The heart logo is synonymous with Kansas City. Long before local clothing store Charlie Hustle embraced the heart symbol, the city was one of the earliest to embrace the idea of being the heart of America.
Railroad workers wore heart pins in the early 1900s and the historic KC Monarchs literally wore their hearts (a patch) on their sleeves. So it’s only logical the city has enthusiastically embraced the Parade of Hearts.
Back for its second year, the Kansas City’s Parade of Heart takes that heart logo and turns it into a city-wide celebration of art, and all for a good cause.
Local artists take the five-foot fiberglass hearts etched with “KC” in the middle and create artistic wonders designed around a Kansas City-based theme. The completed hearts are displayed across the city for public viewing and enjoyment for about two months.
This year, 287 artists submitted designs and only 40 designs were selected. Of this year’s 40, four are from Black women: Ann Johnson, Anita Eastman, Keisha Jordan, and Taylar Sanders.
“It’s been amazing,” says Taylar Sanders. “My inner child is just, like, doing cartwheels it’s just a dream type of project.”
Artists receive a $1,000 stipend when they are selected and another $1,000 when the heart is completed. The hearts are auctioned off, and the highest bidder is given the opportunity to place the heart wherever they want in Kansas City.
In 2022 the Parade of Hearts raised $2.56 million for local charities. Funds raised in 2023 will benefit the University of Kansas Health System, Children’s Miracle Network, the Family Conservancy, small/minority-owned businesses, local artists, and hospitality and tourism.
The artists apply by digitally designing a two-sided blank heart template they submit online. An independent jury panel reviews the submitted designs to ensure they hit certain guidelines, then sponsors select hearts to commission for production. Each artist can only submit one heart design per year.
“I had about 10 people send me the application encouraging me to apply,” says Anita Eastman. “I had this piece that I was working on but hadn’t released, I thought about that with the KC heart and it was a perfect match.”
Eastman is a local artist from KCK whose heart is called “Beauty of Grace” and features a ballerina of color dancing through the “KC” initials. Eastman enlisted the help of her father to fabricate a ballerina-slippered foot that they added to the bottom of her heart for added depth.
The back of the heart is a quote that reads, “Find a reason to dance through it all.” Eastman’s heart can be seen at the corner of 16th Street and Central, across from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
Ann Johnson is an art teacher at Allen Village Charter School who designed “My Heart Belongs to KC.” Her heart features a number of Kansas City’s iconic landmarks, like the Gem Theater, the Scout statue, and the sky stations above Bartle Hall. Under the landmarks and skyline of Kansas City are two hands representing the city’s diversity. Her heart will be on display near the corner of 18th Street and Vine.
Keisha Jordan is a digital artist, a creative director and CEO of Complex Flavors, where she takes her Afro-futuristic pop-art aesthetic and makes homewares & fabrics. Her heart is called “A Pathway Forward – Wheatley Providence,” which celebrates historic Black excellence. Wheatley Provident Hospital operated in KC from 1902 to 1972 and was one of the only places in the U.S. that exclusively staffed and trained Black doctors and nurses in the early 1900s. Jordan’s heart will be on display near the corner of Cleaver and Brookside Blvd.
“[The heart] is an homage to the founder of the Wheatley Provident Hospital,” says Jordan. “It’s very colorful, very reflective of Pan-African colors, tones, shapes and textures.”
Taylar Sanders is a self-taught artist who primarily works on canvas, where she layers oil paint over acrylic to create a dramatic effect. Sanders’ heart is located in the Power & Light District at 14th and Walnut and is called, “The Heart of the City.” Her heart shows two perspectives of downtown, the front takes an up-close view of the streetcar and 12th Street jazz mural, while the back has a broad view from the Scout sculpture at Penn Valley Park. Sanders said she really admires what the Scout sculpture represents.
“I really wanted to honor the Native American community in the city,” says Sanders. “It touches on how important I think diversity is to have in any city.”
The initial placement of the hearts, just in time for the NFL Draft, will be focused around Downtown, the Jazz District and Country Club Plaza
The hearts will be relocated beginning May 1 with a much broader spread across the metropolitan area. Officials will begin removing the hearts July 5. The online charity auction for the hearts begins in August.
To see all the hearts and their current locations, download the Parade of Hearts app.