True colors: Kansas City murals build community engagement


Katie Frankenbach

– VOL. 3

Neighbors heading west on Westport Road in Kansas City are sure to be surprised by the sight of a brand new mural illuminating the intersection with Wyandotte Street.

The always bustling intersection in Midtown has been facelifted with six murals, new crosswalks, stop signs, trees, and a slower, more appreciative pace. With the art encouraging locals to slow down and enjoy the walk, these two busy roads are now beautified with a set of murals at each of the intersection’s four corners, which work together as traffic calming measures to square off and protect the space.

The project brought the community together to improve the space, along with five local artists responsible for the creation of the murals: Parker Story, Tehya Riley, Alex Eickhoff, Taylar Sanders, and Stephanie Bloss Foley. It is now a safer, more beautiful place that neighbors shaped together. 

“We’ve gotten so much feedback about people feeling so much safer in that space,” says Leigh Blumenthal, Community Engagement Manager at Midtown KC Now.

Image of Kansas City MO Murals

Pictured here is one of the project’s selected muralists, Taylar Sanders (@taylars.take). Image credit: Leigh Blumenthal, Midtown KC Now.

Selected by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Asphalt Art Initiative, Kansas City is one of several cities nationwide to receive grants for “helping cities use art and community engagement to improve street safety and revitalize public space.” The project highlights the neighborhood’s collaborative approach, with local artists and community leaders unifying in order to give the community a boost through art. 

“I will never forget the conversations I had with the community while working on this,” said Taylar Sanders, one of the project’s selected muralists. Each of the five contributing artists worked in a shared palette of red, yellow, blue and green to convey their unique perspective on the chosen theme: unity and community in Midtown. In the very middle of all the asphalt, neighbors gathered together to paint a giant red heart that reads, “LUV MIDTOWN KC.”

Image of Kansas City MO murals

Sanders and other local artists used a shared palette of reds, yellows, blues and greens to convey their perspective on community in Midtown. Image credit: Leigh Blumenthal, Midtown KC Now

“I have never experienced loyalty more than I have in KC,” says Marissa Starke, Executive Director of the Kansas City Artist Coalition. “I think for a long time, Kansas City kind of ran under the radar. We were like the hidden gem of the arts world.” 

The success of local artists has changed that.  

New residents and visitors are “blown away by the fact that the arts community here is so interconnected—and so willing to share and support one another in each other’s endeavors. I think that’s what sets KC apart…the artists in this city want to see each other succeed, and so they are going to do everything in their power to make sure that happens.”

The project brought the community together to improve the space…It is now a safer, more beautiful place that neighbors shaped together.

Collaborative projects give form to that spirit of sharing, and collaborations between neighborhood organizations, neighbors, and artists are the realization of those efforts, which will beautify the city for many generations to come. 

A newly installed storefront mural is gracing the window at 3931 Main, Midtown KC Now’s headquarters. New murals will rotate through the front window every six months for the next two years. Local businesses or organizations who want to sponsor an artist to create a mural for their storefront can contact Leigh Blumenthal at Midtown KC Now.

The works realized by local artists with the help from the Asphalt Art Initiative are bringing a dose of color and energy to Midtown, but as their creativity shines in our neighborhood, so does the collaboration between community members, business leaders and neighbors. That shared palette of red, yellow, blue and green? It’s truly shining in Midtown.