With prime real estate on Independence Avenue, residents of Pendleton Arts Block are taking advantage of the heavy foot traffic in front of their building with a new art gallery. Located in the building’s community room, the gallery faces out onto Independence Avenue with large windows for patrons to peer in and peruse the gallery as they walk by.
“Hopefully as things open back up, and First Fridays starts again, you get the people coming in from Independence Ave who will come right past this,” said Aaron Smith, board member of the Arts Asylum and curator for the gallery.
The Arts Asylum is a nonprofit that provides space and assistance to artists around the Kansas City area, including the Arts Block. Through the nonprofit, Smith was tasked with organizing the gallery in a little over two months.
Smith said the plan is to fit two to three artists’ work into the gallery at one time, which will be cycled out on a quarterly basis for four different shows throughout the year. Although, due to difficulties in finding enough work that was showcase ready, only one artist is currently being displayed for the inaugural exhibition.
“The problem was there just wasn’t enough work that was ready to hang,” Smith said. “We’ve got a system here where all these pieces are hung with a rod… so if you’ve got a beautiful drawing on a piece of paper that’s great, but you can’t put that on this hanging system really well.”
For this first exhibition, five of modern artist Jack Campbell’s biggest and brightest paintings are presently hung in the gallery for all to see. Campbell’s work, Smith said, is to inspire not only thoughts but discussion that center around the idea of healing.
“He considers the brush an extension of his own brain,” Smith said. “He paints his daily thoughts and experiences, but he does so in these really vivid and bright colors.”
The artwork displayed in the gallery is not limited to residents of the Arts Block either, Campbell himself is an artist from Lawrence, Kan., and a nonresident of the building. Smith said while tenants in the building will get first priority to the space, as long as none of them are showing, he would like to see artists from all over the community in the gallery.
As the curator, he is not looking for any particular type of art to show in the space, just as long as it speaks to the community and has a common thread to the theme of the show it is in. For the next showcase, Smith said, the hope is to have a Juneteenth showing after Campbell’s work is taken down in May.
While the gallery is currently filled with paintings, which is often expected in an art gallery, Smith said the plan in the future is to incorporate more three dimensional, sculpture and performance arts into the gallery.
“Supposedly we’re going to get a television down here,” Smith said. “That’s going to help us so that if we have poets or dancers or musicians or any of the performing artists, we can film them, make a video and then play the video on the television.”
Smith said performances are planned to be looped on the television, along with the artists’ information, for the performance artists to be represented in the gallery as well.
Since the gallery doubles as a communal space for the residents of the Arts Block, outsiders are not permitted to physically step into the gallery, but can still see it clearly from the street.
It is a place where Smith imagines group activities for the residents, such as art critiques, can take place. Although it is currently closed due to COVID-19, he said there is hope that it will open up soon for its tenants to use.
As an artist himself, Smith said a gallery like this is such a good opportunity and something he wishes he would have had access to earlier in his career.
“Most people don’t have a gallery that faces a busy street that they do hang their work in, and really represent themselves to a big, broader public,” Smith said.
Those interested in having their art displayed in the Pendleton Arts Block Community Room Gallery can email a proposal to Smith at email@example.com. It is an open call to artists, and the gallery will be accepting proposals all year round.