Ceramics is more than just a few hundred famous artists or those who teach it in the US. Ceramics are independent artists—successful and struggling; Instructors and students; young and old; working in many disciplines. Ceramic artists use an infinite number of fabrication, firing and finishing methods. For this momentous conference, I teamed up with celebrated artist and dedicated instructor, Alex Kraft to put together 50 Women: A Celebration of Women’s Contribution to Ceramics. Artists representing 13 countries make up the roster.
This exhibition will be featured on the NCECA Bus Tour North Route.
Ms. Kraft articulates the intent of the exhibition by stating:
Our exhibition provides a new model of engagement reaching far beyond individuals in the field of ceramics, arts and crafts.
This is definitely the case. Alex and I started with an exhibition idea and ended with an event with global impact. From having feminist icon Gloria Steinem tweet about the exhibition to creating a Facebook page with over 6,500 likes internationally, we continue to work to expand the audience for ceramics.
Kansas City’s beautiful and iconic American Jazz Museum at 18th & Vine hosts this spectacular tour de force of women in ceramics.
Here’s an appetizer for you:
If this makes you hungry for more, buy your bus ticket now, and if you’re hungry in general, be sure to also check out some of these great places to eat in the neighborhood.
The Rivermarket hosts a weekly farmers market from early summer to mid fall. During the rest of the year, you can visit a variety of restaurants there, with a particularly lengthy list of great Vietnamese places. The Kansas City Artist Coalition, Kiosk Gallery, and Steamboat Arabia Museum are hosting exhibitions in the Rivermarket, please note there is a admission fee to enter the Steamboat Arabia Museum. While you are here, a stop at Beignet’s is an absolute must. Expect a wait, but expect it to be worth it. Beignet’s is one of the hottest spots in KC right now. There are both sweet and Savory options and they even have an extensive menu of Gluten Free Beignets. Can’t make it to the market? Postmates.com will deliver for only $3.99! New Orleans cuisine not your style? There are a variety of great places to eat in the Rivermarket:
Nguyen Pho and Grill
Nguyen Pho and Grill
500 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64106 (816) 569-2262
315 Cherry St, Kansas City, MO 64106 (816) 471-2224
522 Campbell St, Kansas City, MO 64106 (816) 472-4888
300 Delaware St, Kansas City, MO 64105 (816) 569-6032
427 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64105 (816) 421-1122
307 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64105 (816)472-0777
309 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64105 (816) 421-0414
20 E 5th St # 100, Kansas City, MO 64106 (816) 423-8036
Hien Vuong Restaurant
417 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64106 (816) 842-1020
Kansas City’s historic Jazz District is remembered by its blues, barbecue, and baseball. There you can find the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the American Jazz Museum, and the Mutual Musicians Foundation. Kansas City native, Charlie Parker transformed the Kansas City music scene in the twentieth century with fast tempo and improvisation to form a Jazz style called Bebop. Without the Kansas City Jazz District,
Charlie Parker might not be as well known as the district contained a well established Jazz club scene – one that even the Prohibition widely disregarded prior to the Bird’s day. While in the Jazz district check out the 50 Women: A Celebration of Women’s Contribution to Ceramics at the American Jazz Museum, Clay Gate Keepers at the Vine Street Studio Art Gallery, and the multiple exhibitions hosted by the Belger Crane Yard Studios. If hunger strikes while you’re taking in the history and amazing art, here are a couple places to eat:
417 E 18th St Kansas City, MO 64108 (816)-472-5454
Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque
Humdinger Drive In
1727 Brooklyn Ave, Kansas City, MO 64127 (816) 231-1123
1221 Brooklyn Ave, Kansas City, MO 64127 (816) 483-3880
Hum Dinger Drive In
2504 E 9th St, Kansas City, MO 64124 (816) 231-0888
The Kansas City Juke House
1700 E 18th St, Kansas City, MO 64108 (816) 472-0013
Danny’s Big Easy
Danny’s Big Easy
1601 E 18th St, Kansas City, MO 64108 (816) 421-1200
Close to downtown, The Crossroads Arts District is known to be particularly crowded on “First Fridays” because of the numerous art galleries situated there. Many of the exhibitions for NCECA will be taking place here and it is just a short walk from the convention center. Several NCECA sponsored exhibitions that you will want to visit are the National Juried Student Exhibition, the Honors & Fellows Exhibition and The Emerging Artists Exhibition at the Leedy Voulkos Art Center. Also located in the west crossroads is La Esquina which will be hosting Across the Table Across the Land a HUGE NCECA 50th anniversary project curated by Michael Strand and Namita Gupta Wiggers connecting community, stories and food. Scattered between many of the other galleries are many choices of tasty eats such as
Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop
Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop, Extra Virgin, and Jackstack. If you’re in mood for some classic American greasy fried foods, head over to Town Topic, The Brick or Grinders. The Crossroads is located just south of the convention center and will allow for a full day of taking in exhibitions and other engaging activities like the video arcade Up-Down. Looking for another restaurant in the Crossroads, check out these places to eat and drink:
Michael Smith / Extra Virgin
1900 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64108
Lulu`s Thai Noodle Shop
2030 Central Street Kansas City, MO 64108
The Boulevard Tavern
320 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108
101 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108
Ricos Taco Lupe
802 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108
Grinders West serves Deli items but shares a menu with Grinders Pizza. The restaurant’s modern tone contrasts Grinders Pizza grittier feel.
1900 Main St.
1727 McGee St, Kansas City, MO 64108
417 E. 18th St Kansas City, Mo
Manny’s Mexican Restuarant
207 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108
101 W 22nd St, Kansas City, MO 64108
1617 Main St Ste. 100, Kansas City, MO 64108
1708 Oak St (btwn E 17th & 18th St), Kansas City, MO 64108
101 W 22nd St, Kansas City, MO 64108
The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange
1924 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64108
1810 Baltimore Ave, Kansas City, MO 64108
Cosentino’s is just a couple blocks from the Kansas City convention center and they have just about everything you could need. From fresh fruits and veggies to other grocery needs, even alcohol and a cafeteria style restaurant, including my favourite – the Gyro counter, where they make amazing sandwiches right in front of your eyes (if you like spicy food, don’t skip the hot pepper relish sauce stuff…it’s awesome!) There’s also a whole case of decadent delicacies for those of you with a sweet tooth. It’s just a short walk straight down 13th street, and you’ll be glad you went!
10 E 13th St, Kansas City, MO 64106
Open 6am-10pm daily
Kansas City is not shy on BBQ joints but also holds its own in the Vegetarian/Vegan cuisine Category. Whichever you crave you will want to check out the following restaurants based on your interests. If you find yourself in the Crossroads exploring exhibitions and hunger strikes check out Cafe Gratitude located at 333 Southwest Blvd. Their vegetarian and vegan menu is one of the best in KC. Serving raw food, salads, wraps and beautiful desserts with gluten free options, their menu is sure to please. Impower yourself with an “I am Magical”, one of Kansas City’s best veggie burgers served with LTO, pickles, hummus and a side salad. Their business practice is modeled after the term “Sacred Commerce”. They select the finest organic ingredients to honor the earth while supporting local farmers, sustainable agriculture and environmentally friendly products. Lets just say their food is prepared with love to say the least. If you find yourself in mixed company and need restaurant options for for both vegetarian and non vegetarian parties the Mix should be the first in your list. Located at 1347 Main st in the Power and Light District, not far from the convention center, area hotels and area exhibitions, The Mix serves up some of the best salads and tasty sandwiches with gluten free options. The sheek environment is only good for lunch crowd as they are only open til 3:00 PM. If you find yourself staying in the Plaza or are visiting exhibitions near KCAI, Kemper Museum, or Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Eden Alley Vegetarian is a short drive away and also serves some of the best vegetarian food in KC with many vegan options.
The Mix located at 1347 Main
Edden Alley at 707W 47St
If the craving for piles of smoked meat appeals to your carnivorous side then you will want to stomp over to Jackstack located at 4747 Wyandotte st. just footsteps away from the Leedy Voulkos Art Center which is hosting the National Juried Student Exhibition, the Honors and Fellows exhibition, and the Emerging Artists Showcase. Their lunch specials won’t disappoint and Jackstack is a Kansas City favorite with their burnt ends, brisket, and other delicious smoked treats. The debate never ends in Kansas City as to what place serves up the best BBQ, and with so many scattered about convenience might be a deciding factor. Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque is located in the 18th and Vine Jazz District, not far from the The American Jazz Museum, which is hosting “50 Women: A Celebration of Women’s Contribution to Ceramics”. Belger Crane Yard Studios and Vine Street Studio Art Gallery are also hosting multiple Concurrent Exhibitions and are located near by Arthur Bryant’s. If you are looking for a great afternoon of Art and BBQ then planning an afternoon trip to the 18th & Vine Jazz District should be on your to do list.
If you have a car and can venture out into the midtown region or over to Kansas, then Q39 or Joe’s Kansas City Barbeque are two of my favorite BBQ places in Kansas City. Joes Kansas City Barbeque, located in an old gas station is known to have a line wrapping around the building but is well worth the wait.
Joes KC at 3002 W 47th St
Jackstack at 4747 Wyandotte St and 101 W 22nd St #300
For more listings on great BBQ, Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants check out the following links .
4747 Wyandotte St (816) 531-7427
101 W 22nd St #300 (816) 472-7427
1325 Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd (816) 531-7522
3205 Main St (816) 753-0828
1221 Brooklyn Ave (816) 483-3880
1000 W 39th St, Kansas City, MO 64111 (816) 255-3753
Joe’s Kansas City Barbeque
3002 W 47th St, Kansas City, KS 66103 (913) 722-3366
Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque
1727 Brooklyn Ave, Kansas City, MO 64127 (816) 231-1123
333 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108 (816) 474-5683
813 W 17 St, Kansas City, MO 64108 (816) 214-5025
Eden Alley Vegetarian
707 W 47th St, Kansas City, MO 64112 (816) 561-5415
4855 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64112 (816) 756-2300
1347 Main St (816) 283-0300
11942 Roe Ave (913) 338-4000
Blue Bird Bistro
1700 Summit St, Kansas City, MO 64108 (816) 221-7559
Back in 1989, right here in Kansas City, NCECA introduced what would become a hallmark of the conference’s opening festivities: The Randall Session. And right now, I have the good fortune of introducing you to the mastermind behind this year’s session, Mark Southerland, and the group of esteemed artists joining him on stage to perform Wit & Menace: An Operetta.
First, here’s a quick history lesson: Named in honor of one of NCECA’s founders, Ted Randall, the vision for the session was articulated in that year’s program:
The uniqueness of Ted’s contribution to ceramic art was, in large measure, the result of an extra sharp intelligence focused, not on narrow issues of ceramics alone, but on broader questions of aesthetics and philosophy, particularly the inquiries of mankind into the nature of knowledge and meaning. Therefore, it seems appropriate to recognize and honor the major contribution that Ted Randall made to American ceramic art and especially to NCECA at the annual Randall Session which focuses on ideas that expand on Ted’s own broad interests.
Jay Lacouture, 2015 Providence on-site liaison, recounted the inaugural session in a previous post on this trusty blog:
Victor Babu gave a moving tribute to his mentor and we heard a recording of Ted’s voice discussing some of the beautiful ceramic objects in the Nelson-Atkins Museum. We sat in Unitarian Church and listened to two Beethoven sonatas for cello and piano. It was a very introspective and spiritual moment separated from the usual hustle of an NCECA Conference.
In the intervening years, musicians, poets, mimes, storytellers, critics, activists, and other genre-bending artists have graced the stage and given NCECA members myriad expressions of the creative spirit.
Returning to Kansas City for its 50th, NCECA carries forward the tradition of the Randall Session—but it is perhaps the very first time that ceramics are so seamlessly united with other art forms in a singular performance. When tasked with identifying talent for this session, Paul Donnelly and I exchanged a knowing glance as thoughts of Mark Southerland and Linda Lighton’s sculptural ceramic/horn instruments flashed across our minds.
Southerland is an experimental jazz musician and multi-disciplinary artist with a distinct gift for bringing people together for ambitious environmental installations and happenings, from tiny stadium concerts to large-scale outdoor fashion shows. Linda, as many of you, dear readers, know, is one of NCECA’s own: ceramic artist, arts advocate, and recipient of this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award.
Another distinguishing feature of this year’s Randall Session is that the performance was created expressly for NCECA and for all of YOU. It’s not culled from a repertoire, rather, it draws on the spirit of creative collaboration that characterizes relationships between mentors and mentees, colleagues and friends, and the joys and struggles in art and life.
The key players include Mark Southerland (creator/producer, horns), Victoria Sofia Botero (soprano), Annie Ellicott (jazz vocalist), Russell Thorpe (bass clarinet, sax, other woodwinds), Nick Howell (trumpet, assorted brass), John Kizilarmut (drums), Jeff Harshbarger (bass), J. Ashley Miller (music and technical director) and not least, Linda Lighton, whose porcelain forms are integrated into and emerge from Southerland’s instruments.
Mark Southerland & Annie Ellicott
Photo: E. G. Schempf
Loosely inspired by the fantastical paintings of Remedios Varo and Heironymus Bosch, Southerland conceived of Wit & Menace as a tableaux vivant brought to life through a duet and duel between two sets of musicians and vocalists entwined in Southerland’s wearable, playable horn sculptures. So, how will it unfold? Mark was kind enough to entertain a few questions over email. Here are some of his hints at what’s to come:
Wit and Menace will have times of distinction – Victoria Botero (opera singer) will put the fear in us all, in that way only an opera singer can. Conversely Annie Ellicott (jazz singer and improviser) will have moments of great whimsy. But a majority of the time it will be passed around, distorted, even refused. The clown becomes the killer, the bunny becomes the wolf.
Southerland has used the saxophone as a medium for exploring sound and performance for 25 years, reinterpreting jazz traditions and reinventing the horn as a hybrid instrument, garment, and work of art. His first such horn sculpture was used in a burlesque show:
I played it on my wife Peregrine Honig. Many in the audience were amazed at this strange innovation and also nearly embarrassed by its intimacy. I quickly moved it out of this mid-brow world and began integrating it into my fine art. I love that it was born in burlesque, much like jazz was born in brothels. It’s great to have that lusty grit to go back to. They are compelling as art objects because they directly reflect the human form and are mingling with beautiful voices. They are now a nearly perfect nexus of my art life, drawing equally from creative music, sculpture, and performance art.
A few years ago, Southerland’s horn sculptures evolved away from the body and on to the pedestal to include a series of works with Linda Lighton’s porcelain forms emerging from the bells. With Wit and Menace, though, Lighton’s forms blossom forth and bubble up into the realm of live performance. Southerland shared a few insights about their collaboration and the polarity between their materials:
Linda and I speak a similar visual language very naturally, and we recognized it almost immediately. We often talk about our work very differently, but we work about our work very similarly. My horns are assemblages made from graveyard band instruments. This sets a nice contrast to Linda’s more pure expression, building forms from water and “beautiful mud”. From feculence to fecundity our work cycles through life having conversations all the while.
As a Kansas City native, Southerland is steeped in Kansas City’s jazz vernacular, but he is continually pushing its boundaries and immersing himself in other traditions, thus slipping between the familiar, the foreign, and a fusion between the two. Here are a few parting thoughts on one of the key ingredients in his creative process, and shots of the new horn sculptures-in-progress:
Learning jazz improvisation is like learning Latin – a language that lets you learn other languages. It’s a way of communicating that only partially relies on the actual type of music you are improvising with. Most of the great communication that happens does not rely on the song form or sub genre being engaged at that moment. Musical improvisation is a meta language, therefor it can easily be applied across all disciplines. If you have a sense of someone’s artistry and skills you can start to improvise with them inside the parameters of the piece. You figure out the right people to invite to this very complex conversation, and then trust in your exchanges.
Join us for the premiere of Wit & Menace and other opening festivities to kick off this historic gathering on Wednesday, March 16 beginning at 7 PM in the Grand Ballroom. We’ll see you there!