Wolfe Brack’s "To Be Free" at the “Now What?” exhibition. A 6”x6” wood panel with six polymer clay sculptures, each two to three millimeters in size.

After so many signal events – the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement, and George Floyd – the African American Artist Collective of Kansas City put together an art exhibition that asks, now what?

The “Now What?” art exhibition pays homage to the past, present, and future of the Black experience and celebrates Black artistic expression in a litany of forms. The exhibit will run through Aug. 26 at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore Ave., in KC’s Crossroads Art District.  

“People can expect to see the full range of the Black arts produced here in Kansas City,” says Wolfe Brack, one of the featured artists. 

More than 30 Black artists with local ties will show paintings, sculptures, poetry, music, and dance during the run of the exhibit. 

Some artists draw inspiration from influential movements like the Harlem Renaissance, while others explore alternative expressions of Blackness, such as Afrofuturism and Afro-punk.

Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin curated the collection. Thomson-Ruffin is a highly acclaimed author, lecturer, curator, and contemporary fabric artist whose work has been displayed in area museums, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the White House Rotunda. Thompson-Ruffin also curated the exhibit in the gallery off the entry at the American Jazz Museum and has served as a mentor to many local Black artists, including Brack. 

Brack contributes a unique “To Be Free” piece to the “Now What?” exhibition. It’s a small piece of art with six polymer clay sculptures that are each two to three millimeters in size. “To Be Free” aims to challenge the notion of prescribed Black identities and urges individuals to embrace their true selves beyond societal norms. 

“It’s just about being yourself,” says Brack. “There are so many different ways to be Black.”

Other artists of note include internationally-respected sculpture and KC native Ed Dwight; Joseph T. Newton, whose work evokes Egyptian imagery; and Anita Easterwood, who designed a heart for the Parade of Hearts.  

The exhibition also serves as a platform for spoken word artists, musicians, and dancers to perform throughout its duration. 

The collective aims to foster an inclusive and engaging environment, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the profound stories and experiences conveyed through various art forms.

With the exhibit, the African American Artist Collective seeks to create a space that showcases artists from different backgrounds, age groups, and socioeconomic classes. By doing so, the exhibition captures the multifaceted reality of Black lives, capturing moments of joy, love, and cultural heritage.
“What Now?” offers free viewings at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center Thu. through Sat. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended hours during First Friday events. For more info, visit leedy-voulkos.com or aaackc.org

Artists featured:

  • J. LeRoy Beasley 
  • Michelle Beasley 
  • Charles Bibbs 
  • Stasi Bobo-Ligon
  • NedRa Bonds 
  • Wolfe Brack
  • Uzz Buzz 
  • Janine Carter
  • Ramona Davis
  • Ed Dwight
  • Anita Easterwood 
  • Diallo Javonne French
  • Toni Gates 
  • Cathy Ann Johnson–Conforto 
  • Clarissa Knighten
  • Leonard Le’Doux Jr. 
  • George Mayfield 
  • Dean Mitchell 
  • Maria Morgan
  • Kim Newton 
  • Joseph A. Newton 
  • Joseph T. Newton 
  • Glenn A. North
  • Michael Patton 
  • Jason Piggie 
  • Sandra Scott-Revelle
  • David Stevens
  • Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin 
  • Michael Toombs
  • Remy Wharry 
  • Jason Wilcox