Art can be found everywhere in the City of Fountains—including some of the most unexpected places. It lingers on the walls of concrete buildings, adorns streetcar shelters and masquerades as parking garages. You can even find it waiting inside your coffee cup. Find out what's inspiring Kansas Citians and visitors alike—and don't forget your camera!

Here are some of the best public art displays in KC:

Wondrous Walls

Power & Light District Mural

Spanning at nearly 18,000 square feet, visitors behold the Power & Light District Mural (pictured above) for its larger-than-life representations of jazz legends, stirring portraits of KC history and other iconic landmarks. Designed by muralist Alexander Austin, the piece came from a brief moment of inspiration as Austin and a friend passed by two blank walls while cruising the district on their bikes. The mural was commissioned and completed seven months later.

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On the other side of downtown, you can take a trip back in time and head over to one of Kansas City’s oldest neighborhoods, the River Market, for its painted depiction of Lewis and Clark and their famous 1804 expedition up the Missouri River. A living testament to the region’s rich and spirited history, this colorful piece covers the entire west wall of River Market Antiques and stretches up to the sky.

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Meanwhile, over at the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District, the Buck O’Neil Mural (also by Austin) pays homage to the players who paved the way for so many of today’s athletes. Created in 2010, the mural near the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum memorializes O’Neil and the Kansas City Monarchs, who were not only champions of the integration of baseball, but also leaders toward the path of racial equality. 

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Stunning sculptures

Looking for more of Kansas City’s eye-catching views? Stop by the grounds of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to check out the world’s largest Shuttlecocks—a whimsical collection of four nearly-18-foot-tall badminton birdies that have become iconic symbols of KC's vibrant arts community.

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Then, show off your studious side at the Kansas City Public Library’s Community Bookshelf. Designed by Dimensional Innovations, the bookshelf is actually a parking garage that showcases 22 works of fiction and nonfiction, reflecting a wide variety of reading interests as suggested by locals. Among these titles are the works of Harper Lee, Mark Twain, J. R. R. Tolkien and more. 

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Don’t forget to stop by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art to view its famed Spider. Artist Louise Bourgeois created this piece as a feminine hero figure to honor her mother, who was her best friend and, like a spider, was deliberate, soothing and patient. Standing at over 11 feet tall and made of smooth bronze, the spider sits on the museum’s lawn and is positioned to suggest that she is walking toward the building’s entrance to attend to her baby spider, which is attached to the museum’s façade. 

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After that, head over to the West Bottoms to catch a glimpse of Bull Wall and the hillside known as Bull Mountain. Created by sculptor Robert Morris, both are tributes to the City’s agricultural heritage and to the American Royal Livestock Horse Show and Rodeo. Two 120-foot-long steel walls with cutouts of running bulls adorn the grounds of the American Royal Complex. Nearby, nine steel bulls graze on the hillside at the intersection of Gennessee Street and Interstate 670.

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Finally, no trip to Kansas City is complete without a visit to The Scout. This remarkable sculpture of a Native American on horseback overlooks downtown Kansas City from Penn Valley Park. Share the view for a perfect place to watch the sunset. 

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Get in the loop

Discover masterpieces from local artists by simply stepping off the KC Streetcar. New this year, the Art in the Loop project works to engage artists in the revitalization of Downtown Kansas City with initiatives such as "Art on the Line"—a curated outdoor exhibition of temporary artworks at designated streetcar stops.

One piece is Intersections, created by Rickey Moss. Reminiscent of patterns found in tapestries, Intersections investigates the juxtaposition between Rickey’s colorful geometric drawings and the cool, rigid palette of the cityscape. His piece can be found at the Kauffman Center stop at 16th & Main.

Rachelle Garden-Roe’s piece, I See You, displays two figurative portraits that consist of layers of radiating and overlapping text. The work reminds viewers of the rich source of the minds in those that surround us. Meaningful connection can happen anywhere—even at a public transit stop. Find hers at the Power & Light stop just north of 14th and Main.

Caffeination Creations

 

White, foamy rosettas, tulips and hearts are just a few of the designs being served up in cups by area baristas. While many coffee connoisseurs might agree that making a good cup of joe is an art itself, latte art adds an aesthetic dimension to the presentation of a coffee drink by pouring steamed milk onto espresso in order to create a design.

Baristas in KC make it look simple, but it’s no easy feat. Kansas City even boasts the 2014 National Latte Art Champ, Simeon Bricker of The Roasterie. Good latte art starts with good milk—and it takes a lot of practice for baristas to pour milk that has just the right texture and amount of foam. Once that’s consistent, they can begin to learn how to “draw” shapes into the drink.

Where are the best places to turn your morning coffee into a masterpiece? Check out PT’s at the Crossroads, Parisi Café at Union Station and Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters.

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