Once again this year, the Avenue of the Arts gives its own meaning to the idea of an art walk.

For the Masses 

Once again this year, the Avenue of the Arts gives its own meaning to the idea of an art walk.

Creating public art is a difficult task. An artist typically has one chance to manufacture a single creation that effectively summarizes what he or she wants to say about experience, environment, or ... flying horses. This year's fifth annual Avenue of the Arts lets six artists take a shot.

For "Cowboys and Indians," Laura Berman, a printmaking instructor at the Kansas City Art Institute, installed giant digital prints on the side of the parking garage facing Central Street. Kids are playing cowboys and Indians in the images, but she's replaced the weapons in the original photographs -- now the children brandish apples and oranges. Berman, who moved to Kansas City from North Carolina in 2002, plans to replace the fruit with different objects on a monthly basis.

"When I moved here, I began reading about the history of Kansas City," Berman says. "There's so much history here in terms of struggle, promise and defeat. These cowboys and Indians sort of represent Kansas City as the edge of the frontier." She notes that the figures in the pictures are actually multiple prints of the same androgynous child, essentially embattled with him/herself. "I'm not trying to provide any viewpoints, just suggestions to the viewers," she says.

Alternately, Hesse McGraw, former senior editor of Review and director of Paragraph, an Urban Culture Project, provides a very specific viewpoint about Kansas City's downtown. Just north of Berman's piece is his "You Will Move Around When You See Sound," an installation that uses directional speakers on each corner of the intersection of Tenth and Central. The piece employs HyperSonic Sound Technology, invented by the American Technology Corporation, to create "columns of sound" (similar to light beams emitted from a flashlight) that allow concentrated sound zones at each corner.

McGraw says he intended to present a "swift displacement from the routine pedestrian experience of downtown Kansas City." He wants it also to be a comment on the disparity between "the actual condition of Kansas City's urban core -- a place significantly lacking the variety of experiences traditionally available in a 'downtown' -- and the ideal of an urban space that is dense, stimulating and replete with opportunities for surprise."

The other exhibits include Maria Velasco's stereoscopic tourist telescope at the intersection of 11th and Central. For "A City With a View," Velasco recorded the image of the intersection and inserted fictitious creatures such as the aforementioned equines and King Kong. And on display at the corner of 13th and Central, next to Barney Allis Plaza, is Michael Jones McKean's "The New Season and a Golden Age Solution."

Farther down the avenue comes "Out in the Open," a humorous plumbing sculpture by Mark Cowardin that presumably comments on the excessive water usage of our "City of Fountains." And the final presentation is the cheery "Skywalk" by Rachel Hayes, a 1999 KCAI graduate, who swathed the skywalk at Bartle Hall with brightly colored, translucent fabrics. Viewers crossing the skywalk can still see out, and at night the textiles are illuminated by the lights from inside the structure.

What it has to do with experience, environment or flying horses we aren't sure, but it sounds lovely.

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