By Kevin Collison
(Update: The Haw Contemporary opened March 30 and this week will be its first First Friday in the Crossroads Arts District. The opening exhibit is “Drawing Paintings, Painting Drawings” by artist Eric Sall. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
The Crossroads building recently vacated by the Kemper gallery is being purchased by Kansas City civic leader Bill Lyons, who plans to lease part to an expanded Haw Contemporary.
Bill Haw Jr. plans to lease about 2,500 square feet on the east side of the building at 19th and Baltimore to allow him to grow beyond his current operation in the West Bottoms, Lyons said.
“Bill is very excited about it,” Lyons said. “He does a fabulous job with his art gallery and this will bring more energy to the Crossroads.”
It’s also a deja vu moment for the building vacated at the end of 2017 by the Kemper at the Crossroads.
The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art purchased the building to be a satellite gallery 10 years ago from John O’Brien, who operated The Dolphin gallery there for many years.
O’Brien in turn, relocated his gallery to the West Bottoms space now occupied by the Haw Contemporary. Then Haw bought the gallery property from O’Brien.
“It’s a direct line from John O’Brien, to the Dolphin to the Haw Contemporary,” Lyons said, “a full circle.”
Haw said he already had been considering expanding when Lyons reached out to him.
“He brought up the fact he was buying the building and looking for a great fit,” Haw said. “I walked through it and it seemed like a great fit. Working with Bill is so easy.
“The other tie-in is, O’Brien used to own the building. Going back there will be significant for a lot of artists we work with because they had worked with O’Brien. It’s a full circle for a lot of people.”
Since the space had been used by the Kemper for displaying art, it won’t require extensive remodeling. Haw hopes to be in operation there by early March.
He also envisions it as a companion, not a departure, to his West Bottoms gallery which will continue operating.
“It’s not going to function as something completely different from what we do here,” Haw said. “It will be more open to a broader variety of events and collaborations with other art entities.
“The best thing to do is not come up with a hard, fast set of rules, but make it a place to celebrate creativity in a lot of forms.”
This is the first real estate venture in the Crossroads Arts District by Lyons, the former CEO and president of American Century Investments and current board chairman of the Kansas City Symphony.
He paid $2.4 million for the property and expects to complete the transaction by the end of this month. He also is working on plans to lease the remaining space on the west side and upper level of the two-story building.
“It’s a fun project and I think the building is at a key intersection in the Crossroads,” he said.
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