Greetings from the staff at Grand Arts!

As you may have noticed, we have been a bit quiet of late. We are currently working towards developing a large-scale public installation with the artist John Salvest. The process of gaining the necessary permissions, documentation, and engineering specifics has been a journey. The experience has been illuminating and has served as the catalyst for many in-depth conversations among our staff and the collaborators with whom we find ourselves working to realize this piece.

After many meetings, documents, and conversations, we have at long last secured the site for John Salvest’s public project. It is a thrilling prospect to create work in the public sphere and we expect the sculpture will contribute to a healthy dialogue regarding some of the pressing issues that we, as a culture, are currently facing. Many thought-provoking ideas have surfaced even in the beginning stages of this endeavor. Does the nature of the site as public property give us the right to use the space as a venue for contemporary art? If so, what are the limits of free-speech in such a context? Whose voice may speak from such a platform and how might the work provide the opportunity for larger conversation? As we navigate the various hurdles necessary to achieve our goal, these are but the most surface questions with which we are faced. We are delighted to have the chance to use contemporary art as a vehicle to energize conversation and thought among our community.

The work we do at Grand Arts necessarily requires us to meet the unique challenges of projects as they come. Such work demands that we take a fluid and holistic perspective when approaching these problems- which, more often than not, puts us in unexpected positions with some unexpected people. Such unpredictability is part of what makes Grand Arts such a stimulating place to be. Contemporary art is one of the few fields of study where the boundaries by which it is defined have all but dissolved. Though some might fear that the nebulous nature of what constitutes ‘contemporary art’ has rendered the term and its practice obscure in the least, we at Grand Arts believe that the transdisciplinary approach of contemporary art practice is one of its greatest boons. We are not held captive by narrow definitions and find ourselves in the unique position of being able to explore the world with a wide lens. Our current project with John Salvest is a prime example of this. When we can see and inhabit a world less defined by conventional divisions, we can create meaningful connections to which we may have been previously occluded. The emergent hybrids formed by these connections often serve not just as novel cross-pollinating, but work to produce qualitative and fundamental evolutionary strides in human culture. Such growth is a worthwhile endeavor for the arts—even if it means we have to hole up every once in a while to do the work. The unique challenges of working in the public sphere have deepened this belief and have served to catalyze the mission of Grand Arts. We can’t wait to share with you.

Please check back often, as we are excited to share the development of our upcoming projects!

Seth Johnson
Design and Communications Coordinator
Grand Arts
Shipping Containers

We hosted an intimate group last Saturday afternoon for Summer and Lacey’s Haiku workshop. After some free-writing individually, we each read a selection of our poems aloud and then moved on to more interactive tactics for composing. We exchanged pages around the circle and then re-worked the words and phrases of that person’s haiku into new ones. The most interesting results came from another round of passing the page, a line-by-line Haiku Exquisite Corpse, of sorts. Here are the results of some of these anonymous exchanges in the 5-7-5 format.


The birds and the bees,

Malfunction did us all in,

Algorithm broke.

Don’t go to Safe Way.

A silent spring come to life.

Consider your luck.

Pen lives in your hand.

Focus on the afterlife.

Seeing the unknown.

A thick winter coat.

It reeks, I’m pretty sure, death,

Impossible now.

Fecund between us.

The foundation is cracking.

All sentenced to death.

Can I get a beer?

Report the news from my bed.


+ high-res version

Happy New Year from Grand Arts!

The snow has come and Grand Arts is moving forward with our conversation and event series Dialogue By Design: Experimental Platforms for Intimate Conversations.
Since returning from the holiday break, we have begun the process of transforming the small gallery into a working document; a mental mapping of the themes and inspirations for the series; a galaxy of thought bubbles, references and threads; an analog blogosphere. This transformation will be ongoing, evolving over time, with additions and input from our staff, guest artists, facilitators and visitors. Currently, we’re reflecting on the initial events: Conversation Matter: An Open Forum organized by poet Lori Brack with an installation response by artist May Tveit; An Evening of Warming organized by Lacey Wozny and collaborators; and an Evening with Rob Walker, Improbable Futures for Unpopular Places.
Check the Grand Arts website and our Facebook page for details as more events emerge. Meanwhile, here are some images documenting the Evening of Warming.

The Bath House:




“Agoraphobia Begins at Home” Film installation by the Projector:

“Essentially You” performed by The Therapist:


Scents by The Mediator:


The Crier:


“Piano Etudes” performed by The Tuner:




















The following are some snapshots from Rob Walker’s Kansas City excursions. Potential Hypothetical Developments on our very own turf?! This could be potential research for Walker’s work with the Hypothetical Development Organization, which was the focus of his talk at Grand Arts. The HDO sees opportunities for urban storytelling in properties and buildings that have fallen into disuse–“architectural fictions”. This past December 2010, the HDO unveiled their debut collection of renderings onsite at various  locations throughout the city and simultaneously in a gallery show in New Orleans, LA.

From Kansas City:



Artist and educator May Tveit produced an installation in the Grand Arts main gallery as part of Dialogue by Design: Experimental Platforms Intimate Conversations. I asked Tveit to reflect on the development of the piece and on the role that the theme of conversation plays in her practice. Feel free to stop by during gallery hours (Thursday and Friday from 10AM-5PM and Saturday from 11AM-5PM) and explore the work, post thoughts in the archive room and start a conversation of your own. -SF
GA: In what ways does the theme and/or concept of “conversation” inform and shape your work?

MT: I began thinking about the conversation ‘space’ and the manner in which a work would occupy space and potentially connect and intersect with people, furniture, walls, ceiling, floor–playing with the idea of a work moving inside and outside the gallery space–as a conversation would flow and move and change and morph. I thought about what materials conceptually and poetically represent the weight and weightlessness of thought, the back and forth of dialogue, and how a work might respond cumulatively to each conversation event as the Dialogue series unfolded.

The resulting primary work consists of a metal structure holding multiple rolls of industrial scale white plastic ribbon. Metaphorically I see these rolls as  21st century banderoles or speech scrolls. A banderole is an illustrative device used to denote speech, song or in some cases sound in medieval and renaissance paintings and is the art historical precursor to the modern day iconic graphic thought/talk bubble. On the east wall of the gallery I merged three art historical references into/onto small sculptural dialogue bubbles. I gravitated toward the window niche in the gallery as a long rectangular volume and as a place where light is let in, and typically where a building breathes. A window is a communication space between the outside & inside and vice versa, and the blank rolls of ribbon signify conversations yet to be had….waiting to unwind, unfurl, happen.

GA: As a visual artist, what was your process for collaborating with poet Lori Brack?

MT: The process was very fluid and multi-faceted. I brought in a lot of research and readings about ‘conversation’ and ‘dialogue’ and had pages and pages of hi-lighted articles and text, images and notes and sketches connected to my findings and interests. I also loaded up my car with a variety of materials: latex and clear vinyl balloons, nylon rope of various thicknesses, string, colored ribbon, bricks, and a handful of compressed wood sculptural objects shaped like comic-book style thought-bubbles. Right before our afternoon meeting I inflated a white 5’ diameter balloon at the gas station a few blocks away and drove it over (very slowly) as I held it outside my car window. I wanted to bring in materials, objects, physical things that metaphorically and conceptually would make the feeling and concept of conversation tangible. Stacy, Lori and I talked, walked through the space and emailed a few sketches and notes back and forth. Our meeting and discussion created both a common ground of understanding… and creative fuel to make out individual works.

GA: In what ways has the Installation changed since the Conversation Matter event? Clearly, the conversations were activated and informed by the installation, did it work the other way around, too? Will the installation respond to the conversation? If so, in what ways?

MT: At the end of the first and second conversation events, the participants were invited to leave a thought, a question, or a provocation in the space. They did this by writing on prepared, smaller scaled pieces of the plastic ribbon, and then unfurled and tossed them onto the walls of the gallery.  These banderole/speech scrolls attached to the walls by static electricity, and over time, eventually fell to the perimeter of the floor. The ribbons were collected and the text transcribed to become part of the overall project archive, which is an ongoing event. The piece continues to evolve into smaller units: a pile of accumulating ribbon on the floor; mass units draped over metal saw horses;  adding and subtracting rolls from the suspension apparatus; playing the nature of the thought-content;  and I continue to imagine how the work might extend physically into the public realm. The work itself has been a catalyst for ongoing conversations with Stacy about what it is, and what it can become… and it is this spirit of experimentation, openness and risk that Stacy has infused in this series at Grand Arts that I love.

Furniture Prototypes

Furniture Prototypes

Project Managers E.J. Holland and April Pugh designed and produced these awesome pieces for our “Dialogue by Design” conversation series. They’re made of recyclable materials AND they’re ergonomic!

Stacked Chairs

Stacked Chairs


Stacked Drawing Tables

Stacked Drawing Tables

Conversation Matter: An Open Forum
Saturday, November 20th at 2PM at Grand Arts
Please contact Tasha to make a reservation @ 816-421-6887 or

As part of our upcoming conversation and event series, Dialogue by Design: Experimental Platforms for Intimate Conversations, poet and educator Lori Brack is designing the first event Conversation Matter: An Open Forum. I asked Brack to tell us a little bit about her background and what we can expect next Saturday. Conversation Matter is free and open to all, however reservations are encouraged due to limited seating. Hope to see you there! SF

GA: In what ways has your background in poetry informed this event?

LB:I’ve always been bewitched by words — both drawn to their magic and consumed by their mystery — and my work as a poet has been an attempt to probe the magic and mystery using a pen as an instrument. Conversation is fascinating to me in many of the same ways — magical and mysterious — because it is elusive and ephemeral and because it is made up of so much more than the words we use. I’m interested in how a human can use all the languages of the body and mind to say something important, and I’m interested in how another human uses languages to hear and listen and maybe respond. I think writing is an attempt to describe and express and make the little black squiggly marks on the page reach across and tell or mean or move. And I think conversation is the same attempt, embodied. Now that I think of it, both writing and conversing are at least as much about listening as they are about saying.

GA: What is the process of your collaboration with May Tveit?

LB: Stacy and I were working on the format of the conversation and she suggested that we work with an artist to create the material trace or the metaphorical reflection and suggested May as an artist who might be right for these ideas. I had known about her work from keeping up with what the Spencer Museum at KU does, but we had never met. May and I exchanged a brief email correspondence, and then May and Stacy and I spent one late October afternoon together when we spread out materials and ideas and talked, followed by more emails that consisted of photographs and drawings and lots of words. We’re still at that stage. Collaborating is as much about letting go as it is about coming together. I think our conversations are catalysts that allow May and me and Stacy to go away and spin our own metaphors and materials out of what we started face-to-face.

GA: What should people expect from Conversation Matter: An Open Forum?

LB: People should expect a serious but open environment that might at first feel a little bit prescriptive but should soon unfold. I’m working with a conversational format that is based in turn-taking, questioning, and listening rather than in debating, speaking out, and competing. Because our culture seems to move fast when someone takes up most of the space for communication, at first this kind of open forum might feel unfamiliar. I’m counting on those who participate to bring curiosity, flexibility, and openness as we experiment together and talk about how and why we converse, why we value it, and what conversation can do in our individual and collective lives. That, plus great food and a visually enriched environment with May’s installation unwinding around them as they sit on the special and lovely new conversation furniture!

A few weeks ago, Cody Critcheloe and Megan Mantia went to Berlin to for the German premier of the Grand Arts-produced BOY, on view at Perez Projects. We asked Cody and Megan for pictures and stories from their visit to the illustrious Ms. Tolaas’ legendarily cool studio and lab. Megan’s musings are in red and Cody’s are in blue. Enjoy!


Photo by Megan Mantia.

My name is Megan Mantia; I was first acquainted with Grand Arts during Cody Critcheloe’s movie BOY where I served as project coordinator and documenter.  I am also the documentary photographer (and Treasurer/performer/planner) for local non-profit Whoop Dee Doo and a 7-year member of Kansas City’s only radical cheerleading squad Rah! Booty.  Grand Arts has recently granted me the incredible opportunity to assist Sissel Tolaas for an upcoming smell project of Kansas City.  This summer Cody Critcheloe and I were in Berlin to install BOY and caught up with Sissel at her private home and mysterious lab.

Hi, my name is Cody Critcheloe. I’m the leadswinger/mastermind of SSION. I am currently in NYC getting both my ears pierced and spending over $200 dollars a night on alcohol. At 29, I’m finally figuring out what it means to be an adult and I really like it.

We met up with Sissel at the opening of a group show called “Dysfashional” at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt….

…that had a bunch of dicks in it. That was okay I guess, but that’s only because dicks are still funny, even after the fall of the Berlin wall.

Sissel had a piece there, The In-Betweens, consisting of four tall pedestals each representing a major city (NYC, Paris, etc).

I think I remember London smelling really gassy. It smelled good.

Each had imagery of maps of the city featuring commentary from 4 residents of strikingly different neighborhoods, and hardware with a button you could push to release the “smell portrait” of the city.  She said this was a very simplified version of what she does for city portraits and that her project for Kansas City will be far more elaborate.  We were only able to talk for a minute but we planned to meet up later in the trip.  Sissel was sad to miss the BOY opening, but she was away in Hamburg doing a smell workshop with kids.

When we met up again I assumed we would just go out for dinner, but she invited us to her home to see her lab.  I brought 2 friends from the brand new Berlin art-space Direktorenhaus who were huge fans of Sissel’s work.  We met her daughter outside their flat, which was about thirty minutes from the city center.

She (her daughter) was really cute and professional. She was like the living version of Britney Spear’s classic song, “I’m Not  a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” She also served us sparkling water. Cool.

Sissel graciously received our larger than expected group  (myself, Cody, Drew, and our 2 friends). She was finishing up dinner for her daughter, and told us to go ahead and snoop around.

Her lab connected to a large office – we went right in and it was full of glittering bottles, all meticulously labeled.  She had a small work table with supplies scattered about, and it was just like every photo you’ve ever seen of her there.  It was amazing. She met us in her office and sat us down to let us explore some smells.

Photo by Megan Mantia.

She looked really hot. She’s like the ideal woman: tan, tall, blonde, smart and funny. And she was always messing with her hair, which my mom says means she’s got A LOT ON HER MIND.

We requested the smell of Fear first.

I requested Gaultier, but it was NOWHERE TO BE FOUND!

She pulled out “The Men” – all of the specimens from phobic men who allowed her to collect their sweat.  They were funky and musky and W-E-I-R-D.

Whatever, Megan, was turned on. If there’s one thing I know about Megan from working with her all this time: fear = sex.

I felt dizzy after like five funky men, and then she transitioned into guessing games where we tried to pinpoint much prettier smells.  We tried Iris, one of the hardest and most expensive flower scents to extract…French Rose, a wet basement from Iceland (which Sissel always goes to when she is homesick), the North Pole, and the purest chemical recreation of pheromones in existence. We all got to take home a vial of Money scent too – which was part of a past exhibition where every visitor got to keep money for themselves!  So she had many half-used vials for adoption.

Photo by Megan Mantia.

She also did a quick Powerpoint presentation, which was informative and funny and made me realize that power point is actually very beneficial.

I was freaking out over the chemical pheromone concoction, which is commonly used as a base for many other scents and perfumes.  When you put it on, “ISO GAMMA SUPER” is sweet and neutral, eventually settles down, then draws out your most attractive natural scent.  Sissel assured us that it was very expensive stuff – then swiftly bottled up a large vile for me to keep.  I was overwhelmed – she was sending us off with so many party favors I couldn’t believe it.

Photo by Megan Mantia.

She gave me the sent of coal, which I am wearing now. I think it was coal. I don’t remember but it smells really good.

She gave us a super-quick run through of her process and professional life and everyone was blown away. This woman can talk more efficiently and comfortably about her process than any artist I’ve ever met.  After two hours and about seventeen smell-test-strips later we finally said goodbye. We waited until we were a little past her block before we squealed and gushed about how amazing our visit was.

My favorite thing was that her prissy cat who would only lie down on a bright orange Hermes bag.  Sissel has bought it rugs and beds and other things to be comfortable on- and it will only lie down on that Hermes bag.  So hilarious. It was an unforgettable evening.

I really want her to be in my next movie.

For more information on Sissel Tolaas’ work visit and

A few weekends ago, some Grand Arts staff members, Stacy Switzer, Summer Farrar and Lacey Wozny, took resident artist Ryan Mosley to Salina, KS to do some research on the “real” Midwest. Some highlights include: A rain-logged drive to Lawrence via Topeka with a stopover for taste-testing at Free State Brewery and La Esquina for tacos; a stay at the lovely Endiron B&B complete with a crooked-mouthed cat; a visit to an exquisite English garden in the middle of the prairie where our friends have made their studios in a 1950’s grade school gymnasium; a casual flirting of bumpers between a borrowed van and a rental car, two jam-packed coolers, kombucha, cocktails and doughnuts with friends from the Salina Art Center and the Land Institute, and of course, Cozy Burgers!!
Mosley and Colin Welsh, a Kansas-born lad, then ventured south toward Wichita for a day of target practice, snake-charming and fishing.

Post by: SF

Lori Waxman, the 60/wrd/min art critic:

The selection process for the 60/wrd/min art critic performance is first come, first served. This egalitarian approach is necessary for writer, critic, and performer Lori Waxman, because in her performance it is the artist who chooses to be reviewed by her. As a performer, Waxman addresses whoever comes in the door for a review and must contend with whatever they bring. She is very aware that the participating artists are not only seeking critique, they are making themselves additionally vulnerable by having the review take place in a gallery that is open to the public. As a public project, Waxman’s 60/wrd/min art critic performance offers an important service in communities that are often bypassed by mainstream arts publications.

In order to review the works, Waxman asks that artists haul their art to the gallery so that during the process the works are on display. Also on display are the hot-off-the-press reviews, which the receptionist mounts to the gallery wall and are published later in a local paper and online on the project website, With every move of the cursor broadcasted live, the 60/wrd/min performance action serves as the present, in-the-moment exchange between artist and art critic. Waxman admits that her reviews tend toward the positive because she herself is on a bit of a learning curve. She must have a very strong conviction to write a critical review: “ If you say something negative, you better mean it.” For example, an artist may come in with work for which she has no context and no opinion about their prior works – perhaps not even the language needed to address it. The artist is not invited to explain his/her work, though, and so the critic is on her own. Everyone is on display in this performance, and according to Waxman, “everyone’s uncomfortable–except maybe the receptionist.”

Waxman however, is a savvy critic and a quick study, in spite of the built-in handicaps in her performance. Calder Kamin, local ceramic artist and gallery manager was eager to respond to our inquiry into participants’ thoughts after the performance. Kamin writes, “Lori’s review has left a wonderful impression on me. I make cut-up puppy parts and I felt like someone finally got it … I have had a lot of experience with the criticism of my work, but I have never had something written or so completely unbiased.”

We asked Lori about her own experience with criticism of her 60/wrd/min project and she said the attention she receives, like her interviews with NPR’s Studio 360 come mostly in the form of interested discussion rather than critical review. Waxman did get one review by a theater critic from a paper in Knoxville, Tennessee, who told her later that he couldn’t imagine how uncomfortable it must be to write with the contents of her desktop on display via flat screen monitor in the gallery waiting room. Imagine the anxiety imposed by the blinking cursor, flashing between the waiting room audience, which may or may not include the artist being reviewed, and Waxman at her desk with laptop, timer and service bell. Participants and members of the public alike can watch Waxman delete a word, look up a reference or correct a spelling mistake. The pressure for Waxman of having her writing process on display reverses the roles for any artist who’s ever invited the public, or a critic, to an open studio event. Typically, the artist is always the one on display, while the traditional role of the critic is to waltz in and judge what they see.

The Kansas City art community often longs for more critical discussion, and judging by the crowded review schedule for Waxman’s performances at the Charlotte Street Foundation’s UCP Project Space, artists in this area welcome the attention and respect that visiting critics and writers bring to the community. Kansas City-based artist David Ford, no stranger to both local and national reviews, sees Waxman’s performance as a work of art. Ford writes of his review experience, “No I will not use it in my bibliography as it was [part of] a performance by art critic Lori Waxman.” 60/wrd/min participant and Kansas City-based artist Teri Frame writes, “Hard-working and insightful writers of critical discourse need to be supported just as much as artists need to be.” We couldn’t agree more.

Grand Arts would like to thank Lori Waxman, Urban Culture Project and the following participants for their interviews for this post: Calder Kamin, David Ford, and Teri Frame.

Post by: SF and LW

Calder Camin

Calder Kamin, Puppies Tummies, 2010

Tom Cruise, David Ford

David Ford, Tom Cruise, 2008

Teri Frame, Chimera, 2009