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KC Connect and Discovering Undergrowth

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As it stands, the Kansas City art community is relatively hidden away from the rest of the nation. In the city we have our own thriving systems, our own delicate balance of life and art, our respective seasons of feast and famine. Within this system artists move about like loose seeds, planting and growing and popping up in unexpected places as the whole environment changes. Like any well-balanced forest, there are spots of land with more sunlight or richer soil. In one sunny clearing, Ashley Anders peers through a magnifying lens to observe the growth. “After graduating from KCAI, I watched my peers struggle to keep their studio practice structured. I wanted to help facilitate their growth and build a program that would provide opportunities.” KC Connect has emerged as one of those opportunities. A series under the umbrella of KC Studio Magazine, Connect tills the land in search of emerging artists that would benefit from a more direct connection to the local supporters of the scene, like a new plant exposed to the sunlight. The goal of KC Connect is to bring these artists together with the sponsors that help sustain the larger creative community, encouraging lasting relationships and demystifying each party’s greater role. Artists can have a somewhat shrouded practice—often moving fluidly between platforms and mediums—and businesses can be unsure of how to proceed when they take a creative route. With this series of events, both parties are guaranteed to make an appearance and begin to understand what they need from one another.

It isn’t just about growing Kansas City’s profits in different sectors. KC Connect has put out a call for 25 artists whose work will be distributed throughout Kansas City’s most popular galleries (such as Leedy-Voulkos and the Mid-America Arts Alliance) from May through November of 2014. Artists will have a chance to show their work in highly trafficked galleries with the added bonus of meeting sponsors face-to-face. Receptions will be held in honor of this connection, providing a greater opportunity for the artist to demonstrate their unique ways of solving problems creatively to those businesses that may be looking for exactly that. Selected artists from the series also receive a spread in KC Studio magazine, featuring their work and a personal story about themselves. The deadline for artists to submit to KC Connect is December and the application is completely painless.

Unlike Ashley’s last undertaking, the Gorilla series that focused on urbanism and street-art, KC Connect will be bigger and more encompassing of the art scene today. Ashley fills me in on the details. She tells me KC Connect is creating an opportunity with these events to help artists cultivate public interest and for businesses to see how art can improve both image and economy. I ask her about the selection process, which in itself can be a turnoff for the less- exposed artists in the city. She assures me it will not be carried out by chilly businesspeople looking for a cheap hire. Ashley takes it upon herself to sift through applications and meet with the artists face to face. She wants to make sure that artists have their creative goals met in the show and are in a good position to leave the event with lasting connections. She hopes to connect every single artist with a patron, employer, or gallery. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s not. Her BFA and MBA make her the ideal bridge between the business end and creative end. She is careful to underline her motivation: “There’s a fine line for business involvement in the art world. I’d like to be the filter that protects the exploitation of artists while allowing growth between the two.” Ashley wants sponsors to feel more involved in the art scene without exploiting artists exclusively for their own monetary gain. She laughs, saying she wants sponsors to know they won’t just be a logo at the bottom of a coaster, but a genuine participant in the art community.

“It takes an honest effort to make lasting connections,” Ashley says of the sponsors, who also receive a souped-up media package in exchange for their support. If there’s a way to make a positive impact on artists, it definitely comes down to supporting the work they do for the world. The Bohemian’s upcoming partnership with KC Studio magazine means more good news for the emerging young artist! The magazine has allowed the Bohemian to contribute a page of their design to each issue. This little page finds its way into the hands of a modest 20,000 subscribers, who likely are using the magazine to discover the exciting ideas and projects created by the younger crowd. It’s no small victory for this little zine, whose majority of contributors are under the age of 30 and are working in the arts in some capacity. If KC Studio is a more “suburban friendly” magazine, integrating the “conceptual-urbanism” of The Bohemian could bring readers the kind of uncomfortable curiosity that attracts them to new shows. A new audience means more outsiders who are willing to explore new ideas and become involved in more meaningful ways. This kind of exposure brings us one precious step closer in using art to perpetuate culture and being folded into the greater community. So keep your eyes open and encourage your friends and family to read!