By Kevin Collison
A Plaza-area building tagged with graffiti during the George Floyd protests in late May is being transformed from what was a lingering eyesore to a five-story canvas for street art celebrating unity.
“I wanted to take those messages left in anger, which I understand, and put it in a positive light,” said Vince Sanders, CEO of CBD American Shaman.
“Our messages are what are the solutions to our problems such as global warming and social injustice?
“The key is arts in general strike people emotively. If we can emotively spark something, it might inspire people to action.”
Sanders reached out to David Block of Block & Co., the owner of the Plaza Parkway Medical Building at the corner of 46th Terrace and Mill Creek Parkway, to come up with what he believes will be the biggest street murals in the city.
The building is across the street from Mill Creek Park, the site of multiple protests early last summer following Floyd’s death while being arrested by Minneapolis police on May 25th.
Block was immediately enthusiastic about the idea, said James Lampone, strategic project specialist at the firm.
“He’s also has the mural bug and the collaboration came together perfectly,” Lampone said. “The point of the whole thing is to bring symbolic imagery and a unity message.”
Spray KC, a nonprofit arts group, was asked to find the artists and execute the project. American Shaman is underwriting the cost estimated at more than $50,000.
Artists from Mexico, Russia and Denver were commissioned by Spray KC along with local muralists Scribe and JP Daniels.
Sanders is a big enthusiast of street art and sponsored the SpraySeeMo event last year which created 51 murals, mostly in the Crossroads Arts District. While he enjoyed what was created then, he wanted to encourage more socially relevant art.
“This year, I wanted to do some more messages with meaning, there are so many issues these days,” he said. “I came to David Block and he said I have the perfect building.
“We started talking about the messages we wanted to do and he got the concept quickly.”
Even before it was vandalized during the protests, the Plaza Medical Building had been a semi-derelict structure, its former upper floor offices vacant and garage underused. Proposals to redevelop the property in recent years have fallen through.
Sanders said the organizers had to get the support of the Plaza Association and the mayor’s office to move forward with their plan.
“There were so many potential pitfalls and I thought somebody would say no, but within a few weeks, it was approved,” he said.
In addition to the murals, plans call for QR codes to be placed on the building. When accessed by smartphones, users will learn more about the murals and the artists who created them.
An unveiling of the work is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 22. Sanders said he’d like to have Quixotic, the performance artists, to be part of the festivities.
“These are the biggest murals in the city,” he said. “I believe they’ll be the most photographed walls in Kansas City hands down.”
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