When Hector Casanova Cinderhouse began teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute, he wanted to teach his students that art wasn’t simply a commodity, but it actually had the power to bring tangible change to a community. Kansas City Public Schools proved an eager partner, as Scarritt Elementary School (3509 Anderson Ave.) had been the frequent target of vandals since it closed in 2011.
Cinderhouse, with the help of his students, reached out to residents in the Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood to learn what themes they would like to see depicted into images.
“We treated the community as a client who helped shape the final product,” Cinderhouse said. “All of the imagery came from suggestions from the residents.”
Students painted panels that covered the windows and doors to the shuttered school. After three years of work, the project was complete, and vandalism waned. That is, up until June 2017, when graffiti was scrawled across nearly every piece of artwork that was in reach.
“I understand the impulse for self expression,” Cinderhouse said of the vandals. “All of my students have the same desire to express themselves.”
Bobbi Baker-Hughes, director of the Northeast Chamber Of Commerce and Independence Avenue CID, agreed.
“We should help these kids find opportunities to create rather than destroy,” she said.
Baker-Hughes pointed to the Avenue Of The Arts project that is currently taking place along Independence Avenue. An artist by the name of Aaron Sutton has been busy placing vinyl wraps on utility boxes to beautify the boulevard.
Another artist, Zachary Laman, is in the process of spray painting portraits of female business owners who operate businesses along Independence Avenue onto the side of the Egg Incubator, a building located next to the CID offices near Independence Ave and Montgall Ave.
On Saturday, August 26, there will be a free “Art Walk” beginning at 10:00 a.m. at Independence Plaza park between Brooklyn Ave and Park Ave. This event is made possible from a partnership between LISC, Northeast Arts, The Mattie Rhodes Center, the Independence Avenue CID, and the Northeast Chamber Of Commerce. Attendees will have an opportunity to learn more about efforts to spruce up Independence Ave and meet the artists.
Update: the original draft of this story, which was printed in our paper, cited the CID as the sole benefactor of the “Art Walk”. We want to make sure LISC, Northeast Arts, The Mattie Rhodes Center, and the Northeast Chamber Of Commerce were also recognized for their partnerships.