Friday, September 21, 2012

Plaza Art Fair Tradition

This coming weekend is the annual Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City, MO.  I have attended this art fair with my daughter, Allie, off and on since 2005, and with my "Auntie Sherri" every year since 2006.  It has become a sort of, "girls' day out" tradition among us, and something to which I look so forward every year as autumn approaches.  Now that my cousin, Heather, has moved back to Kansas City from Florida, she and her young daughter go with us now, as well.  My mom has even started coming some years, though she lives at the Lake of the Ozarks.  So it has become a fun, family affair.

My "Auntie Sherri," as I call her, was an Art major in college.  She is a painter, an avid lover of photography like myself, and has quite a creative eye for good art.  She and I have spent a lot of time exploring art galleries together over the years, and especially enjoy keeping up with the exhibits at the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum in Kansas City.  Since we both love the same genres of art (Impressionism and photography, namely), we roll pretty well together on art excursions.  She has taught me so many fundamental things about art, but mostly I've come to greatly appreciate the fact that art is really a creative expression of someone's heart--it is a little window to their soul.  In fact, I love strolling along the booths of each artist at the art fair and not only soaking up their individual creativity, but also chuckling to myself at how often the artist matches his or her particular craft.  The wood-workers usually look like wood-workers--they appear as strong and earthy as the trees from which their masterpieces derived.  The jewelry-makers are typically sharp-eyed, fashionably adorned, and even their hair-dos seem to be works of art.  The glass artists seem meticulous and subdued--their booths are clean, simple, and geometrically friendly--just like their art.  The painters are soulful--they look at you and smile with great heart and spirit.  They are fearless in speaking with you and discussing their work because with every brush stroke, they've painted their heart and soul onto their canvases, so giving you a little more of themselves comes quite easily to them.  The hat makers and clothing designers have a theatrical presence about them.  Flauntingly wearing their creations themselves, they exhibit not only great style and presence, but they have the same prideful dignity and cheerful exuberance mirrored in their designs.  Not that I'm attempting to stereotype--these characteristics don't hold true for every artist.  But I like to think my observations are somewhat accurate.

So what booths do I get into the most trouble (financially speaking)?  The jewelry booths!  I am a bit of a jewelry fiend.  I'm not a big spender, but I typically walk away from every art fair with some piece of personal embellishment.  Last year, I splurged (big time) on a stunning ring to wear at my daughter's wedding that would be just two months later.  That was pretty special since Allie was able to be there and help me pick it out.  I justify my indulgence for jewelry by the fact that I don't own a home big enough to hold a lot of beautiful art--and I LOVE art.  So I embellish myself to add a little creative expression to my life.  (My husband would say I have enough "creative expression" for four or five people)!

Two other things I adore about this Art Fair are all the friendly dogs and adorable children that people bring out to this festival for fun and flaunting--much like the art!  Every year I see children dressed in their best fall casual wear--adorned with things like cute hats, Tom's Shoes, and their new colorful, autumn sweaters.  I see beloved pooches wearing everything from modest, stylish scarves to hilarious full-blown attire.  There is usually a crisp beauty in the air, and as I breeze along sipping on a pumpkin-spice latte from "Starbies," I realize that though fall is not my favorite season, it brings its own myriad of blessings like every other time of year.  And I once again find myself praising God for the simple blessings in life--like art, delicious beverages, and a good family.  What else could anyone really need?!

Another great thing about the Art Fair is the free live music. This year there are several of my favorite Kansas City bands performing.  I am hopeful to attend at least a few of these shows, (if not all)!  The band, "Beautiful Bodies," performs tonight at 8PM on the Ink Live Stage.  We've heard them once prior, when they opened for another band that we saw perform at, "The Beaumont Club," in Westport.  The lead singer IS beautiful, and she has an incredibly powerful voice for a little gal of 105 pounds (dripping wet).  She's got as much entertainment zest and zeal as Mick Jagger and Joan Jett combined.  Though I am not a hard rock lover, her voice is truly amazing and she is just a total riot to watch perform.  If only I had half her energy and vocal power!

Another group performing is the, "John McKenna Band," which plays at 10AM on Saturday on the Ink Live Stage.  They are fabulous all-around.  We just heard them about a month ago at, "The Brick," in downtown Kansas City, and fell fast in love with them.  The songwriting and music is heart-tugging, and the lead singer's voice, which at times has traceful similarities to David Gray's, is smooth, easy, and graceful.  I could've listened to that all night.

Also on Saturday on the Ink Live Stage at 2PM, is a band called, "Blackbird Revue."  This husband/wife duo will knock your socks right off.  If you've had a rough week, their soulful harmonies will peel off any callous layers around your heart after about two songs.  Upon hearing them the first time at, "The Czar Bar" one night in Kansas City, I knew right away they were something special.  Again, the songwriting is superb, and the blend of their voices is such that you know they either have to be siblings, dating, or married, because they have it down so flawlessly.  It's like one voice.  You can tell they spend a lot of time together perfecting that quality.  It is a good hear.

One band, "Rattle and Hum," is a "U2" cover band in Kansas City that Matt and I have seen perform several times. They play Saturday night at 6:45PM on the Main Stage, always put on a great show, and the lead singer's voice is so close to Bono's, you'll think they could be brothers.   They are cool as ice.

I give my highest recommendations to the back-to-back shows on Saturday night on the Ink Stage starting at 7:45PM--the bands, "Making Movies," and "Quiet Corral" are performing at that time, and if you've read any of my posts or blogs, or looked at any of my photos, you know that I love these two bands.  I want a job as their promoter (okay, who am I kidding--I wanna be the backup singer)!  In fact, "Making Movies," is my favorite Kansas City band, and "Quiet Corral" is my favorite Lawrence band.  These bands are not only immensely talented on every level of their musicianship, but they are songwriting geniuses.  These two bands are doing so well that Matt and I know that our days of casual conversation with them and sitting up close with ease at their shows are going to become fewer and farther between.  Sad as that reality is for us, we are so happy for all these guys and pray for their continued success.  They are flat fabulous, and when you add to that the fact that they are nice, good guys, it is easy to become smitten rather quickly. 

There are also two other cover bands playing this weekend at the Art Fair that we've heard numerous times, as well.  They are not only very entertaining and whimsically charismatic, but they play all the good oldies from the 70's, 80's and 90's.  So if you're in the mood for dancing or light-hearted reminiscing, go see, "The Zeros," tonight at 8:30PM on the Main Stage, or the band, "Sellout," at 8:30PM on the Main Stage tomorrow night.  They are a hoot, and with their set list diversity, they typically play something for everyone.

Last, on Sunday on the Ink Stage, I would recommend the back-to-back shows starting at 1:30PM.  "Sara Swenson," and, "She's a Keeper," are the two bands performing, and we have see both of these bands several times in the past year or so, (and love them a great deal, as well).  Sara's songs have brought me to tears (namely, the song she wrote for her grandpa who passed away recently--she tells stories to set up her songs at times, and her genuine honesty is quite drawing and moving).  She opens for "Quiet Corral," very frequently, so it is like a major "2-fer" when we go see them.  Likewise,  "She's a Keeper" will woo you with their tight, Irish-folk harmonies and cheerful melodies.  It is just "feel good" music at its best.  We saw, "She's a Keeper," perform very recently at a Royals game Student Showcase Free Concert Night.  It was just a total blast--their music is simply fun and so uplifting.

Kansas City is rapidly becoming a city of great, diverse, original music.  Though it's been said by some naysayers that all you can hear or find in Kansas City is jazz music and cover music, I would strongly disagree--vehemently disagree.  (And what's wrong with jazz and cover music anyway)?!  But there are a number of great venues throughout the city where original, creative, soulful music is played by richly talented people.  You don't even have to look that hard for it.  And the Plaza Art Fair is a good start.

So I find myself giddy and excited about this weekend and spending time at the Plaza Art Fair.  Bonding with my girls and getting inspiration all at the same time--great combo package.  If you don't have any other major plans this weekend, get to this fair!  You won't regret it!