“Contemporary Art and the Missouri Bicentennial” exhibition to open at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

“Contemporary Art and the Missouri Bicentennial” exhibition to open at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Shaped by an advisory group of 13 civic partners, the exhibition highlights the ways in which contemporary art can help us navigate and understand our shared history.

On the occasion of Missouri’s Bicentennial, Kemper Museum has engaged an advisory group of 13 civic partners comprising curators, educators, artists, and cultural leaders to identify themes and through lines related to the state’s history and select works of art from the museum’s Permanent Collection that can illuminate these ideas. The exhibition will open on September 16, 2021 and remain on view through February 20, 2022.

This exhibition speaks broadly to the issues that have affected and continue to affect our state as we enter Missouri’s next century. The works on view will contribute to discussions around honoring ancestral histories; exploring and reflecting on relationships between Indigenous Peoples and cultures of the Missouri landscape; human’s impact on the Missouri River; the surreal descriptors of nature veiling issues of inequality; the people and experiences less widely known, recognized, and understood in the Midwest region; and the global connections created and sustained by jazz music and its deep roots in Kansas City.

“It is refreshing and relevant to have new and longtime civic and cultural partners look closely at the Museum’s Permanent Collection.” said Director of Curatorial Affairs Erin Dziedzic. “The poignant themes that emerged from their conversations and research speak to topical issues while also celebrating the lives of historically overlooked peoples of Missouri. Their tremendous efforts given to this project make an exciting presentation of Permanent Collection works.”

Themes put forth by Advisory Partners will be explored through more than 50 works including Frederick James Brown’s (American, 1945–2012) “They Had the Right to Sing the Blues” (1995), Wilbur Niewald’s (American, born 1925) “Current River II” (1965), Bisa Butler’s (American, born 1975) “A Man’s Worth” (2019), Alvin Eli Amason (Native American, Sugpiaq/Alutiq Alaskan, born 1948) “So Tall” (1990), Elizabeth Layton’s (American, 1909–1993) “I am Loved” (1977), and Romare Bearden’s (American, 1911–1988) “Family” (1971).

“Collectively, these works inspire us to bring new perspectives to our understanding of Missouri’s unique history as well as to consider the ways that the themes and issues at play in our state fit into a more global framework,” said Assistant Curator Jade Powers. “Contemporary artists often respond to the world around them, exploring both large societal issues and personal experiences through their work. As we bring our own histories to the gallery, we have the opportunity to interpret them within a new context.”

To celebrate this exhibition, Kemper Museum will be hosting an opening on Thursday, September 16 from 6–8 p.m. with entertainment by Chris Hazelton’s Trio. Timed tickets are required for this limited capacity event, and the museum’s COVID-19 safety precautions are listed on our website.

“Contemporary Art and the Missouri Bicentennial” is organized by Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and curated by Erin Dziedzic, director of curatorial affairs; Jade Powers, assistant curator; and the following Advisory Partners:


Dr. Dina Bennett | Director of Collections & Curatorial Affairs
American Jazz Museum

Gaylene Crouser | Executive Director
Kansas City Indian Center

Anne Ducey | Senior Graphic Designer & Exhibit Coordinator
Kansas City Public Library

Paul Gutierrez | Director of Visitor Experience & Public Programming
Kansas City Museum

Kimi Kitada | Jedel Family Foundation Curatorial Fellow
Charlotte Street Foundation

Kathy Liao | Artist, Artist INC Program Specialist
Mid-America Arts Alliance

Toya Like | Associate Professor and Interim Chair of Race, Ethnic and Gender Studies
University of Missouri–Kansas City

Eleanor Lim-Midyett, Ph.D. | Assistant Professor
Kansas City Art Institute

Lee Wong Medina | Second Secretary Associated Consul
Consulate of Mexico in Kansas City

Glenn North | Executive Director
Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center

Joey Orr | Andrew W. Mellon Curator for Research
Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas

Daniel Wildcat | Indigenous and American Indian Studies Faculty
Haskell Indian Nations University

Dr. Carmaletta Williams | Chief Executive Officer
Black Archives of Mid-America



Located in Kansas City, MO, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art exhibits, collects, and educates in a free and welcoming environment for all. The museum’s growing Permanent Collection aims to reflect the vitality, complexity, and unfolding patterns within modern and contemporary art and culture. Special exhibitions, installations, lectures, and workshops, as well as youth, teen, and intergenerational programs provide resources for communities to engage with the issues of our time, derive inspiration, discover outlets for self-expression and dialogue, learn directly from living artists, and bring deeper meaning to their lives. Admission, programs, and parking are always free. kemperart.org | @kempermuseum


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lforster@kemperart.org | 816-457-6132 (direct)