Inspiration Grants from the ArtsKC Fund are an investment in human capital, providing direct support to individual artists and arts professionals for projects and activities that have the potential to advance their careers and build their capacity for future work.

For upcoming application deadlines, please see Inspiration Grant Resources.

Visual, music, theatre, literary, dance and interdisciplinary projects are the primary focus of Inspiration Grants.

Round 1

Ani Volkan Idea Exchange: a discussion of artist run spaces

Printmaker Ani Volkan will co-host a panel discussion at the 2019 Southern Graphics Council International, a national printmaking conference, in Dallas TX on creating artist-run spaces. In addition to bringing together other speakers, Volkan will use local community print shop, Print League KC, as an example of how artists can support themselves and each other by taking on the additional roles of curator, organizer, gallery director, while engaging the community. The variety of modes presented will provide for a more full investigation of different paths artists can take upon departing from traditional educational institutions and doing things ourselves. Volkan will learn from the other presenters’ ideas, and compile their innovations online for the Kansas City community. Grant funds will be used for conference expenses, travel, and fliers.

Ashley Wheat Vignettes: Letters from George to Evelyn, from the Private Papers of a World War II Bride

Ashley Wheat is a classically trained soprano planning to record and present Alan Smith’s song cycle, “Vignettes: Letters from George to Evelyn” from the Private Papers of a World War II Bride. Wheat is inspired by the story of Smith’s discovery of letters of love, nature, war, and death, which provide a small window into a generation that has largely held their memories of war close to the vest. Wheat plans to perform the work this November at Village Shalom, a retirement community for members of the Jewish faith, while simultaneously partnering with Opera180. Grant funds will be used for Wheat to work directly with the composer, performance and recording costs.

Brass & Boujee (Ryan Jamaal Davis)

Brass & Boujee is a big band/hip hop album that has been recorded as the culmination of a series of performances of the same name. Led by Marcus Lewis, the Marcus Lewis Big Band, along with Kansas City emcees Kemet the Phantom (Kemet Coleman) & Kadesh Flow (Ryan J. Davis) , honor both jazz and the cultural path that it has carved for hip hop by fusing the two together in a way that has not yet been produced. Lewis has taken the original music of two Kansas City emcees, arranged it for a full jazz ensemble that consists of world-class, Kansas City instrumental masters, and led performances in which the emcees actually rap and sing with the band. The ensemble aims to exist as an educational opportunity for younger musicians and will demonstrate the level at which “younger” musical concepts can join — and even enhance — more “traditional” American music forms. The album intends to show that these two black music forms are similar in spirit and much more compatible than popular music presents them to be. Brass & Boujee will open for Janelle Monae at the Starlight Theatre in October, as part of Open Spaces KC’s “The Weekend.” Grant funds will be used for the first 4-6 weeks of a consistent, full scale rollout campaign. This includes PR work for blog and media outlet placements, streaming site playlist pitches, consistent engagement with radio stations beyond the initial kit shipments, and video work to build a consistent content funnel that lasts months beyond the album release.

Nick Carswell of Carswell & Hope

Changing Shades: A live multimedia and musical performance.
“Changing Shades: An Immigrant’s Story of Confusion & Belonging” is a music, spoken word and visual performance piece, telling the biographical story of Nick Carswell’s experiences as an Irish immigrant to the United States. In this project, Nick presents a program of songs and musical pieces that share a deeper story of identity and belonging, accompanied by custom designed LED lighting design, image projection and stage design. The themes of this project include the emotions, memories and experiences of an emigrant leaving his native home, a modern exploration of “The American Dream”, and more recent topics of race, nationalism, identity and belonging. Songs are inspired by the artist’s own sense of shifting cultural identity, as well as pieces inspired by the history of Native American people in the US, the Mediterranean migrant crisis, and the proliferation of western culture and media in all our lives. The premiere is planned for the Kansas City Irish Center in Midtown Kansas City in Nov/Dec 2018, with another show at the Lawrence Arts Center in Lawrence, KS. Grant funds will be used to purchase a stage lighting system, featuring LED fixtures, a DMX controller and an electronic music production equipment to program and syncronize lights and music. This will allow the full realization of visuals, lighting and stage design without the need for rental equipment or a lighting technician.

Daniel Morel New Music for Kansas-Missouri Concert Bands

Composer Daniel Morel is writing new music inspired by the Flint Hills for high school and university concert bands. Fort Hays State University is leading a large consortium of ensembles that are commissioning and performing this work. As the head of this consortium, FHSU is planning to premiere the work in February 2019. Morel’s piece will inspire students to continue to expand their repertoire and explore music by living composers. Morel is proud to contribute to Kansas City’s reputation as a source for new concert music. Grant funds will be used for the development, publication and distribution of music scores. Morel built a custom music printing studio with a previous Inspiration Grant, enabling him to print scores nearly at cost. He plans to print and mail enough scores for all consortium members.

David George Christmas Ain’t a Drag (Score)

Musician David George’s “Christmas Ain’t a Drag,” is an uplifting rock musical that celebrates the love, magic and romance people search for at Christmas time. Inspired by the music of the big band era, “Christmas Ain’t a Drag” tells the story of four individuals whose lives intersect at a local night club on the night before Christmas. The show touches on social issues such as gender equality, diversity, single motherhood, and the lives of LGBTQ people, with a theme of acceptance and Christmas magic. It was first debuted at the Madrid Theatre in Kansas City, MO in December 2015. With additional original music, “Christmas Ain’t a Drag” is primed for its 2018 New York City musical run at The Cutting Room this holiday season 2018. The long-term goal for the production and for George’s career is to take the show on the road for 2019 to 10 to 20 markets around the country, including Kansas City. This will add to Kansas City’s reputation as an arts mecca and also provide performance opportunities for Kansas City and New York artists together. George identified the critical need to arrange the score on paper for new participants in order to advance the project. The funds from this proposal will pay composer Bob Malone to arrange the scores so the music is easily played by a 9-piece orchestra.

Emily Connell Operation Own My Own Saw

Emily Connell is a contemporary ceramic sculptor, who employs multiple materials and processes to produce artwork. Connell’s sculptures are made by painting books, page-by-page, with liquid porcelain and firing them in a kiln. Like an archeologist excavates or a biologist dissects, Connell uncovers the interior of her delicate porcelain sculptures by slicing them with a diamond bladed masonry saw. Her process transforms discarded and unused objects of knowledge back into a new active and open position. Her art plays on constructs of humanity through time by evoking imagery of fossils and minerals. The passing of time is also evident in the painstakingly long process of encasing every single individual part of each book in porcelain. After using a rented saw for six years, Connell is investing in her own. She plans to test different methods of cutting, to share it with other studio members at the Belger Crane Yard Studio, and potentially, to use the saw to build an atmospheric gas kiln, which will require custom-cut refractory bricks. Connell will continue to create new artwork for exhibiting in and around the Kansas City metropolitan area and beyond.  Grant funds will be used for a masonry concrete block saw and an adjustable stand.

Genevieve E. Flynn Designing a line of Argentium Silver Vessels for Exhibition at The Smithsonian Museum Craft Show

Master silversmith Genevieve E. Flynn is creating new works to submit to the 2019 Smithsonian Museum Craft Show. Flynn uses nature as her inspiration, and combines the sensibilities of Art Nouveau and Art Deco in her work. She plans to construct decorative vessels out of precious metals, specifically Argentium silver, a newly invented silver alloy. Each will be be elaborately decorated with flora and fauna, using the ancient techniques of chasing and repoussé. Upon completing this series, these vessels will be some of the first hollowware pieces to be created using this ancient technique on a modern alloy. Whether or not she is selected for the Smithsonian show, this brand new series of one-of-a-kind works will be submitted to other exhibition opportunities. She plans to present a short lecture in the Kansas City region on the history of chasing and repoussé vessels, the tools and materials used, how these elements have evolved. Grant funds will be used towards the purchase of three Argentium silver sheets.

Israel Alejandro Garcia Garcia Bordes Carnosos / Border Carnage ‘MoLCA’

Israel Alejandro Garcia Garcia is an artist, and the curator of a local contemporary art gallery focused on Latin American narratives. With a recent Rocket Grant, Garcia will visit borderlands to document, retrieve and uproot physical, symbolic elements such as discarded border wall panels and ephemeral elements left behind by migrants during their deadly journey. He plans to include these objects in a mobile visual exhibition in a forty-foot shipping container with a physical barrier, or “border wall” installed nearby. The mobile ‘gallery’ will exhibit local Latinx archival footage as well as his own photography documenting our communities for the past 20 years. Garcia’s workis a direct commentary on today’s political climate. It will show how KC’s Latinx communities have come together to secure and maintain their cultural identity in a local and national hostile environment. The exhibits will focus on Kansas City’s Latinx history and the community’s systematic segregation through time. It will also symbolize the pain of those detained inhumanely in US immigration detention centers on the borderlines, resulting in suffering for local families. Garcia is interested in the relationship between Latinx gentrification, the border wall and the parallel issues that bind us. He intends for the work to show how physical barriers can be overcome democratically through social discourse. The mobile exhibition will be embedded in three to four historically Latinx neighborhoods, on sites that are highly trafficked by pedestrians not normally exposed to, or attendees of galleries or museums. The exhibit will be installed on public property to provide free access to all. Garcia’s goal is to educate the community, giving some viewers a glimpse into the “other” and exposing diverse populations in “Art Deserts” to our narratives. Grant funds will be used towards the shipping container and its custom buildout, the reproduction of archival footage, and the creation of original works.

Susan Ferguson “Environments” – Collection of large-scale tapestries woven on a 48-inch rigid heddle loom

Susan Ferguson aims to take her fiber arts career to the next level by exhibiting her tapestry weaving in a group exhibition at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in 2019. In order to work at a larger scale, Ferguson is acquiring a 48-inch rigid heddle loom to weave a collection of works that focus on contemporary environmental concerns. Ferguson uses traditional, non-traditional and natural materials in her abstract tapestries, such as yarn, twine, copper pipe, wire, plastic bags and bottles, recycled clothing, and discarded auto parts. Her distinct combination of weaving and assemblage will allow audiences a visual and tactile experience of the impact of humankind on various environments. Ferguson’s goal is to promote fiber art as a fine art that offers fresh perspectives on issues and ideas. Local members of the Kansas City Fiber Artists group will also take part in this three-month show. Grant funds will be used towards a 48-inch Ashford rigid heddle loom and stand, and weaving materials.

Kyle Mullins / Moving Arts The Ted Shawn Project

Kyle Mullins is inspired by Kansas City-born modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn, whose teaching and choreography inspired generations of dancers such as Martha Graham. Shawn established Jacob’s Pillow dance school in Becket, Massachusetts, which now holds the oldest internationally acclaimed summer dance festival in the US. Mullins is inspired by the innate “maleness” in Shawn’s work, and hopes to explore his own sexuality and its place in our society, his body and movement abilities, and the male emotional landscape. Mullins will travel to Jacob’s Pillow to research the life and works of Shawn, and will work to reconstruct some of Shawn’s work in Kansas City. Mullins has been selected as a Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Resident, and plans to culminate his residency with a new solo work juxtaposing maleness in Shawn’s 1930s works with his own gay male identity in 21st century America. Grant funds will be used towards travel expenses.

Maria Ogedengbe Missouri GOURDen 2018 programming, August – October

Community-based artist Maria Ogedengbe has created a unique garden, Missouri GOURDen with flowering gourd vines that are growing up over an artistic bower. A previous Inspiration Grant supported the construction of the bower which was erected last year at 48th & Troost. The structure’s 3 doors open in different directions to welcome people from across the city to share in tending the garden and crafting musical instruments called shekeres from gourds grown there. Shekeres are percussion instruments made from dried gourds laced with a net of beads, they originate from Africa and are also popular in Latin America. Ogedengbe is bringing people together to grow and create their own instruments and music. Grant funds will help support ongoing project maintenance and upcoming programming.

Sean Mawhirter Mundo Nouvo’s first full-length album with accompanying video single

Sean Mawhirter is part of Mundo Nouvo, a Kansas City ensemble that plays music from the Caribbean dialect. Mundo Nouvo’s music attempts to merge the legacies of Cuba and Haiti, especially from the arrangements of its pianist Paul Roberts, who seeks to find a convergence between these Afro-Caribbean identities. Mundo Nouvo began an educational outreach program this year that provides Afro-Cuban music clinics to K-12 students in Kansas City area schools. This fall, Mundo Nouvo will start creating a Haitian roots aspect to this program so as to demonstrate for music students the differences and similarities in these two nation’s traditions. The group is creating its first full-length recording, featuring tracks from the Orquestra version of the group, its Café renderings, its Jazz Club iteration, and a 20th-century Cuban solo guitar piece. Recording is taking place at BRC Audio Productions studios in Kansas City, Kansas. A video will be shot for the lead single by Mikal Shapiro and will be release in advanced of the CD. The album will be published through Inwrought Music Management, a local company, and distributed online through major platforms. Physical copies will be made available at local stores. Grant funds will be used towards the cover art, logo design, CD manufacturing costs, as well as the videographer’s fee and marketing campaign.

Stacy Busch Mass: Live Performance and Exhibition

Multimedia artist and performer Stacy Busch is collaborating with Australian experimental artist Jade Suine to create Mass, a new music concert and exhibition. The project is born out of Busch’s recent, month long journey at the Listhus Artist Residency in northern Iceland, in which she experienced silence, isolation and extreme natural landscapes, which allowed Busch to uncover a more honest connection with her artistic voice and connect it to her spiritual practice. The full live performance is an evening length concert of new music largely composed during her time in Iceland. “Mass” was chosen to elicit feelings of reverence as well as intense breadth and depth. The project is designed using four spiritual pillars, derived from the Bhagavad Gita, as a formal structure for both the visual pieces and music composition. These concepts allow the performance to unfold as a powerful narrative of spiritual discovery. The music utilizes live electronics with rhythmic vocals, layering and manipulation. Busch says her voice plays a crucial role in exploring the primal connection to the self and to the environment. Suine is providing twelve visual pieces that correspond with the four spiritual pillars. This concert event will have a unique impact on the Kansas City community because it transports viewers to an environment that is unlike any other: the harsh yet breathtaking northern Icelandic landscape, which is meant to stir an ancient connection to the divine within each person and to transport the viewer someplace otherworldly. In this distinct atmosphere, the live performance will push the audience to explore themselves, and foster acceptance and empathy towards others. Grant funds will be used towards venue costs, and printing and mounting the visual art.

Stephanie Roberts Late Night Squeeze: A Nocturnal Variety Show

Actor Stephanie Roberts is curating a late-night variety show that will be co-produced and hosted by SqueezeBox Theatre. Inspired by her role in a long-running late-night cabaret in Seattle, Roberts identified the opportunity for creatives to create, collaborate, risk, inspire and entertain audiences in the spirit of bold new work. With her new effort, Late Night Squeeze, Roberts will test new material, experiment with new genres, discover new collaborators and hone her writing, performance and directing skills. She will make it a priority to mix established, experienced performers alongside up-and-coming artists across genres. Her vision is to create an opportunity for cross-pollination of audiences and artists, for example, a virtuoso musician may perform in the same evening as a student poet. Four performances a year will be held at eleven o’clock pm, primarily on First Fridays at the Squeezebox Theatre, allowing performers and audience members the flexibility to perform in or see an earlier event. There will be seven to nine acts per show, with as wide a variety as possible; e.g. theatre, performance art, music, improvisation, spoken word, dance and film/video. Roberts plans for this project to serve as the pilot for an ongoing monthly variety show that supports the established artist community, nurtures and introduces new voices, and brings new audiences and patrons to the downtown community. Grant funds will be used towards artists, staff, producer fees, promotional material, programs, graphic design, and documentation of performances.

Steve Paul  Biography of Evan S. Connell, tentatively titled A Quiet Mania: The Brilliant Books and Long Desires of Evan S. Connell

Biographer Steve Paul is researching a book project about the life and work of the Kansas City writer Evan S. Connell, who produced two iconic novels about Kansas Citians of the 1930s and 1940s, among other works. Paul is inspired by Connell’s deep meditations on the human tragedy and his constant quest for knowledge of the globe and the human soul. Paul sees a strong undercurrent of a continual grappling with the male condition against a backdrop of decades of social change. He believes that Connell’s expression of male anxieties makes his fiction even more relevant in the current environment. This would be the first major biography of Connell, who led a quiet and mostly private life. Paul’s research involves traveling to library archives across the country to mine pertinent correspondence, to study manuscripts, to speak with friends, editors and others who knew him and his work, and to absorb a sense of the places that proved important to Connell’s mental and physical landscapes. He plans to create a formal proposal for the book this year and spend the next year writing, before submitting a finished manuscript to a publisher. Paul has published another biography, “Hemingway at Eighteen,” which led to well-attended public appearances at libraries, schools, book clubs, bookstores and other venues in Kansas City and elsewhere, engaging teen-agers to seniors. He looks forward to completing and publishing his Connell book, which will help shine an unexpected light on the city’s literary heritage. Grant funds will be used towards research trips to Austin, Santa Fe, and San Francisco.

TigerStyle! Crew (Jeremy Scott) “DiversCity!”

Professional dance Company TigerStyle! Crew includes crew member and dancer Jeremy Finney. “DiversCity” is a full length live multi-media production that focuses on crossing demographic and cultural boundaries, and promoting self-empowerment. Through a blend of live dancing, acting, DJing, and interactive video, the audience is transported into a fictional metropolis full of drama and excitement. “DiversCity” includes choreography and dancing from several genres from different cultural backgrounds. Running like a screenplay, the story uses a unique approach that keeps viewers enthralled from start to finish by using a series of live dance works intertwined with self-produced video work. It is an opportunity to provide students, young pre-professional dancers and professional artists who attend TigerStyle! Crew’s workshops with professional dance experience. They spread a message of diversity, self-empowerment, and passion for dance. In the modern world of dance there is growing recognition of the professionalism and vitality to be found in the realm of street dance. TigerStyle! Crew, seeks to bridge the gap even more between concert performers and street dancers, and their respective audiences. TigerStyle! Crew acquired projection equipment with an earlier Inspiration Grant that enabled them to produce a high quality show in St. Louis in 2017. DiversCity!” will be presented at the City Stage Theater at Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri in early spring 2019. Grant funds will be used towards theater space rental, tech crew personnel, advertising and promotion, prop rental, and dancer’s stipends.

Victoria Botero The Music of Susan Kander

Operatic soprano Victoria Botero is bringing Kansas City-born composer Susan Kander from New York for a week of performances and public conversations on her music. One of the performances will be a free presentation and community discussion of Kander’s new opera, Driving While Black, featuring an autobiographical libretto and performance by soprano Roberta Gumbel. This week will also see the world premiere performance and recording of Kander’s newly commissioned work, Boisseau Songs, which Kander has written for Botero’s voice, using poems by the late and beloved Kansas City poet, Michelle Boisseau. Kander’s involvement in important social issues, using music as her vehicle, resonates with current political concerns. By fearlessly centering her music on complex human subjects Kander has powerfully impacted Botero’s growth as an artist inspiring her to bring more daring compositions by women composers to the stage. Performing alongside Botero and Gumbel is violinist Jacob Ashcroft and the Lawrence-based duo New Morse Code featuring cellist Hannah Collins and percussionist Michael Compitello. Performances and conversations will take place at the 1900 Building performance space and St. James United Methodist Church at Paseo and 55th, in January 2019. Grant funds will be used to underwrite Kander’s 1-week residency in Kansas City.