InterUrban ArtHouse in downtown Overland Park will receive the Arts Innovation Award from ArtsKC at its 17th annual awards luncheon Feb. 20 at the Kansas City Convention Center.

Local Jewish artist Nicole Emanuel founded InterUrban ArtHouse in 2011 and is its artistic director. Its mission is “to enrich the cultural and economic vibrancy of the community by creating a place where artists and creative industries can work and prosper in an affordable, sustainable and inclusive environment,” according to its website (

Emanuel owns Nicole Emanuel Studios and is the field representative for Northeast and Central-East Kansas for the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission. Creating InterUrban ArtHouse was important to her because she wanted to approach her work as part of a mutually beneficial community.“I knew that I had a need for proximity to other people who were doing creative work and a stable place to do my work,” she said. “I needed partnerships and programs, and I knew that if I needed to do it for myself, I should also do it for others.”

Emanuel finds meaning in receiving the ArtsKC award in the context of her regional peer group, “the partnership with our peers, and that has to do with the arts ecology of our region.”

“We’re just one of the indicators of the health of the arts network,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of work to be done around affordability, equity and funding. Partnerships are critical.”

InterUrban ArtHouse has collaborated on projects with The J for several years, Emanuel said, including Tangled Roots, a multicultural artist collaboration; and the Midwest Jewish Artists Laboratory, intended to increase the arts’ positive effects on Jewish life.

ArtsKC’s mission — “To unleash the power of the arts”— fits well with InterUrban ArtHouse’s goals. ArtsKC offers programs for the arts and business communities and services for the civic community, according to its website (

Branden Haralson, ArtsKC’s communication manager for engagement and public policy, said InterUrban’s combination of “gallery space, multiple space and community involvement — all three pillars that our luncheon committee found innovative” — prompted the organization to give InterUrban the award.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge the good works arts organizations do to reach a bigger audience (and) the overall arts community to be impactful in itself,” Haralson said. “So, we try to highlight both the product they’re doing and the process.”

In addition to the Arts Innovation Award, ArtsKC will give five other awards at the luncheon: Virtuoso Honoree: Lonnie Powell; Arts in Education: Academy for Integrated Arts; Arts Unity Award: The Whole Person’s Expressions Art Exhibition; Arts Equity: Deanna Munoz; and Arts Partnership Award: Mazuma Credit Union.

InterUrban ArtHouse has 19 studios housing 30 artists. It offers five main programs: ArtMatters (artistic skills development and networking for artists and creative entrepreneurs), ArtWorks (professional development and business training for artists and creative entrepreneurs), ArtsConnect (community engagement), ArtSmart (cross-cultural, multimedia community arts programming in several Shawnee Mission School District schools) and ArtHeals (art therapy).

The organization hosts public receptions from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. the third Friday of every month and offers email alerts through its website listing upcoming concerts and classes. In partnership with AT&T’s Believe Kansas City initiative, InterUrban ArtHouse is currently offering a design competition for local middle school and high school students for interior murals made of fabric, which it will give to 260 local schools, Emanuel said. The project’s theme is suicide prevention.

Students have submitted 140 entries. Eight will be chosen and the top two designs will be made into exterior murals. A reception is planned for 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 21 at InterUrban ArtHouse, 8001 Newton St. in Overland Park, to announce the design winners, and the public is invited to paint on other murals during the event.

The emphasis Emanuel and InterUrban ArtHouse place on connecting with the community parallels her connection with the Jewish community. She is not a member of a congregation, though she sometimes attends services at Congregation Kol Ami in Kansas City, Missouri.

Judaism plays a fundamental role in her art, she said. Her mother is a refugee, “a child of the Holocaust,” and her father also is Jewish.

“There’s a lot of entrepreneurism in family and itinerant roots, so I have a need for belonging and a sense of community culture that I derive from my Jewish roots,” she said. “I consider my Jewish identity an enormous part of who I am and the themes in my work.”