In the Loop

Art in the Loop puts public art pieces in the path of downtowners and their everyday commutes.

Don’t be surprised when you see dancers on the streets of downtown or art installations in Oppenstein Park in the coming months: The annual Art in the Loop project kicked off at Central Library July 1.

Art in the Loop aims to bring the arts to downtowners via a handful of performances and exhibits throughout the next four months. This year’s project features 11 performances and nine exhibits from 20 artists or art groups, all of which call the Kansas City region home.

“Public art is not just a static thing. It should be engaging, and it should invite people to experience not just art itself but participate in the artistic process,” says Nick Carswell, guitar and vocalist of Carswell and Hope, a group participating in the program.

Before you run into something unexpected on your lunch break, here are some of the works and performances taking place during the next few months:

“Everyone’s Chance Dance” by Maura Garcia, July 9

For a few hours on July 9, dance artist Maura Garcia will be taking special requests. She wants to know, “What should a dance in Oppenstein Park look like? Should it have jumps and rolls? Should it incorporate the trees?”

Through the random survey of passersby and the suggestions on social media, Garcia will create a site-specific dance and perform it in the park with any volunteer dancers she can gather. The technique is inspired by Merce Cunningham’s “choreography by chance” approach.

“It deals with the idea that we are sharing this space in a small amount of time on that particular day,” Garcia says.

She says the project is an opportunity to be united in a space we all share. These opportunities are essential to forming a sense of community and bringing people together, which Garcia says is important in today’s divided world.

“Hope Index” by Carswell & Hope, July 30

Carswell & Hope, an indie rock group with folk roots, aims to capture what listeners are feeling as they hear music.

The band will play three sets in Oppenstein Park, and listeners can mark what they’re feeling on a visual surface—a board outlined with ranges of emotions, themes and concepts. What results is a representative collaboration between audience and musician.

“The idea is that it creates more of a dialogue between the artist and the audience,” Carswell says. “It encourages the public to loosen up a little bit and ponder and think a little more deeply about what the songs are about.”

“Petticoat on Petticoat Ln.” by Kati Toivanen, ongoing

In her third public art project, artist Kati Toivanen’s will place a petticoat above the street sign at Petticoat Lane downtown.

Toivanen says the street name stuck out to her because the word “petticoat” provides a soft contrast to the hard city and pavement environment surrounding it. She wanted to bring some softness to the street-corner scene while paying homage to the area’s history. Petticoat Lane harkens back to the hustle and bustle at early department stores where petticoats were sold.

Image courtesy of the artist

Much of Toivanen’s work centers on the contrast between public and private. The purpose of a petticoat highlights that divide; it’s a garment traditionally worn under a dress, but many dresses opened in the front to show off the petticoat. The piece’s heightened placement plays into this tension. If viewers are standing directly under the petticoat and want to see it, they’re forced to essentially look up into the skirt above.

“I want to really engage the visitor and viewers in their regular everyday environments and make people stop for a second and stop thinking about other things like, ‘Oh, I’m late for my meeting’ or whatever it may be,” she says. –Lauren Rutherford