By Kim Mueller
Streetcar riders are discovering an extra surprise this summer: a Stranger on a Train riding a Party Car.
The soft sculpture monster created by local artist Megan Karson is one of seven art installations, two art performances and eight musical presentations on the streetcar line that started last week as part of the summer’s Art in the Loop Project: KC Plays.
Karson’s life-sized creature randomly rides the streetcar often during the lunch hour, greeting riders with its four green arms and red grinning mouth filled with marshmallow-like teeth.
Its fury body includes nine leviathan-like tubes festooned with teeth and eyes extending from its stomach.
“Kids loved him,” said Donna Mandelbaum, KC Streetcar Authority communications director.
“At first, they didn’t know what to do with him. But when they realized they could touch him, they hugged him. They took pictures with him.”
The Stranger was scheduled to ride the Party Car during its inaugural trip on First Friday.
Streetcar #802 transformed into The Party Car last Thursday after Charlotte Street Foundation Director Amy Kligman wrapped colorful pictures of party confetti, streamers and glitter onto the streetcar’s sides, front and back.
“Everywhere but the windows,” Mandelbaum said last week as workers finished sticking vinyl strips onto the streetcar.
“We would not do this for straight-up advertising. We are doing it for art. We love art.”
Art also can be discovered on streetcar #801 where Monica Dixon’s Celestial Heap hangs from the ceiling. The sensual collage of clothing depicts a floating atmosphere in the moving streetcar.
Riders can locate the Party Car or Celestial Heap simply by using the Street Tracker on an Internet browser or downloading the free app KCityPost by Smart City Media onto any android or Apple device.
Art installations also pop up at streetcar shelters. Daniel Chase’s Running Idle video animation shows 13 human silhouettes performing idle actions simulating people wait for or ride the streetcar.
The animation plays every 15 minutes at all streetcar Digital Kiosks located at shelters.
The Library South stop features KC Word Plays! by local artists Kriss Young Miller and Alicen Lunberg.
The giant word search includes local business names embossed on a large orange pegboard. The game is built low enough to be used by people in wheelchairs, Miller stressed.
“It’s ADA compliant, but I also love that it (the height) works really well for children,” Miller said as she placed rubber bands onto her creation.
“They play with it before the adults. The kids give adults permission rather than the adults giving kids permission.”
The Crossroads Southbound stop features Night People by Stephen Proski. The Kansas City Art Institute graduate wrapped the shelter in a vinyl comical image illustrating the daily encounters found on the streetcar line.
The River Market West shelter will be wearing a sweater next week, said Ann Holiday, Art in the Loop program director. Local artist Emily Evans Sloan will knit brightly colored yarn over the shelter.
Appropriately called Streetcar Shelter Sweater, this installation is a form of yarn bombing or urban graffiti. At the end of the summer, Sloan will donate blanket-sized pieces of her installation to downtown women’s shelters.
In addition to the art installations, musicians will perform on streetcars and at streetcar stops during the lunch and dinner hours from July 18- August 29.
The schedule of specific stop locations and times will be announced on KC Streetcar Authority and Art in the Loop websites.
Art in the Loop is celebrating its fifth year, although this is only the third year involving the streetcars.
“It just keeps getting better and better for us,” said Mandelbaum.
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