service program. For the past two years, she covered...

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