New murals brighten St. John Corridor

Michael Bushnell
Publisher


Historic Northeast Kansas City is home to over 40 colorful murals, mostly along the Independence Avenue corridor, celebrating the rich melting pot heritage of our community.


Two new murals along the St. John corridor add even more color to the drive between Benton and Van Brunt Boulevards, one by a relative newcomer to Northeast, the other by a Northeast native with deep roots in the community.


Michael Schliefke’s unique map mural painted on the north facing wall of the building on the southwest corner of St. John and Askew is a throwback to the 1940’s and how the community looked on maps produced during that era.


“I was inspired by this 1946 map of Kansas City I saw at the downtown library, outside of the Missouri Valley Room on the fifth floor,” Schliefke said. “It was just a beautiful map with all these red zones and oranges and yellows and blues and everything like that. I thought that would be a cool addition to just have the neighborhood painted up onto the side of the building there with all the roads and stuff and so I went for it and it turned out pretty decent.”


Schliefke, who moved to Northeast in November of 2018 after being rent-forced out of space in the River Market area, said the area is fast becoming a haven for the artist community. Case in point, two new artists, one a fashion photographer and videographer, the other a professional photographer, are both moving into vacant spaces next to Schliefke’s studio this month. Schliefke welcomes the new artistic presence.


“It’s great because it’s always good to have other energy to feed off of, and that’s, you know, spectacular,” Shliefke said.


Schliefke, who operates primarily in the oil-painting medium, originally hails from upstate New York; he moved to Northeast largely because of the vibe a burgeoning artist community gives off. Schliefke’s website, www.schliefkevision.com, is home to more of his work, including short stories about his painting, his travels, the neighborhood, whatever pops into his mind at the time.


“Just whatever is in my head, I kind of put it out there and make it a fun, presentable thing for people to read if they ever run across it,” Schliefke said.


Next, head east to the other recently completed mural on the west facing wall of Back Door Pottery in the 3900 block of St. John, done by Historic Northeast native and longtime Northeast Arts chairperson Rebecca Koop.
Koop’s tarot mural is a complement to the Earth Day tile mosaic, finished in the fall of 2020 on the front of her pottery shop.


“I wanted to have some garden-related tarot card images on that wall,” Koop said. “I wanted to have the sun, flowers and growth and kind of a celebration, so I picked those cards that depicted that.”


The new mural was completed in a little under two weeks, as compared to the Earth Day mosaic on the front of Koop’s building that was a two and a half year project. As for what she hopes people take away from the new work?


“I hope it makes them smile and just think about art a little more seriously,” she said. “How art on a building can really change the economic growth of an area.”


The new murals will be added to the ever-growing inventory of murals scattered across the Northeast community. When asked if Northeast had more murals per capita than any other area in the city, Koop jumped on the claim noting a number of local artists such as Hector Casanova and Jose Faus were early pioneers in the Northeast mural community.


Casanova, who teaches at the Kansas City Art Institute, oversaw thousands of hours of his student’s work on art-boards that cover the windows at Scarritt Elementary School and retaining walls at Whittier Elementary School. Faus’ mural on an east-facing retaining wall at Woodland Elementary School is another excellent example of some of the early creative mural work that jump started the mural scene in Northeast.
“We’re trailblazing here,” Koop added. “We’re making more happening, with art.”


For an updated map of all of Historic Northeast’s completed mural projects, visit the Northeast Chamber of Commerce’s web site at https://nekcchamber.com/esri-map-2/.

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