The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


January 3, 2014

Destinations: Day at the museums

Kansas City museums offer glimpse into arts, culture, immigrant heritage

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rae Sedgwick is a museum fan. She has a three-fold connection to one specifically: The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City.

“I like to do something related to art or culture once a month,” she told me more than a year ago on a visit to The Kemper. “Secondly, I wanted to see the (Laura McPhee) exhibit, and thirdly, my niece is the curator and director of the museum.”

I enjoy a museum excursion myself, even without the familial connection.

Rae, who I just happened to talk to as we both marveled at a large-scale photograph of a deteriorating caribou carcass, said she was interested in the exhibit because of her rural background. The 6-by-8-foot, high-resolution image was disturbingly detailed and a little scary.

Those are my words, not hers. It was beautiful in a weird way, too. It was one of about 20 photos that graphically detailed uncommon subject matter including dead salmon, rural life and Idaho forest scenes.

“I wanted to see the exhibit because it’s unusual to have a photography exhibit (at Kemper),” said Sedgwick, of Bonner Springs, Kan. “It’s about life and death and nature. They are simple images with great detail. We are all part of the whole, so when you see this you become aware of how connected we are to everything. The Kemper offers things that are very Midwestern and yet have universal themes.”

The McPhee exhibit was one of the museum’s many rotating collections. Since my visit, The Kemper has hosted half a dozen other traveling exhibitions. Its permanent collection includes the works of Andrew Wyeth, Georgia O’Keeffe, Robert Mapplethorpe, Dale Chihuly and dozens of other iconic, internationally renowned artists.

Kansas City’s assortment of museums is top notch and among the county’s best. The Kemper, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and Strawberry Hill Museum and Cultural Center are just a few Kansas City museums I’ve recently visited.

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