Standing around at the opening of the Nelson's latest exhibit.

Streetside: Lurking around
the Nelson-Atkins' latest opening;
on the fringe at Artopia 

Standing around at the opening of the Nelson's latest exhibit.

Places I don't belong: zumba classes, well-lighted bars, Bath & Body Works, church, Miami. Also: fancy opening-night parties at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. And yet, through some collision of unnameable, unknowable forces, there I was last Friday night, celebrating the debut of the Nelson-Atkins' latest exhibit, Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World's Fairs, 1851–1939. Young professionals! Old white women! Actual caviar!

As a teenager, trespassing on the grounds at night, drinking Keystone Light cans, smoking pot from foil pipes, and being chased off by security guards, I perhaps did not fully appreciate the Nelson's grandeur. On Friday, a perfect spring evening, I accidentally spilled some of my drink on the lush, green grass and felt guilty about it. Whoever is doing the landscaping over there has some tight game.

Perhaps you've driven down Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard in recent weeks and observed a strange scaffolding structure sitting on the southern tip of the museum's lawn? That thing is called the Sun Pavilion. A tall, handsome man in an expensive-looking suit explained it to me. The pavilion houses three rooms, which are powered by the 150 or so solar panels atop it and surrounding it. In one of the rooms, there are these two handles connected to a computer. You grab the handles and spin them as fast as you can, and the computer tells you how much energy you've generated. Or something. All I know is, a boy tried it out, and the computer told him that he'd scored a 14.

"Why don't you try it?" someone suggested.

There were members of the opposite sex present. Anything less than a 14 would have been a humiliation I was not equipped to bear. And that kid had been really firing away at the thing. I approached the machine with great dread. This is it, I thought. This is the end of going out in public. This is the death blow.

But my concerns were for naught. I ratcheted that motherfucker up to 14 in a matter of seconds. (Subsequent anecdotal evidence seemed to reveal that 14 was the highest speed attainable at that time of day.) My manliness was temporarily affirmed.

The Nelson-Atkins also contains art, I think? I know this because I was given a brief tour of the World's Fair exhibit just as it was closing up for the night. There were a lot of bowls and vases and jewelry, about which I have nothing interesting to say; I am off the hook because we wrote about that stuff in last week's issue. On the way out, I passed a tableful of little swag bags with bracelets from Helzberg Diamonds in them.

"Yeah, I'll take one of those," I said to the nice woman handing them out. Anybody know the resale value on a pearl bracelet with an "I Am Loved" tag on it? My direct deposit doesn't go through until Thursday at midnight.


Saturday night at the Screenland Crossroads was a different, deranged species of art party. Every year, The Pitch awards grants to four local creative types and then celebrates with a bash called Artopia. The 2012 winners were Gregory Kolsto, of the coffee shop Oddly Correct; artists Judith G. Levy and Peter Warren; and the Owen/Cox Dance Group. This week's cover boys, Ghosty, performed two sets outside in the tornado-watch weather.

The crowd was diverse — actually diverse. Like, I don't see a lot of Burning Man-style hula-hooping in my weekend routine. It has definitely been awhile since I've seen a woman walking around with only a thin layer of paint between her nipples and the rest of the world. Lots of Fringe Fest representation. I'm into it. It's easy to forget the number of interesting people in this city who don't just hang around midtown.

The festivities included belly-dancing, a burlesque performance and a fashion show. There were free cans of Red Bull everywhere, plus free Tallgrass beer. In one of the rooms — the Screenland is subtly huge — singer-songwriter Clay Hughes played a set and was joined by rappers thePhantom* and Kyle James, son of Mayor Sly James. That dude is everywhere these days.

Outside in the parking lot, the DJ was mashing Biggie with Washed Out. The wind whipped a Boulevard Wheat bottle off a ledge and almost cracked my skull open. I was ready to ride the storm out, but, alas, it never really arrived.

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