RideKC: to the revitalized Englewood Art District in Independence

A. Scott Cauger, owner of Englewood Row Gallery and Art Space, has been an architect of the 3rd Friday Art Walks in the Englewood District. Paul Thompson

By Paul Thompson
content sponsored by RideKC

Did you know that Independence’s Englewood District hosts a monthly 3rd Friday Art Walk, complete with live music, cider tastings, coffee, desserts, and multiple artistic mediums, such as watercolors, graphite, and even puppetry?

If your answer to the above is no, then you probably also don’t realize that the 16-Truman RideKC limited route will pick you up in front of the Jackson County courthouse at 12th and Locust and drop you off right in the middle of the Englewood action in a crisp (give or take) 25 minutes.

Well it’s all true, I tell you, and I know because I did it all myself last Friday, June 20.

Englewood Row Gallery and Art Space invited the public to view the work of local artists and listen to live music during the 3rd Friday Art Walk on July 20.

The artistic renaissance of the Englewood District has been a dream of A. Scott Cauger since he took ownership of the Englewood Row art gallery in 2014. According to Cauger, the 1940s-era Art Deco structure has served as a fulcrum between Independence and the Historic Northeast since before there were even paved roads in the area. In those days, the “mule line” served as the primary connection between the two communities.

As he prepped his gallery for the 3rd Friday party on July 20, Cauger told me that his building has been involved in the arts since at least 1945. Of most note, he said that the film production company which was headquartered in the building from 1949 to 1962 offered the infamous Walt Disney his first job in animation.

For Cauger, the art walks are a means to attract new faces to the historic Englewood District, which has recently seen an influx of new businesses: a cider winery, a coffee shop and a new location of the famous Mug’s Up diner have sprouted up along the strip in the past several years.

Gary Sternemann, otherwise known as Gary the Artist, specializes in drawing portraits with graphite pencils.

“It’s because I love this area, grew up in this area, and I’m really keen on the art district becoming a success,” said Cauger of his motivations.

There are a variety of artistic curiosities among the Englewood shops during the art walks. Gary the Artist uses graphite pencils to recreate photographic images. He says that he started doing graphite art on a lark 10-15 years ago while working a side job; he simply started sketching people he was interacting with.

A woman named Judy runs Art Bliss, which hosts painting classes and parties. Groups ranging from adult birthday parties, couples outings, and girls nights out bring their own food and drinks to the store, while Judy provides canvasses, art supplies and instruction.

Luck Ducks Sew in Mo does alterations, quilting, patching and custom sewing. Owner Becky Aragon sells quilts in the store, but she also prides herself on being able to sew anything, even if she’s only got a customer’s rudimentary drawing to work with.

Twisted Vine Winery & Pub only opened on June 15 of this year, and it’s room-length penny-coated bar is a sight to behold. Their specialty is wine-based cider that is kegged and delivered through draft pours at the bar. While hard ciders are typically not my go-to, I succumbed to the temptation of the unknown and ordered a raspberry cider; “When in Rome,” I even said aloud, surely to the chagrin of the friendly patrons and staff at the establishment. My verdict? Pretty delicious, though potentially dangerous in large quantities.

A former movie theater in the Englewood District is now vacant, but new businesses have been sprouting up along the historic strip.

The store next door hosts pottery art, and there were a couple of families partaking when I popped my head in the door. Like everyone I met during my foray to the Englewood district, they were as kind as can be; even allowing me a photograph as I interrupted their in-process masterpieces.

Jake Savage runs Inkwell Cafe, a local coffee shop that just celebrated its one-year anniversary. Savage said that he’s always been interested in coffee, and has historically had an affinity for the coffee scene in Kansas City. Why not try to bring some of that to Independence, he thought? The Englewood district proved to be an ideal landing spot for the shop, which brings in local blends and makes all of its syrups and sauces in-house.

“We saw a lot potential, and we thought it could be something really cool,” Savage said.

This is as apt a time as any to bring up one issue I had at the Englewood art walk. I visited a lot of places and met plenty of friendly faces, which probably served to my detriment when I realized I had missed the last bus out of town. The 24-route westbound – which would have brought me back to Independence Avenue – departed at roughly 6:45 p.m., while I was still nursing my hard raspberry cider. So let this be a warning: for those taking the bus out to an Art Walk event, it might be wise to arrive early enough that the 6:45 p.m. departure isn’t cramping your style. If that doesn’t work for you, just make sure that you have some other way to make it home whenever your night concludes.

Art Bliss, located in the Englewood District, hosts art instruction and art parties. Check out Art Bliss on Facebook to learn more.

As for me, I crossed the street to Mug’s Up for a plateful of hot onion rings before calling a ride back home. Delivered ready-made, piping hot, and more swiftly than expected, I would definitely recommend them.

If you can’t make a 3rd Friday Art Walk, have no fear! Englewood also hosts 2nd Saturday Art Attack’s and a Thursday Twilight gallery stroll on the fourth Thursday of the month during spring, summer and fall. From Independence Avenue, the 24-route should be able to get you to and fro on a normal evening; just make sure you don’t get so caught up in the revelry that you miss your return voyage.

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