We don’t know the names of the people whose hands and skill literally built the 1933 Nelson-Atkins building, but we know what some of them look like. This episode begins with a photograph from the museum’s archive and dreams about stories that haven’t been recorded. That gets us thinking about what it feels like to go to an art museum and see people who look like you, and one exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins that really broke some ground for Kansas Citians in telling stories about Black American life. If a museum is a house of stories, it’s always under construction—and maybe it can change the rules.
About the Guests
Angel Tucker has worked in Youth Services at Johnson County Library for 18 years and currently serves as the Youth Services Manager. She oversees programming and outreach for ages birth to 18, caregivers, and educators. She is the founder of elementia, Johnson County Library’s nationally recognized visual and literary arts magazine for young adults, and she currently coordinates Race Project KC, an equity initiative that aims to bring students and educators together to discuss the history of race, equity, and inclusion in the United States.
Muenfua Lewis is a passionate storyteller with a love for creativity and strategy, whether observing culture to create solutions that inspire or executing the creative ideas himself. Muenfua uses his passion to help lead the way with Kansas City’s own By Design and navigate his way into the advertising industry. Through every venture, Muenfua continues to bring real cultural insight and authenticity into everything he does.
Justin Ikerionwu is a Product Manager by day and co-founder/editor-in-chief of By Design Magazine in his spare time. Justin is passionate about seeing the communities he lives in develop and grow. A fan of storytelling, he loves seeing stories told through multiple mediums.
Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin is a fabric artist, fabric designer, curator, and author. She uses her artist’s platform to share the African American narrative. Her artwork is a celebratory testimony of courage, struggle, and strength that is intertwined through the life of African Americans. Sonié is a co-founder of the African American Artists Collective. She serves on the Kansas City Museum Foundation Board and Curatorial committee, and she served ten years as curator in residence for the American Jazz Museum. Her artwork can be found in galleries, museums, and public and private collections throughout the United States, Europe, and Africa.
Chiluba Musonda is the Deputy Director of Operations & Organizational Development at the Kansas City Museum. In 2015, Chiluba published a memoir titled Home Away from Home: The Story of an International Student’s Journey from Africa to America. The book offers a unique perspective on life in America as seen through the eyes of a Black immigrant. Outside of work, Chiluba is a proud dad of two little girls, and spends his free time offering community presentations on a range of topics that include culture shock, the hidden costs of immigration, and the role of foreign aid in the developing world.
Emanuel Cleaver II, Representative of Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District
Tara Laver, Senior Archivist, the Nelson-Atkins
Erik Stafford, sole proprietor of the Kansas City Tour Company
Linda Battle, Division Coordinator, Learning and Engagement, the Nelson-Atkins
Alvin Brooks, advocate for civil rights, violence prevention, and criminal justice
Wanda Battle, educator, former docent at the Nelson-Atkins
Andy Goldsworthy, artist
Julián Zugazagoitia, CEO & Director, the Nelson-Atkins
About the Host
Glenn A. North is an award-winning poet, activist, educator, and arts executive based in Kansas City. He is currently the Director of Inclusive Learning & Creative Impact at the Kansas City Museum. He has previously served at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center, American Jazz Museum, and The Black Archives of Mid-America. Having earned an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Glenn also conducts Ekphrastic poetry workshops, as well as using poetry to address issues of social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and self-empowerment.
The Art in the Episode
Builders of the William Rockhill Nelson Art Gallery, February 3, 1931.” The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Archives.
These men built the Nelson-Atkins building. This photograph is one of the frustratingly few records we have to access their lives and their work together. At least some of them, we think, belonged to the Laborers Local #264 and #1290, and possibly Local #555 of the Mason Plaster Tenders Union. If you recognize a face, let us know.
Andy Goldsworthy, English (born 1956). Walking Wall, 2019. Purchase: acquired through the generosity of the Hall Family Foundation in honor of Estelle and Morton Sosland, 2019.47.1.1,2. © 2019 Andy Goldsworthy
In March 2019, Walking Wall began a nine-month journey from the east side of the Nelson-Atkins campus to the threshold of the Bloch Building. An international team of dry stone wallers and assistants, led by Andy Goldsworthy, built the wall in five stages. In each stage, the wallers painstakingly dismantled the stonework from the rear of the structure and added it to the front, edging the wall forward. Visitors watched as the team broke down and moved the formidable wall, collaborating through all seasons and environmental conditions. In December, Walking Wall finished its journey, reforming the landscape of the museum, crossing the border between inside and out, and ultimately challenging the nature of walls themselves. Follow the journey here.
Ready for Art: The 1933 Opening of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: Explore archival documents from the founding and opening of the museum.
Black Archives of Mid-America, Inc.: An institution that serves to collect, preserve, and provide access to documents of people of African American descent in the central United States, with particular emphasis in the Kansas City, Missouri, region.
30 Americans at the Nelson-Atkins: Drawn from the acclaimed Rubell Family Collection, 30 Americans presented American experiences as told from the distinct perspectives of 30 African American artists
A Frame of Mind is the podcast of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. This episode was produced and co-written by Glenn North and Christine Murray. Editing and sound design by Brandi Howell. Interview recording by Tim Harte. Studio engineering by Simpson Sound Lab. Fact checking by Kate Carpenter. Theme music by The Black Creatures. Additional music by Eclipse. Cover art by Two Tone Press.
Thanks to advisory group members Jimmy Beason II, José Faus, Allan Gray, Ron Jones, and Nia Richardson.
Produced in partnership with Jocelyn Edens and Kim Masteller, and with support from Anne Manning, Rachel Nicholson, Brent Bellew and the Nelson-Atkins Teen Council.
Produced with generous support from Bank of America, N.A., Trustee of the John W. and Effie E. Speas Memorial Trust.