The art of Kansas City, in museums and on the streets

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Every city has street art, but the murals on Kansas City buildings are especially cool because a lot of them honor the city’s jazz music legacy.


These old scenes in the 18th & Vine District portray some of jazz music’s big stars, like Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker.



Elsewhere in 18th & Vine, silver musicians are included as part of a larger art piece behind the building that houses the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Jazz Museum.


Another unusual statue back there is this bear, which someone had dressed for the chilly winter weather.


And Charlie Parker makes another appearance with the 10-foot “Bird Lives” bronze statue, titled in honor of his nickname and dedicated in 1999.


This jazz cow I’ve mentioned before is another cool art piece in the middle of the district, right in front of the Gem Theater.

18th & vine cow

This 12th street design is traditionally classic. That would be obvious even if the mural didn’t tell say so.


The most eye-popping art I saw came from the Kultured Chameleon gallery.


I walked past this structure a few times before I realized the waves were intentional. At first, I thought it was just a big curtain covering up construction in progress. Turns out it’s an artsy design!


For a more refined collection of art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum is the place to be.


These figurines are amazing. They are funerary figures from China in the 800s. They were displayed on carts during funerary processions and were believed to help the dead in the afterlife.


No art museum would be complete without some colonial era artwork.


This is one of the coolest pieces in Nelson-Atkins: “Hotel de France,” an oil painting from 1928 by American Stuart Davis. The colors stand out, even if you don’t look closely enough to realize that the red is a pubic urinal and the green is an advertising kiosk.


Buddha is watching. Always.


Over at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the giant spider stands guard at the entrance.


The Kemper is small but has some interesting collections, like the “Iconic Moments” gallery, featuring Roger Shimomura’s “Untitled” and this strange lounge chair wood carving.


Which piece of Kansas City art is your favorite?

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About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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