When the pandemic hit last year, the ever-ingenious folks at ArtsKC partnered with KC Crew to bring a new program (formerly known as Friday Night Arts) to the community when virtual events were first taking off in the spring of 2020.
Now the re-tooled Thursday Night Arts is back in the house—specifically your house—with their virtual programming. “This program provides the community a chance to still connect with artists even though in-person artist talks and gallery openings are not a safe option right now. The desire to still be connected with our community members is what sparked the initial concept,” says Leslie Escareno, the communications and programming associate for the organization. “ArtsKC’s mission is to support, promote, and advocate for the arts and artists, and when we saw how the pandemic affected this community, we saw the need and the responsibility to create this initiative.”
We touched base with Escareno to find out all the details of this audience-worthy endeavor.
Tell me more!
Thursday Night Arts is really a great chance to get to know the creatives in the region. We feature a variety of disciplines, backgrounds, and personalities on our showcases. There is something for everyone, and we encourage our community to follow along on social media as we release teasers and information about each artist. All the showcases are free to the public.
Are locals starved for any sort of performance art? I’m guessing yes.
Yes, the industry has been devastated by our inability to gather in person, and audiences are itching to regain something close to a normal life. We can’t go out in large groups yet, but we can now get a glimpse into the everyday life of artists and their work more than we have before. And by supporting them now, we are securing their ability to hit the ground running when we can get back to venues. With in-person events such as First Fridays, gallery openings, festivals, etc. all being on hold at the moment, artists are appreciative of open chances to share their craft.
What has response been?
From artists—the response has been great. We have learned about their struggles, their creations, and their overall life throughout the pandemic. It has been clear time and time again that the creatives in our region are resilient. Our community has also responded positively to the program. Everyone enjoys hearing from the artists as they share from their studio space and answer questions.
Will it continue after March?
We will be taking a break on February 18th and 25th but will resume to bring showcases every Thursday night after that until the end of March. And, yes, there is definitely a chance it might continue after March.
When we decided to bring it back for a second leg, we wanted to make sure we had the funding to pay our participating artists for their time and be able to reach everyone. There are a lot of factors that go into the planning of virtual events, including making sure we have funding. Financial sponsors—including Evergy and Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation—are a big part of making sure programs like Thursday Night Arts are easily accessible to the public. If it does not continue past March, there will likely be another initiative or program developed to continue fostering the connection to the arts.
What’s on tap for this Thursday?
Ryan Wilks—”Ryan Wilks is an artist based in Kansas City. They work primarily in watercolors and oils to express the wide realities of queer experiences. Their show Heaven and Hell took a deep dive into historical religious persecution of queer people that still exist in our governing bodies, as well as our societal views towards queer people in a modern context.”
Lee Langston— “Langston is a multi-genre artist, entertainer, and producer. He gained fame locally with his self-produced Tribute shows honoring his favorite artists. He has also toured with various ensembles, while performing internationally.”
Vania Soto—“This Hispanic artist from Kansas City, Kansas, has been selling paintings since she was 13 years old. She describes her artwork as realistic, with pops of color that she attributes to her culture. She specializes in portraits and realism drawings, paintings, and also murals.”
Vincent Orsolini-Orsolini is a pianist and composer currently residing in Kansas City who works with a variety of local and international artists in composition, audio production, and sound design. He also writes music for film and television and is currently building a soundbank with all his latest soundtracks and jingles. And he works closely with the community, teaching new students participating in jazz projects at 18th and vine district.
To register, sign up here!
Interview gently edited for content and clarity.