America in Art Form

Painter and sculptor Eric Fischl came of age in the Long Island suburbs during the 1950s and ’60s. He went on to make art depicting the gloomy, prophetic state of everyday American life. It has served him well — his work has been seen from Los Angeles to Paris, and he has collaborated with such heavy hitters as Allen Ginsberg and Jerry Saltz. Today, he is the founder, president and lead curator of America: Now and Here, a multidisciplinary exhibition that combines the work of 150 of our country’s most influential visual artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers. It’s traveling coast-to-coast this year on six 18-wheelers. The first stop? Kansas City. The goal? To inspire dialogue, invoke exploration and innovation; and share the experience of art in all its forms.

Tonight’s launch party begins at 7 p.m. outside Leedy-Voulkos Art Center (2012 Baltimore, 816-474-1919) with a performance by composer and multimedia artist DJ Spooky. The opening reception is at Cocoon Gallery (115 West 18th Street, 816-421-2292) and features works from America: Now and Here’s inaugural Artists Corps, made up of 15 locals exploring the themes of America and the American experience.

The exhibitions and shows making up America: Now and Here will run through May. Following are some highlighted activities that are free and open to the public, all taking place at Leedy-Voulkos.

Hip-Hop in America: KC’s own Hip Hop Academy leads an interactive workshop for aspiring rappers and songsmiths that focuses on the culture, rhyming, emceeing, and artistic facets of the movement (1 p.m. Sunday, May 15).

Free Verse — A Celebration of American Poetry and Jazz: Presented by Jose Faus of the Latino Writers Collective and Glenn North of the American Jazz Museum, with the Writers Place, this event celebrates spoken-word poetry and our city’s jazz legacy (7 p.m. Thursday, May 19).

Community Yoga — Now and Here: Yogis of all levels can participate in this series of yoga and meditation sessions hosted by Boulevard Yoga, Maya Yoga and Kansas Siddhi Yoga (11 a.m. Sunday, May 8).

Brown Bag Lunch – Fashion and the Female Form: Peggy Noland, Peregrine Honig and Erin Dahl host a moderated discussion on the influences of fashion on identity and the female form in America (12 p.m. Thursday, May 26).

May 6-29, 2011