a charlotte street 15 year anniversary project considering the history and future of artist-driven pioneering in Kansas City and the changing nature of the city's "frontiers"
We, along with Lyndsey Ogle and Dennis Helsel, have worked in conjunction with Pat Alexander and Kate Hackman on the development of a Living Archive for The Frontier. When each of us took on this challenge we had no idea that it would demand the full extent of our skill sets to collaborate and envision a Living Archive and subsequently a Living Timeline as well. What started out as a small project began to pick up steam, going through many revisions and transformations during group discussions over the course of approximately four weeks. With each growth spurt, everyone stepped up to the plate, nurturing a larger vision that would debut as a beginning point, rather than an end point, at the opening of Phase I of The Frontier. Our gesture has thus far been to establish a platform for beginning to knit together a richer image of Kansas City’s arts landscape – one that is far from complete.
Our primary goal in the process of shaping the beginnings of the Living Archive was to create a variety of inclusive gestures in terms of audience and artist participation in the Kansas City community. We felt a responsibility to create the space for anyone and everyone who has played a role in shaping the terrain of Kansas City’s arts landscape and to honor their contributions. We chose to emphasize inclusivity, beginning with a “Call for Participation” requesting ephemera and anecdotes. The ephemera, particularly, has since begun to materialize in the form of photographs, slides, posters, Xerox copies, newspaper clippings, magazines, videos online, etc.
Developing the Living Archive Hub in Paragraph gallery was paramount to considering the intake and organization of those materials. The Hub’s main purpose is to function as a processing point for ephemera; a place where they, with the help of a corps of volunteers, gain a digital lifespan and become incorporated into a larger project. The Hub was constructed from used building materials in keeping with the DIY nature of many of the artist-run spaces and artist-initiatives that we are highlighting. The physical Hub incorporates an online portal in the form of a monitor featuring the Living Archive Tumblr page that was designed by Lyndsey Ogle (http://livingarchivekc.tumblr.com/) and to which Pat Alexander and Kate Hackman have been regularly adding content.
Pat and Kate led discussions regarding the timeline and gradually there was a point where things broke open and we realized the potential for the Hub and the Timeline to inform one another. The Living Timeline introduces a very loose idea of chronology that blurs the idea of how history unfolds, attempting to get closer to the reality of how influence, proximity, and osmosis tend to inform artistic endeavors. As Pat Alexander and others from the team began to secure materials on loan from a variety of Kansas City’s artist pioneers, we then began to curate ephemera into a shared public moment in the Living Timeline. Transformation of an oral history into a written one and more importantly a textural and visual one was an exciting first step to witness taking shape.
Incorporating primary sources into this effort is crucial and so artist interviews were part of the layers from the beginning. Dennis Helsel displayed great enthusiasm for the interview process, conducting several audio interviews to date. Pat Alexander has spearheaded the video interview process thus far, bringing together a series of artists for interviews who have been the drivers of influential artist-run spaces and projects, and who have influenced and collaborated with one another over the years, as well as borrowing ephemera from these individuals for digitizing. It is our goal that the interviews take on an organic quality and each one leads to a suggestion, submission, or a response that leads to another contribution. Many more interviews are planned, and we hope to facilitate artists interviewing other artists in our informal interview space set up at Paragraph gallery throughout Phase II.
Ultimately, this project needs to be owned by the community itself, with broad participation and partnerships city wide that feed the momentum and ongoing accumulation of content. We are excited for future artists to work with and contribute to the archive, and to unearth new overlaps, idiosyncrasies, and interrelationships. This effort is for Kansas City’s art community as a whole.
-Luke Firle and Nicole Mauser