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Aiken, Tyrone / Armstrong, Damron R. / Beasley, Leroy J. / Beasley, Michelle

Bennett, Dina M. / Blanche, Renée / Bobo-Ligon, StasiBonds, NedRa / Brack, Wolfe / Carter, Janine

Brantley, MichaelBrown, Larry Poncho / Brown, Taylor Curls, Simone / Daniels, JT / Daniels, William

Davis, Ramona / Davis, TheoDixon, TiffanyDorsey, Najee / Dunn, Gerald D. / Dyson, Carol R. / Easterwood, Anita

Edwards, Shawn / Freeman Jr., Everett / French, Diallo Javonne / Gates, Darcus / Gates, ToniGayden, Xavier / Hale, Robert

Harris, Serafina / Hemingway, JulietteHigh, Anthony / Hughes, Shawn / Johnson, Cathy Ann Jones, Charles (Swavy) / Jones, Kaitlyn

Jones, Kim / Kendrick, Wendy / Kennedy, KeithKnighten, Clarissa / LeDoux, LeonardMcKinney, Kreshaun

Mehari, Hermon / Milsap, TracyMirador, Sherry / Monroe, Arie / Moore, Jessica C. / Murphy, Rhonda / Nelson, ArnoldNelson Sr, Carlos

Newton Jr., Joseph / Newton, Joseph / Newton, Kim A. / North, Glenn / Maria North-Morgan Patton, Michael 

Piggie, Jason / Ramos, TonyRevelle, Sandra / Rice, ChristaRichardson, Nia / Shaw, Carole Lyles / Silwance, MarySmith, Dwight / Smith, Sarah Stevens, David B. / Sublett, VeronicaTatu, Ja / Thedford, Bili R. / Thompson- Ruffin, Sonie J. / Toombs, Michael / Wharry, Remy / Wilcox, Jason / Windsor, Duke / Wood, John


Cleaver II, Congressman Emanuel / Bibbs, Charles / Dwight, Ed

Mitchell, Dean / Sanchez, SoniaWatson, Maurice A.Woods, Ph.D., Jacqueline / Zugazagoitia, Julián

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Chief Artistic Officer for Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey. He is a choreographer, teacher, dancer, and arts administrator. He graduated from Ailey School’s Certificate Program in 1983.


Tyrone began his professional dance career with the Cleo Parker Dance Ensemble in 1983. Tyrone’s choreographic credits include “Summerland” commissioned by Dance Theater of Harlem’s Virginia Johnson. In Kansas City, Tyrone has choreographed for The Lyric Opera, The Coterie Theater, The KC Symphony, Wylliams/Henry Dance Theatre, KC Ballet, the KC Rep, and the Nelson Atkins Museum. Tyrone created Ailey Camp Group in 1995, Setting the Stage in 1997, and a second Ailey Camp serving Kansas in 2000. He successfully launched KCFAA’s move to the Jazz District in 2007 and lead KCFAA through a strategic plan with Michael Kaiser creating a new Symposium series.


Tyrone received a Pinnacle Award for Arts excellence from the Johnson County Library, Neighborhood Hero Award from Bank of America, the Robert A. and Dr. Phyllis Bernstein Humanitarian Award from the Jewish Family and Children Services, and traveled to the White House to accept the Coming Up Taller award presented to KCFAA for Ailey Camp. Tyrone is a member of the African American Artist Collective of Kansas City Missouri, Kansas City Municipal Arts Commissioner, and a Hollins University Master of Fine Arts in dance candidate

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Damron Russel Armstrong

Actor | Theatre Director

Damron is a director/actor who spent his formative in Kansas City. He has worked on most of the stages Kansas City has to offer. He’s been a familiar fixture at Unicorn Theatre, The Coterie Theatre, Theatre for Young America, The American Heartland Theatre, The Living Room Theatre, Chestnut Fine Arts Center, New Theatre Restaurant, and Kansas City Actors Theatre. After graduating from Ruskin High School, Damron sought to further his education in New York, where he received the best education of life.

The practical application of that knowledge is working on the professional stage. He has performed nationally in A Raisin in the Sun (Arizona Theatre Co.); The Full Monty (Show Palace, FL); Children of Eden (Papermill Playhouse NJ); and Dreamgirls (The Palace, NH) – just to name a few. As a director, his credits also range from local to international, including Three Guy Naked from the Waist Down…A Comedy (TANSTAAFL, KC); Assassins (The Barn, KS); and Red Hot and Jazz (Piza Festival, Guatemala).


Embarking on this new adventure in his career as Executive Artistic Director of The Black Repertory Theatre is met with joy and excitement. The idea of giving back to his community is the reason for this journey. “I hope you will join us on this adventure!”

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J. Leroy Beasley

Folk Artist | Sculptor

Leroy Beasley was born in College Station, Arkansas in 1958. He is a strong-minded tradesman who, over the years, has discovered and nurtured a passion for the arts. He is a self-taught sculptor who has added freelance photography and painting to his repertoire of naturally developed talents.

Sculpting has always come naturally to him. The most interesting part of his sculpting is that he uses no molds or pre-fired casting- all of the work he creates is passionately formed by his own hands, freeform. His photography, just as in his sculpting, is masterful at capturing strong, subtle, and insightful details missed in the confusion of daily life. His approach is defined and strong but also yields a gentleness that is filled with raw emotion. He is sensible while capturing tenderness and reality. 


Photography has become a passion above both his sculpting and painting. He is now an award-winning photographer and continues to be inspired by it. Photography has opened up a new frontier that he feels is not only a fantastic passion but has infinitely enhanced his artistic spirit. Through it, both his Sculpting and Painting are brought to a whole new level.

LeRoy went to several countries in South Africa in December of 2008 and again in 2012. He had his camera in hand and photographed over a thousand pictures of the children of Africa in a months’ time. He continues to hone his artistic abilities in whichever medium he chooses. His work is inspired by family members and his surroundings. He happily shares his love of art with wife and fellow artist Michelle.

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Michelle Beasley

Painter | Educator


 It is real simple for me- I love art. I knew I loved to create from an early age. As an artist, I am free to express myself in any medium I want, about anything I want.

I don’t have a philosophical view about why art is so important. All I can say is that it's freedom.


Although I have had some formal training, I have always felt that being creative is all about your own personal expression. To be able to take a thought, vision, or idea from your mind and make it appear on canvas or through a photograph is magic to me. I have created something amazing to share. It is humbling to have such a gift. The peace and relaxation I have when I’m up until the wee hours of the night painting is priceless.


It is real simple for me, I love art..

M Beasley
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Dr. Dina M. Bennett 

Curator | Educator

Dr. Dina M. Bennett, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the American Jazz Museum and previous Curatorial Director at the National Museum of African American Music, and an ethnomusicologist who specializes in African American music and culture. Dr. Bennett has previously served as the Associate Director of the Mulvane Art Museum at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas; Director of Education at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi; and as the Manager of Collections and Exhibitions at the American Jazz Museum (AJM) in Kansas City, Missouri. During her AJM tenure, she oversaw the museum’s temporary and permanent collection exhibitions, and also served as the co-curator and consulting ethnomusicologist for the museum’s John H. Baker Jazz Film Collection Exhibition (2009), the first addition to the jazz museum’s permanent exhibition since its opening in September 1997.


Originally from Topeka, Kansas, Dr. Bennett earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies from Washburn University, a master’s degree in College Student Personnel from Kansas State University, and a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology with a minor in African American & African Diaspora Studies from Indiana University. Dr. Bennett has over 30 years’ experience in the music field and is an accomplished pianist. She currently serves on the advisory team of scholars for “A History of African American Music,” an interactive timeline produced as a resource for Carnegie Hall’s 2009 festival “Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy"

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Renée Blanche

DJ | Host

Renée Blanche is a native of Detroit, Michigan. She stumbled into radio after ending her military career in El Paso, Texas. She has one of the most soothing powerful voices in radio today. Over the course of 25 years, the KCUR music program Night Tides has offered “an eclectic blend of contemplative instrumental and electronic music” on the airwaves every Sunday from 8 p.m. - midnight. Right along with those soothing melodies has been the distinctive voice of its host, Renée Blanche.

R Blanche
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Stasi Bobo-Ligon



Stasi Bobo-Ligon is a contemporary American artist born and raised in Kansas City, KS.  After graduating from the University of Missouri in Kansas City with a B.A. in Business Administration Stasi married and moved to Chicago, IL.  She has spent the last 30 years working in Corporate America, married and raising a family. Responding to a deep-seated need to engage in art-making, Bobo-Ligon began studying at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The Art House Studio Gallery under the instruction and guidance of Contemporary American Painter, Rebecca George.  Soon after, Stasi earned a coveted position in The Art House’s Artist-in-Residence Program, where her art practice thrived and evolved. Stasi has been in multiple exhibitions, including online exclusive shows on, and a number of publications; and is represented by The Art House Gallery collective of artists.


NedRa Bonds

Quilt Artist | Educator | Advocate

NedRa Bonds is an artist who uses her talents to share messages about social justice, to teach, and preserve history.


Bonds was born in the historic Quindaro neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas to a family of quilters. Bonds received her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Kansas in American Studies and her Master of Science at Kansas State University in Urban Education. Both her mother, Georgia Elizabeth Patton, and her paternal grandmother, Juanita Patton, were quilters. Bond’s father, William Patton, worked as a police captain. NedRa was taught quilting at the age of six; “So I learned to make 10 stitches to the first joint in my finger, and if I didn’t do 10 then I had to take them out and do them over again.” She continues to pass these skills on to her two granddaughters.


Bonds entered school in 1954, the year of Brown v. Board of Education; “I spent the first three years in segregated schools. Then I was integrated into a school where all the teachers were white, and the subject matter had nothing to do with me."


Bonds did not realize until later in life that entering school in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement helped shape her as an artist and an activist. As a young adult, Bonds gave up quilting to pursue more of an activist role through community engagement; “As soon as I could, I gave up quilting to raise hell in all sorts of ways that were meaningful for me at the time. Letter-writing, sit-ins, you name it. It was the 1960s and the civil rights movement."

“As soon as I could, I gave up quilting to raise hell in all sorts of ways that were meaningful for me at the time. Letter-writing, sit-ins, you name it. It was the 1960s and the civil rights movement."

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Wolfe Brack


I am a mostly self-taught artist born and based in Kansas City, and have shown in and around the area for the last 15 years. My work centers around multiples, language systems, architecture, and small-scale forms covering large amounts of space. Works include sculpture, ranging from pieces the size of a grain of rice to expansive, land-based installations, ink drawing, and painting.

From 2010-2013 I was the Director of GLOW, a coalition of artists, body painters, models, musicians, and photographers that put on live arts events in Kansas City through the use of body paint, music, dance, and the human canvas.

I am currently the Curator and Operations Manager for the InterUrban ArtHouse, a 501c3 arts organization in Overland Park, KS. I oversee programming, events and gallery exhibitions in the space, as well as curating offsite corporate art spaces.

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Michael Brantley

Painter | Poet

“I paint from my head, keeping an open mind about techniques to allow innovation to be a proxy in bringing forth subject matter.”

For as long as I remember, art has been at the center of my life. While being raised and natured by an artist, creativity was accessible. encouraged and would become second nature - inspiring a lifetime of exploration and self-discovery. This would manifest in a career in the art industry.

I am a fine artist living and working in Kansas City. I am a disciplined oil painter with an extensive painting IQ from hours of intense study and preparation.

My work is a collection of paintings that celebrate the lifestyle and culture of Black America. I work mainly with the figure utilizing both contemporary and traditional methods of painting to present my ideas. I create art to inspire, inform, and provoke dialogue.

My work can be found in exhibitions My portraiture can be found throughout the Midwest as well as private collections by devoted collectors.

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Taylor Brown

Poet | Educator


Taylor Brown is a poet, textile artist, and small group facilitator. Taylor is a graduate of Paseo Academy where her interest in the fine and performing arts were developed. During her teen years, she slammed with Kansas City’s International Teen Poetry Team going to the Brave New Voices Poetry competition 4 consecutive times. She returned to the team as a mentor coaching under Glenn North. She also hosted Generation Rap which is a teen talk show that is broadcast on Carter Broadcast Group’s Hot 103 Jamz. Taking her collegiate studies to Birmingham, Alabama, Taylor majored in education at HBCU (Historical Black College University).

When Taylor left Birmingham and returned to Kansas City her desire was to work solely for her community bringing resources and opportunities to the underserved. After securing a position at ArtsTech as an Outreach Specialist she was able to do just that. Taylor teamed up with Westport Center for the Arts for Kids Team Up For Arts to deliver quality art classes to underserved youth in the inner city. Traveling to local libraries, schools, and community centers Taylor exposes the youth to different cultures, and creative thinking using the medium of art.


Since 2014, Taylor has assisted Storytellers Inc. in their annual Teens in Transition program assisting with the art projects as well as providing tutoring for students who struggle academically. As a visionary, Taylor is always looking for more ways to create empowering experiences for young people that promote spiritual, economic, and creative independence.


With this in mind, Taylor planned a digital inclusion abroad trip where she traveled to Dakar, Senegal (West Africa) delivering laptops and teaching digital literacy, English, and ACT/SAT prep to young people in a local camp. She also spent time studying West African dance as well as the textile industry. Taylor is currently in the process of developing a cultural exchange program between the youth at ArtsTech and Dakar’s Sunu Thiossane Program. With not even half of her career behind her, Taylor is on her way to doing great things and developing life-changing programming for the young people she encounters.

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Larry Poncho Brown

Illustrator | Painter | Designer

“The African American art realm has been pressing onward because of the positive images that have become a narrative of our perseverance. My works attempt to capture SOUL while purposely depicting positive representations of African American culture. Art and imagery are the strongest forms to challenge the perceptions 
of African Americans in our society.” — Larry Poncho Brown

Larry Poncho Brown is a native of Baltimore, MD.  Poncho received his Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in graphic design and photography from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD. His art, both fine and commercial, has been published nationally in Upscale, Ebony, Ebony Man, Essence, and Jet magazines. His art is featured in the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History book entitled “Wrapped In Pride” and “Connecting People With Art”. His popular works have been prominently featured on several TV shows including “A Different World”, “In The House”, “The Wire”, “The Carmichael Show”, “Star”, and “Greenleaf”. Movies featuring his art include “Avalon”, “He Said, She Said”, and “Soulfood”. 

His work adorns the walls of the likes of Bill Cosby, the late Dick Gregory, Anita Baker, Susan Taylor, Ed Gordon, and Bernard Bronner just to name a few. His original works are in the corporate and institutional collections of Coppin State University, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the District of Columbia Superior Courts, the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Yale New Haven Health Park Avenue Medical Center. 

He was one of many artists often referenced as “The Popular Artists” who gained national recognition during “The Cosby Show” era and found commercial success between 1985-2000 during a period known as “The Golden Age of African American Art”, by making their art accessible to the masses through direct participation in community art and cultural festivals, foregoing the traditional artist arrangement of artist representation, gallery representation, and art publisher distribution. At the height of this era, his works were sold in 3000 galleries across the country and on the walls of nearly 500,000 homes.

His art, both fine and commercial, has been published nationally in Art Trends, U.S. Art Gallery, Images, Upscale, Ebony, Ebony Man, Essence, and Jet Magazines.
In pursuing his philanthropic goals, he founded “Raising The Arts” which provides fundraising opportunities for non-profit organizations. He has created over 70 images for such organizations over the past three decades. Poncho was awarded “Artist of the Year” by the African American Visual Arts Association in 2000, the “Heritage Arts Festival Palette Award” in 2003, and the “Save the Arts Award” as Museum’s Choice in 2010, and “The Jan Spivey Gilchrist Visual Arts Award” in 2013.

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Simone Curls

Arts Advocate

Simone Curls joined the Prospect Business Association, Kansas City, Missouri as the Executive Director in February 2019. For 20 years, Simone was the owner of a business consulting firm working with small businesses, non-profits, and faith-based organizations. Additionally, while residing in Los Angeles, Simone was the Founder and CEO of UPLIFT, a private, non-profit 501C, designed to provide resources to children and families and build strong partnerships between community agencies, faith-based organizations, and government institutions. Ms. Curls has worked in the non-profit child welfare system for more than fifteen years.


Ms. Curls completed her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Southern University of New Orleans and her Bachelor’s Degree from Xavier University, New Orleans. In addition to the professional activities mentioned above, Ms. Curls served as a Field Instructor for the USC School of Social Work and was an active member of several advisory committees and local Board of Directors in Los Angeles. 

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Artsy Janine / Janine Carter

Painter | Mixed Media

Janine Carter, Artsy Jaynine is an abstract and contemporary artist from the Kansas City, Missouri area. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a BA in Studio Art in 1999 and went on to work with Community Programs and Education in the Ford Learning Center at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art from 2000 to 2013. She has displayed work in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz district and Crossroads Arts District. In her spare time, she enjoys turning her paintings into wearable art and fashion. 

Artsy Jaynine’s medium of choice is acrylic paint. Her paintings are filled with light, color and movement.

“If you find an activity you love, do it with all your heart. Creating is my passion.”

For more information visit

J Carter
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JT Daniels


JT Daniels is a social activist who uses his art to support and uplift the community. His murals can be seen all over Kansas City, adorning the walls of small businesses, streetcar stops, galleries, and local neighborhoods. His work weaves together various elements, such as characters and phrases, into streamlined designs that represent the heartbeat of the urban community.  


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William Daniels

Textile | Mixed Media    

I am a multidisciplinary artist working primarily in textile. I enjoy creating with fabric; exploring the endless possibilities of its multiple uses. My art quilts and accessories feature traditional quilt blocking and paper piecing techniques. I sometimes incorporate nontraditional components in my work.

I derive inspiration from urban art practice that confronts contemporary issues and am always experimenting to integrate modern archetypes with historical, societal, or spiritual topics. While some of the concepts in my work are quite unambiguous and literal, others are abstract references to the anthropological experience, individuality, or contain esoteric philosophies and historical references from the coded glyphs of ancient cultures. 

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Ramona E. Davis 

Creative | Advocate | Collector |  Founder

Ramona (b. Kansas City lives in Washington D.C.) is an American abstract painter and photographer. Her paintings are inspired by the spirit of the African and African American aesthetics as it relates to Black identity and the Black experience.  As an emerging artist, she has exhibited in the "Who Does She Think She Is" exhibition with InterUrban Arthouse, AAAC Residency 2018, and Testimony: African American Artists Collective with the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art 2021.

Davis believes that art is fundamental to the human experience and activates that belief through supporting the arts/artists, arts advocacy and collecting art. She has served and/or collaborated with several Kansas City cultural organizations. She is the Founder of KC Black Arts Network (KCBAN). KCBAN exists as an “advocate for artists of color”. The goal of the network is “to cultivate and support experiences between artists of color and art enthusiasts.”

Davis and her husband, Eugene, are avid art collectors with over 60 original works consisting of paintings, photography, textiles, and sculpture. She is an active member of the African American Artist Collective, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and former board member of the Friends of Art Council at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. She holds a B.A. in Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Kansas and has significant course work in graphic design as well as color theory, painting, and photography from the Kansas City Art Institute. REDAVIS-ART.COM

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Theo Davis 

Oil Painter | Illustrator

Theo is a Pastor and Kansas City-based artist most known for his oil paintings and illustrations. His oil painting style leans toward impressionism with his liberal use of thick paint. As he brings the subject matter to life, Theo is less concerned about creating a hyper-realistic copy of what he sees but rather strives for an accurate or loose impression. This is achieved through deliberately loose brushstrokes or gobs of paint molded with a palette knife only. His cityscapes and other still life pieces are popular among his oil paintings and custom requests. Theo’s illustrations on the other hand lean more toward realism with his pen outlines and shading done with a cross-hatched technique. His portraits and figure drawings are popular among those who want custom pieces.  


Theo’s creativity is also influenced by being one of the pastors at Restore Community Church. His faith and his art often go hand and hand. He is aware that Christianity, at times, has a poor reputation for embracing art in many forms. Theo strives to demonstrate how art is an extension of our God-given imagination and is crucial for inspiring people to action, bringing peace to a troubled mind, and even causing us some unease in an effort to provoke the viewer to reconsider previously held ideas.  


Theo has sold paintings from coast to coast as well as in galleries. To see his work please visit his website: or on Instagram @thedavisarts 

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Tiffany Dixon, Ed.D. 

Arts Advocate | Educator

Tiffany Dixon is an arts advocate and educator. She takes a three-pronged approach to her advocacy: By supporting entrepreneurial thinking among artists and arts organizations. By connecting youth and educators to training programs in entrepreneurship and social justice in the arts. And by serving as an advocate for entrepreneurship education and social justice. 

To learn more, visit the Diversity Booster and NextPitch Educational Services.


Najee Dorsey

Muralist | Painter | Illustrator

Art has transformed my life and provided a platform to build bridges as well as lasting relationships around the country. It feeds my soul and allows me to give voice to the things that are important to me. I'm a long way from the small town I grew up in Arkansas and it's because of art and the ability to live my best life because I choose it and it chose me.


Najee Dorsey, Artist, Collector, CEO / Founder of Black Art In America™ (BAIA) Najee Dorsey's work has been exhibited in five museum shows in 2014, including his first major solo exhibition at the Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA, entitled: Leaving Mississippi -- Reflections on Heroes and Folklore: Works by Najee Dorsey (on exhibit until January 4, 2015). In addition, Dorsey has shown his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions. He has been the recipient of awards that include a 2006 Patrons Purchase Award from the Polk Museum of Art. His work can be found in the collections of Charles H. Wright Museum; Syracuse University; the African American Museum in Dallas, TX; the Marietta Museum of Art, FL; and Liberty Bank and Trust Company in New Orleans, LA. Dorsey's work has been included in the Hands Up Don't Shoot exhibit at the St. Louis University Museum -- until December 20, 2014. Najee is also the CEO and Founder of Black Art in America™ (BAIA) which is an online portal focused on documenting, preserving, and promoting the contributions of the African American arts community with programming that includes exhibition, discussion, and performance. Dorsey created the website in 2010 and now Black Art in America™ (BAIA) is the leading global online network and resource for African-American visual artists, collectors, industry leaders, and arts enthusiasts.

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Jazz Musician | Chef

Known as the Jazz Discipline, Gerald Dunn has spent his life devoted to music as an accomplished jazz musician. Gerald plays woodwinds and has been recorded on several albums. For over 20 years, he has served as the Director of Entertainment of the world-famous American Jazz Museum, as well as the General Manager of the Blue Room, which was voted by Down Beat Magazine one of the finest jazz listening rooms on the planet since 2003. His band, the Jazz Disciplines, regularly performs in Kansas City and tours around the county.


Gerald he has hosted thousands of bands of all musical genres ranging from jazz, blues, country, rock, classical and soul/R&B, including virtually all of the greatest living performers. Akin to Ray Charles,  Angie Stone and from Jay McShann to Marilyn Maye. In addition, Gerald has helped to developed and shape some of the finest artists in a generation.


Carol Rhodes Dyson

Story Teller | Curator

A graduate of Howard University in Art History (B. A. and Graduate Studies), Carol has over 30 years of experience as an art administrator, educator, and now curator for museums, galleries, cultural institutions, and alternative spaces in Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD and Kansas City, MO.  She has extensive experience in exhibition research and production, creating public programs and producing performing arts/interdisciplinary projects.


While an undergrad at Howard University, she interned in Art Conservation at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, Williamstown, MA, and at the Studio Museum of Harlem, NY in conjunction with “To Conserve A Legacy “an exhibition curated by Rick Powell and Jock Reynolds. The mission of the exhibition was to preserve and repair the trove of African American art treasures held in the collections of five HBCU’s and to introduce students of color to the interdisciplinary field of art conservation and its many opportunities.  A catalogue was also an outcome of the exhibition.


Carol completed an M.F.A. in Curatorial Practice from Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD, in May 2017. 

Her thesis exhibition, Creative Alchemy: Common Source of Art and Science, was displayed at the Howard University Interdisciplinary Research Building (IRB) thru September 2017 and featured the work of artists in conversation with the scientific research on each floor.  Assemblage artist, Anne Bouie, created the introductory installation honoring George Washington Carver, artist and scientist.  Second floor – referenced nanotechnology and physics – the artist Fletcher Mackey installed an image that was in conversation with physics formulas.  Third Floor – referenced biology – artists Renee Stout, Evangeline EJ Montgomery were in conversation with the biology and physical transformation.   On the fourth floor, Roslyn Cambridge referenced environmental science.  Elementary school students from Meridian Public Charter School created whimsical images inspired by scientific terms.    Chinedu Felix Osuchukwu was their instructor.


Also at the IRB she curated, Surface from Under the Microscope, The Henrietta Lacks’ Series by Jeffrey Kent.  It was recognized by the National Academy of Science Magazine, ISSUES, Summer 2017 and an image from the exhibition graces its front cover.  The exhibition was reinstalled at the National Academy of Sciences in September of 2019 and ended March 13, 2020. A copy of the catalog is available for download here


She currently serves as Curator for all locations of Busboys and Poets, a progressive restaurant and alternative arts space.  Carol has held that position since the summer, 2013.   An example of exhibition include: #Migration61, co-curated with the Phillips Collection based on what the 61st piece of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series would look. Sheco curated Implicit Bias co-curated with the Joan Hisaoka Smith Healing Arts Gallery displaying images confronting bias and racism featuring over 80 works displayed throughout five restaurants.   She also curated over 60 images throughout five restaurants from 10th Anniversary of Busboys and Poets/Artomatic celebration.


She was recently hired as a part-time Interim Curator at the Regional Lewis in Baltimore, MD, and was appointed as one of the Public Art Commissioners for Prince George’s County, MD.


Carol has worked as an assistant to David C. Driskell, artist, art historian, author, and curator and later served as a Curatorial Assistant to Dr. Jeff R. Donaldson for the exhibitions Ethiopian Passages at the National Museum of African Art and TransAfrican Art at the Orlando Museum of Art.  


As President of Black Artists of DC (BADC) from 2013 to 2017, she curated “BADC, A Legacy of Excellence,” at the Blackburn Center at Howard University from September 2016 to Jan 19, 2017; Colorful Conversations at the Howard University Interdisciplinary Research Building, September to January 2017;  at the PEPCO Gallery,  Carnavale co-curated with Carolyn Goodridge;  At War With Ourselves:  Battle for the Black Faced Boy, Brentwood Art Exchange (2015) and Living Life Like Its Golden, co-curated with Gina Lewis at Bowie State University (2014). Carol also served as the volunteer Gallery Director for BloomBars, an alternative arts space in Washington, DC.


Carol is originally from Kansas City, MO, attended the Kansas City Art Institute and was a co-founder, along with Emanuel Cooper, Jr. of Euphrates Gallery displaying visual art created by people of color and women.  She is the mother of two grown magnificent children and the grandmother of four wonderfully busy little ones.

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Anita Easterwood

Portrait Artist


My goal is to create art that is timeless. By creating art based on everyday life, my art expands overtime as life is my muse.

Art in its’ most simplistic nature is a form of communication. And as an artist, I have had to decide what I want to convey through my art. And after 13 years of creating, everyday life has continued to be my inspiration. Fundamentally, that may seem simplistic; but life is profoundly complex and intricate. 

I am drawn to capturing the complexity of the everyday experience. Life has led me through a unique journey to art.

I discovered my love for art early on because my father is also an artist. I grew up appreciating art in its’ many forms. I also grew up respecting the dedication and hustle it takes to be an artist as I watched my father complete projects. Watching my father, “the everyday guy”, follow his love for art helped me discover my own. Exploring my love for art, the “everyday person” is what drew me to being a portrait artist. I found that capturing the essence of someone is difficult but that challenge is what drives my creativity. 

Beyond the challenge of capturing people, it is also the challenge of capturing a moment and recreating it through my viewpoint as an artist. The “everyday person” has various social identities that intersect in shaping us into who we are, my identity as a black woman has influenced my artistry, it has been important to me as a black woman to take moments in my art to celebrate the beauty and sophistication that black women embody. 

Beyond that, I also highlight Black culture and community in my artwork, those are facets of my life that have molded me into the person I am which inherently shapes my lens as an artist. The beauty of the “everyday person” is that we are never just one or two things. We are multi-dimensional. So though my art is influenced by my blackness, it does not define it. It is just one of the many lens I explore when creating.

A Easterwood
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Shawn Edwards

Film Critic | Producer

Shawn Edwards is a film journalist, pop culture guru, TV, and film producer. As a nationally recognized film critic for Fox 4 News in Kansas City, Missouri, he has won numerous national awards; including Best TV Film Critic twice by the LA Press Club's National Entertainment Journalism Awards. Edwards is the co-founder of AAFCA (African American Film Critics Association) created in 2003. He also created I Love Black Movies the popular social media and online movie community in 2008.


Edwards got his start writing for national hip-hop magazines. He wrote for The Source, XXL and Vibe magazines during the late '90s. He is a life-long lover of movies who began making his own films in the 7th grade. He won several national student filmmaking awards.


He is currently on the Critics Choice Association board of directors, a member of Gold Derby and working as a consultant and producer for the Hidden Empire Film Group. Edwards is also writing an illustrative book on the history of black film and is the executive producer of "Movie Trip TV.

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Everett Freeman Jr.   

Musician | Composer

Freeman attended the Conservatory at the University of Missouri- Kansas City and was the recipient of the George Salisbury Scholarship.  He received the NARAS Grammy Award for production of the song "Begging the Shadows". He also spent time as the musical director in the one-man show "Paul Robeson", which played in theaters first in K.C. and later moved to the East Coast. The performance sold-out audiences every night. He currently tours with Roy Ayers and has performed in the UK and Europe. Most notably, he's played in "Ronnie Scott's" jazz club and many other festivals in Europe. He also toured for 13 yrs with Oleta Adams and has toured extensively in the Netherlands, the West Indies, Brazil, Costa Rica, Japan, and one of the most remote places being Turkey. 


He has performed in some major jazz festivals both inside and outside the USA- the memorable, being the North Sea Festival in Holland. Now, he performs locally with his own band Eclipse as well as the Jazz Disciples and continues to be one of KC's favorite sidemen, performing with nearly all the great female vocalists of Kansas City, and at Sullivan’s Steakhouse.

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Diallo Javonne French

Film Maker | Photographer


Diallo moved to Atlanta, Georgia in the early 1990s and attended Clark Atlanta University, majoring in Mass Communications, Radio/T.V./Film. While attending school, he worked as a production assistant on several music videos that included artists such as, TLC, Outkast, Goodie Mob, Xscape, Raven Symone, Usher, and with director Hype Williams. He is an award-winning filmmaker and jazz photographer with a BET (Black Entertainment Television) film to his credit entitled May This Be Love. His photographs have been used on Hallmark Cards, exhibited in the American Jazz Museum, Vine Street Studio, Buttonwood Art Space, Keyhole Gallery, and The Box Gallery


"There is something very magical about the marriage between music and film.”

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Darcus Gates

Singer| Producer |Author

Darcus Gates was born in Kansas City and raised in Los Angeles. Her early musical instincts were discovered by her mother who was an opera singer. Darcus was encouraged to take piano lessons at the age of five followed by violin, clarinet, and drums. Later she attended the Conservatory of Music in Toledo, Ohio. Darcus eventually returned to Los Angeles and began private study under the direction of Ina Zan.  

Darcus has sung backgrounds for artists such as Johnny Mathis, James Ingram Gladys Knight, and Smokey Robinson. She has performed as an opening act as well as her own show with such entertainers as Dennis Miller, Whoopi Goldberg, Boney James, Frank Sinatra, The Commodores Don Rickles David Brenner Smokey Robinson, and a host of others. Darcus has performed the National Anthem at worldwide sporting events, including five title boxing matches hosted in Las Vegas. She is the recipient of music awards, including Best R&B and Jazz Female Performer, Best Female Vocalist, and the Living Legend Award.

RCA "Darcus" featuring the disco single "It's Got To Be Love”
Re-Recorded late 2019 in London England to be released in 2021
"Darcus Live at The Paris Hotel Las Vegas”
Two Movie Soundtracks “Eddie” (Starring Whoopi Goldberg) “Out of Sync” (LL Cool J)


Recording Labels include: 
RCA, Island Records, Rock The Bells, and BLP Productions.
"Expressions of Experience,” “Everybody’s Got an Uncle Gibby… Don’t You?” 
Currently, Darcus is the Executive Producer of “Darcus After Dark” a weekly live stream airing on INKODE NETWORK TV that features musical talents of new up and coming artists. For more, visit

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Robert Hale 

Photographer| Journalist

Robert Hale is one of the West Coast’s leading photographers. His work both as a photographer and as a journalist, has taken him on assignment throughout the world. His images are characterized by clarity and simplicity, with an extraordinary eye for light and shadow.


Whether animate or inanimate, Robert feels his subjects have an inner essence, and, if handled with patience and sensitivity, this essence will reveal itself.


His goal is to allow it to live in prints. Although he spent the next 20 years building a successful career as an account executive, he describes this time as “years in which I had lost my courage.” It wasn’t until he reached his middle years, having made a cross-country trip with two actor friends that he determined to commit himself fully to the passion of his youth. Eschewing financial security, in 1996 he left the corporate world and returned to the world of art. Since then his progress in the world of photography has been phenomenal. Robert’s images, essentially portraiture, have been printed in such publications as The New York Times, The Los Angeles


Times, The Village Voice, The LA Weekly, Black Enterprise, and a variety of national and international publications.


He has served as a contributing photographer at The California African American Museum in Los Angeles, California, The Studio Museum in Harlem, as well as the City of West Hollywood Government also in Los Angeles, California. He continues after more than 20 years to be a contributing photographer for the Directors Guild of America. Robert also has images in several collections, including a portrait of the legendary “Mama of Dada” Beatrice Wood, that resides in the Permanent Collection of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Portrait Gallery, The American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, and several private collections both in America and abroad. Robert has been proud to volunteer his photographic services to the Los Angeles Children’s Museum, Aids Project Los Angeles, LA Shanti, Aids Service Center in Pasadena, California, and currently The American Consulate in Marseille, France.


Xavier Gayden

Painter | Illustrator

I was born in San Diego, California. Shortly after, I relocated to Missouri and found my drive for art. I came to Kansas City at the age of 11, by that time a pencil was already glued to my hand. Every milestone in my life always led me to draw. So when I wanted to take it on as a full career, it really wasn’t a surprise. In doing so, I’ve been able to be a part of Arts Tech. As one of their artist, I  make art and they sell it.


I also had the chance to teach incoming artists the ropes on how to sell and how to have conversations about their artwork. Throughout the years I have participated in several exhibitions and mural projects. I’ve exhibited in the Plaza Art fair 2015 -2019, art festivals in Texas, Colorado, and Ohio. I worked with Michael Toombs on many mural projects, as recently as the Brown vs Board mural in Topeka, the Nova Arts program, and the 18th and Vine mural project. I’ve been commissioned to create large-scale murals for in commercial companies and private homeowners.

"Every milestone in my life always lead me to drawing."

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Toni Gates

Painter | Collage | Mixed Media

Toni Gates’ artistic journey began in childhood with the simple act of coloring, which evolved into a
profound meditative practice. With an astute eye for detail in her surroundings and a deep
understanding of human emotions, she developed a profound respect for the interplay of shared
experiences and individual intricacies. This reverence serves as the driving force behind her artistic
mission: to cultivate unity amidst diversity and to celebrate the sanctuaries we find in our homes and
the natural world.

In her abstract art practice, Toni employs vibrant color palettes, recurring depictions of trees, and
encompassing circles. These elements act as symbolic channels, encapsulating ideals of equality, justice,
growth, unity, and transformation on both a worldly and spiritual level. Having received formal
instruction under the guidance of a graduate from the KC Art Institute, Toni further refined her skills
through adult community figure drawing and still life classes. In addition to her visual arts education, she
holds a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Music Education (K-12) and a Master’s in Choral Conducting.

As a dedicated member of the African American Artists Collective Kansas City and the Kansas City Artists
Coalition, Toni’s art serves as a vessel not only for creation, but also for connection, inspiration, and the
elevation of the human experience.

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Serafina Harris

Painter| Designer


Born and raised in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, Serafina Harris graduated high school at Kensington Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), by the Berks station in North Philadelphia. She had attended 4 schools prior to this graduation due to school shutdowns and insatiable school options.

 She took an interest in art ever since she was a child, and has attended arts programs starting in the 8th grade with Mural Arts, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Art’s after-school program. She continued her study of art briefly at Moore College of Art and Design and PAFA, as well as taking continuing education courses in Grand Central Atelier in New York, the Arts Student League, and continues to study at Studio Incamminati. She currently works at the Church of the Advocate as a Parish Secretary. |

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Juliette Hemingway

Digital Artist


Denver artist Juliette Hemingway is a self-taught artist who is influenced by an eclectic set of artists such as, artists of the Harlem Renaissance and graffiti artists. Painting jazz themed works is an ideal way to represent the ebbs and flows of life. It allows her to convey those moments in life that we all experience with a music that is just as universal.


Her work is indicative of a path that has been traveled to wellness and healing. There is not only the theme of music, but also the blue hued people who are ever present in her work. The blue people acknowledges Autism as part of her life. Her son and only child, has Autism and is integral in her life and her work. Whether she is painting about love, loss or social commentary, autism is a part of that experience. The purpose of her art wasn't always apparent.

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Anthony High 

Painter | Educator

Anthony High is a Kansas City native, international artist, and educator. High received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Arts Education from Lincoln University and a Studio Art Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). He also teaches at the Nelson-Atkins Museum. High taught art education for the Kansas City Missouri School District for 29 years and is an adjunct professor at UMKC and the Metropolitan Community Colleges of Kansas City.

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Shawn Hughes

Multi-media Art

A lifelong Kansas City resident, Shawn graduated from Rockhurst High School and received his Bachelor’s degree in history from Fisk University in Nashville, TN and earned his M.B.A. from The Block School of Business at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

A former art major, Shawn now works for the City of Kansas City, Missouri restoring and revitalizing various neighborhoods around town.  Shawn sits on the Board of Directors for the Third and Long Foundation and volunteers assisting various charitable organizations throughout the metropolitan area.

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Cathy Ann Johnson – CONFORTO



Cathy Ann Johnson is CEO and Creative Director for Luv-it Studio, responsible for collaborations across multiple platforms including marketing, creative ideation, retail outlets, and messaging for service sectors. She has over 25 years of experience in branding and innovations within the social expression and product creation industry. Her unique approach to creative solutions and understanding of how to grow and develop new business opportunities led to a key leadership role on various new product and business pilots for Hallmark Greeting Cards Inc. Her passion and understanding of diversity in the workplace made a significant impact on corporate policies and was the beginnings of behavioral change in the corporate structure. 

She was one of the original founders of Hallmark Minority Exchange, currently Hallmark Multicultural Center of Excellence. It is this kind of leadership that merit her to be the first African American Women to design and illustrate in Hallmark Center of Excellence. 

She was also the first African American Woman to build a licensing brand that debuts at the American toy fair. Her leadership and coaching have made Cathy Ann a trusted source of guidance and inspiration for several fortune 500 companies. Luv-it Studio Inc. is a result of Cathy Ann’s intuitive understanding of interpreting client goals into branded innovations.

Her insight and collaboration won a 15 million dollar contract the Air National Guard. She currently works out of Rome Italy. Her clients range from Random House, Penguin Publishing, Scholastic. While working in Rome, she won the branding contract for the Vatican Women Radio division, she has also worked with Ic! Berlin out of Milan Italy.

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Charles (Swavy) Jones

Painter | Muralist | Designer

Charles “Swavy” Jones is a Kansas City-based artist and entrepreneur most known for his vibrant paintings. The acrylic and airbrushed paintings of his are among his most notable work and have been shown across the city as well as featured in the Kansas City Star. Charles’ aim is to provoke thought and conversation through spirited storytelling and symbolism. His fashion line, Swavy Custom, keeps him busy as well while also tackling college. Charles attends the Kansas City Art Institute on a scholarship as 2022 Fibers Major. Becoming a more versatile creative thinker and sharpening his craft is what Jones is up to now.

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Kaitlyn Jones

Artist | Administrator | Curator

Kaitlyn is an interdisciplinary artist, administrator and independent curator from the unceded territory of the Karankawa, Coahuiltecan, and Sana peoples (Cypress, TX). She believes that art is a conduit for healing, a seedbed for activism, and necessary fuel for the revolution against white supremacy. Her work facilitates conversations about intersectionality, social justice, and the complex Black-American experience.

Jones holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in Arts Leadership with a certificate in Museum and Gallery Management from the University of Houston. As a dancer, she worked with many renowned choreographers including Ananya Chatterjea, Charles O. Anderson, Erica Gionfriddo, Andrea Beckham, Jennifer
Freeman, Gesel Mason, and Rennie Harris.


In 2020, Jones expanded her artistic practice to include film, photography and performance art. Her newfound practices led her to create This is not for you (2021) and One day, you will die (2021), two interactive installations presented as part of A
Time For Action, an interdisciplinary micro-festival hosted by the Blaffer Art Museum in Houston, Texas.

Jones' dual passions for art and social justice fuel her advocacy for a world where accessibility is at the forefront of the arts sector. She actively engages in anti-racist practices and methodologies to create, curate and support art that diversifies
community programming and is accessible to all communities regardless of race, age, gender, sexuality, ability or socio-economic status.



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Kim Jones

Choreographer | Educator

Kimberlyn Jones is currently an Economic Development Manager at Metropolitan Community College. A native of Kansas City native known as a dancer, instructor, and choreographer. Ms. Jones received a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in Business Administration and a Certificate in Dance and pursued her graduate studies at Rockhurst University receiving her executive MBA in Business Management. Her passion for dance and a business education established the Kansas City Metropolitan Dance Theatre in 2007, a nonprofit dance education and performing arts center for children in the urban core. She has danced and taught for over 35 years in the community and has conducted and choreographed numerous pageants, Debutante/Cotillion balls, community celebrations, and various productions of dance recitals and variety shows. Her professional training original started at Smith Sisters Dance studio, and then from Miller Marley, Betty Tillotson, the KC Ballet, and various studios across the country. Some of her accolades include KC Chiefs Chiefette, Mizzou Golden Girl, and dancing with Alvin Ailey Company for the Kansas City residency. In addition to her owning and operating the Kansas City Metropolitan Dance Theatre, Ms. Jones is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Director of St. James United Methodist Praising Grace dance ministry, has served as an Arts and Nonprofit advocate for the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, MO.

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Wendy Kendrick

Textile | Mixed Media

I am a textile and mixed media artist living in Columbus, Ohio. Also, have an equal passion for teaching youth and am included on the Ohio Arts Council's roster of Teaching Artists. My love of colors, patterns, shapes and what happens when they are allowed to “play together” serves as the basis for what I create…a celebration of people and cultures through quilted machine and hand stitched fabric pieces. |

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Clarissa Knighten

Jewelry Designer


Clarissa Knighten left Corporate America in August 2017 to pursue her business, Rissa’s Artistic Design. R.A.D creates a haven for those who seek to collect and wear bold beautiful art. She strives to handcraft masterpieces of jewelry that range from Earthy to Edgy to Elegant. Leather, cowrie shells, tree branches, rocks, wire, various weights of metal, gemstones even buttons can be found in her work. Each piece has the ability to transform any outfit, while at the same time lifting the emotional expression of the wearer. This creates higher self - image, confidence and savvy attitude needed to navigate the complex and dynamic world we live in today. Her jewelry has a voice and an expressive story of resilience.  

Clarissa participated in runway show with Kansas City Fashion Week Spring / Summer 2019, KC Studio Magazine September / October 2018 with the African American Artist Collective, KC Studio Magazine May /June 2018 edition has a photograph of her work for Black Space Black Art, Guild It - Presenter, Global Entrepreneurship Week - Presenter and Vintage KC Magazine advertised her work in the 2016 Holiday addition.  


“I would like to help people understand jewelry is art. Wearable art, art in every form heals.”

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Keith Kennedy

Photographer | Writer

Keith Kennedy is a photographer and writer with over two decades of experience. His photography has been featured in various publications such as Digital Grain, Photo Dojo, and Snapshots. Keith is also a member of the Kansas City Society of Contemporary Photography. You can find examples of his work on his blog at or in various publications. Keith is also co-founder of the Kansas City Fun Ride, a not-for-profit bicycle advocacy group tasked with getting Kansas Citians on bicycles. When he's not taking pictures or writing, Keith enjoys spending time with his wife Christy, their dog Maebelline, and two backyard ducks.

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Leonard Le’Doux, Jr.

Painter | Educator


I am a lifelong artist. There has never been a time where I can remember not making stuff. I’m a teacher and a painter. I was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas but live in Raytown, Missouri. 

I went to Northeast Junior High, Sumner High School then graduated from F. L. Schlagle High School. I served in the U.S. Army for 22 years. I later graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City and received a bachelor's degree in History and a Master's of Arts in Education from the University of Saint Mary. I have never been to school trained in Painting or drawing, but have been doing this all of my life.

Faces are special. You remember them long after you forget names. My paintings have a traditional classical style with a more modern look. My goal is to capture color and depth while incorporating elements from typography to abstraction to non-objective. Most of the paintings are acrylic on canvas but occasionally I’ll experiment with other mediums.

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Kreshaun McKinney

Muralist | Arts Educator

Kreshaun McKinney is the Director of Learning & Engagement for the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Kreshaun has been appointed Ex-officio by the Honorable Mayor Quinton Lucas to the Kansas City Municipal Arts Commission.

Program development and management,  public relations, and outreach are just a few of her professional talents and benchmarks. She builds bridges between communities and diverse cultures that forge lasting relationships and bolster art appreciation. She generates innovative programs and learning opportunities that take the fear factor out of embracing art…or at least visiting it. No experience necessary to look! 

Kreshaun invites people from all walks of life to spark multiple conversations and experiences that go beyond the gallery walls of a museum…all done, once again, within a good day’s work.

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Felix Maull

Paint | Mixed Media

Memories are so heavily referenced in my art practice. In filming, I'm obsessed with the idea of documentation. This obsession bleeds over to my drawing and painting work as well. To this day I draw faces over and over. I’ve come to the realization that I draw faces constantly simply to document my progression in drawing. I began taking art classes, and I hated drawing faces because I could never get them to look exactly like the subject I was painting. This led me to only drawing for myself and no one else. I abstained from using any reference so I wouldn't draw things "wrong". Each time I drew a face, I began to notice my pieces look more and more like myself. The drawing improved over time as did my artistic abilities as a whole. I now create drawings as a way to document my time and to facilitate conversation around the idea of self and what it means to be fulfilled. |


Hermon Mehari

Jazz Musician | Composer

Hermon Mehari’s sophomore album as a leader, “A Change for the Dreamlike”, takes on a more personal tone. Written and recorded in a band in the French countryside during le confinement, it shows only hints at the aesthetic set by his debut album. The songs play like personal journal entries, versions, and visions of wishes, fantasies, and memories. Together they create a kind of modern mix-tape of dreams, in every sense of the word, in which the trumpet is a vulnerable presence. The project features a number of incredible musicians: Tony Tixier, Peter Schlamb, Ryan J. Lee, Kae Dilla, DeAndre Manning, Hugo LX, Karl McComas-Reichl, Jeff Hill, and Zach Morrow.


Although he already had a growing reputation, the success of Mehari's debut album, "Bleu", put him concretely on the musical map. It covered both the ground of his contemporaries and his own original music in such a way to establish his artistic identity. “Bleu” includes ECM recording artist Aaron Parks on piano, Blue Note recording artist Logan Richardson on alto saxophone, Peter Schlamb on vibraphone, Ryan J. Lee on drums, and Rick Rosato on bass.


Mehari was the recent winner of the 2015 Carmine Caruso International Trumpet Competition and a semifinalist in the 2014 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition. In 2014 he released the CD "Our Journey" with Diverse, his second with the group. Mehari maintains a touring schedule around the world with his own group and as a sideman. Mehari was also the winner of the 2008 National Trumpet Competition and placed 2nd in the International Trumpet Guild competition in Sydney, Australia. As a founding member of Diverse, whose eponymous debut album on Seattle-based Origin Records reached the Top 40 on the Jazz Week Radio Charts, he has performed professionally with noted saxophonists Jaleel Shaw, Logan Richardson, Bobby Watson, Ben Van Gelder, and Tivon Pennicott. He has also performed with Aaron Parks, Joe Sanders, Hubert Laws, Randy Brecker, Tony Tixier, Dave Pietro, Clay Jenkins, and many other great musicians.

Hermon Mehari received his BM in Jazz Performance from the University of Missouri - Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance in 2010. In addition to performing, he dedicates himself to being a serious educator and has participated in clinics and panels around the world. 

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Tracy Milsap

Storyteller | Performer

A resident of the Kansas City metropolitan area, Tracy Milsap’s broad and varied range of skills and experiences span over thirty years in Kansas City and beyond.  Drawing upon that experience, Tracy presents programs on a variety of issues related to literacy, self-esteem, and cultural anthropology.  Tracy is a professional “story arts” artist and educator who emphasizes purposeful living through acceptance, courage, pride, and compassion.  


In addition to her classes and performances, Ms. Milsap has been the keynote speaker for various organizations throughout the country.  She serves as one of the Missouri Folk Arts Program’s Community Scholars, and on the Board of Kansas City Young Audiences.  Her prayer is that her sharing bonds, bolsters, and beautifies. 

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Sherry Mirador



Sherry Mirador, a native of Kansas City, has become a dynamic creative force, making her mark in various design fields, from interior design to fashion and jewelry. Her artistic journey took root in a sewing class at a local community college, propelling her to pursue an Arts degree. Graduating from Penn Valley in 2008 with an associate degree in Apparel and Textile Design, Sherry has solidified her standing as a skilled and respected designer, earning numerous awards in women’s evening wear.

 In 2007, Sherry officially debuted as a designer at the Kansas City Magic Fashion Show, gaining recognition in a local magazine's November 2007 issue dedicated to featuring up and coming local designers. Venturing into jewelry design in 2004, she gained recognition as a featured artisan at two local Kansas City gift shops. Notably, her jewelry creation “Faith” was showcased in the Testimony Exhibit at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art from June 2021 to March 2022.

Expanding her creative horizons in 2009, Sherry delved into designing custom couture window treatments for a local Interior Designer. Her distinctive work has been featured in esteemed publications, including Kansas City Spaces, The Chamber of Curiosity, and IN KC. Sherry's portfolio includes the restoration of a historically registered house in Malta Bend, MO. This noteworthy project earned the 2019 McReynolds Award from The Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation. Sherry’s creative force can be found featured in the published book "Historic Style: Kelee Katillac - Honoring the Past with Design for Today," showcasing her expertise in crafting custom-made interior design soft goods. Currently thriving as a freelance designer in Kansas City, Sherry Mirador expresses her creativity through an exclusive line of men’s bow ties, jewelry, and home goods. Her passion for design continues to shape her journey, leaving an indelible imprint on the creative landscape.

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Arie Monroe



Arie is a Kansas City Artist who draws comics and caricatures. Her work has been featured in several books, including Black Comix, Black Comix Returns, I am Alfonso Jones, and African American Classics. She graduated from The University of Missouri- Kansas City with a BA in Studio art and attended The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon Graphics in New Jersey. She has created work for such companies as Warner Brothers Animation, Universal Studios, and has been an illustrator for Mada Design. Her projects included work for companies like Crayola, DreamWorks, and Nickelodeon. Currently, Arie lives and works in the Kansas City area as a traveling caricature artist for events, parties, and festivals. She also has a personal art blog which features her personal comic book work and animations. Her current project includes the completion of her first creator-owned book, Tornado Alley: Night of the Were-Rabbit.


Find her on the web to see more:

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Jessica Care Moore

Poet | Performer | Publisher


Jessica Care Moore believes poems belong everywhere and to everyone. An internationally renowned poet, playwright, performance artist, and producer, she is the 2013 Alain Locke Award Recipient from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Born in Detroit, Jessica Care Moore first came to national prominence when she won on the legendary “It’s Showtime at the Apollo” competition a record-breaking five times in a row. Her searing performance of the poem “Black Statue of Liberty” earned Moore several meetings with high profile publishing companies. 

But in 1997, she paved her own path and launched a publishing company of her own, Moore Black Press. She released her first book, The Words Don’t Fit In My Mouth, and sold more than 20,000 copies. Jessica Care Moore is the CEO of Moore Black Press, Executive Producer of Black WOMEN Rock!, and founder of the literacy-driven, Jess Care Moore Foundation. 

Moore is the author of The Words Don’t Fit in My Mouth, The Alphabet Verses The Ghetto, God is Not an American, Sunlight Through Bullet Holes, and a memoir, Love is Not The Enemy. Her poetry has been heard on stages like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the London Institute of Contemporary Arts. Along with her own work, she proudly published famed poets such Saul Williams, Shariff Simmons, Def Poetry Jam’s co-founder Danny Simmons, NBA player Etan Thomas, Ras Baraka, and former Essence Magazine editor Asha Bandele.

She has performed on every continent. She is the youngest poet published in the Prentice Hall Anthology of African American Women’s Literature, by Valerie Lee, alongside literary greats such as Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, Maya Angelou, and many others. Jessica Care Moore has graced the cover of The New York Times, The Metro Times, Michigan FrontPage, Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, African Voices Magazine, Black Elegance Magazine, and has been featured in print and online magazines across the world, including, Essence, Huffington Post, Blaze, The Source, Vibe, Bomb, Mosaic, Savoy, One World, Upscale, Ambassador Magazine, UPTOWN, and others.

Find her on the web to see more:

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Rhonda Murphy

Writer | Dancer


Rhonda Murphy is a writer, community dancer, dance teacher, choreographer, and performer. Since
graduating from Northern Arizona University in Journalism, her writing interests have expanded to
include fiction, poetry, Afrocentric research, as well as plays, scripts, and treatments. She wrote,
directed, and choreographed the dance play, “The Awakening,” (Phoenix, AZ)—ancient ancestral spirits
transform two young dancers from assimilated American Negroes into awakened Afro Americans;
choreographed the plays “Freedom Summer” and “Black Nativity” (Learning Tree Productions, Baton
Rouge, LA).


She utilized classical dance training from Jones and Haywood and the Washington School of
Ballet, Washington, D.C., and the Missouri Dance Theatre, Kansas City, to become Artistic Director and
Choreographer of the North Baton Rough Dance Project—tiered classes in Ballet, Modern, Tap, African
dance, 2002-2015. In August 2023, Rhonda published “The Barter System of Ancient Egypt (Kemet)”, on A revised edition of her 2013 novel will be published in early 2024.

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Arnold Nelson

Painter | Photographer

“I meditate and/or pray before each session that my work is balanced, and brings forth a positive spiritual energy to the environment of whomever has it in their home or business.”

I grew up on the Isle of Staten, NYC. After spending years as an award winning photographer, I became
fascinated with the shapes of scrap wood during a stint as a Security Guard at a construction site. As I
saw the shapes of discarded wood as one would see in Rorschach tests, I started to apply ink to the
scraps and offset the ink to paper. This transformed into the offset techniques that you see now.

Another influence was the revelation of the shadow box constructions of Joseph Cornell. The concept of
taking disparate items and assembling them into a harmonious arrangement struck a synonymous chord
within me and I started a journey on combining the two methods which resulted in the unique style I's
developed over the years using discarded and found objects into shadow boxes.

The Circle is a symbol of harmony. Those who choose this shape are interested in good interpersonal
relations. The highest value for the circle is people and their well being. This is the most benevolent
of the five figures. The Circle is the glue that holds the team or the family together. They stabilize the
group and have a high capacity for sympathy and empathy.

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Carlos Nelson, Sr.

Media Artist

Carlos Nelson launched the popular Cascade media company in 2012. Cascade is an internet-based company created to facilitate honest and constructive conversations concerning important issues affecting the Kansas City African American community.

What’s Up Kansas City is the future of media and provides rapid access to people, information, and opportunities that were previously only available to the privileged and elite. Today, individuals and organizations have access to a progressive media platform to share their perspectives regarding the accomplishments and challenges of our community.

What’s Up Kansas City offers In-depth interviews with politicians, entrepreneurs, health care professionals, educators, civic leaders, faith-based advocates, and entertainers.


"Our commitment is to enlighten, empower, enrich and galvanize our community!"

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Joseph Newton, Jr.

Digital Graphic Design Artist

Joseph Newton is a multifaceted artist who endeavors in photography, graphic design, landscapes and cityscapes, abstract paintings, Afrocentric paintings, and commissioned artwork; but He is best known as a portrait artist that has an eye for capturing many of the unique attributes of his subjects within his paintings. Joseph is a self-taught artist who is constantly honing his craft to be at the top of his game. Though Joseph has had no formal training in the arts other than attending a week-long camp at the Art Institute in grade school; he descends from a family of artists who are as talented in their own right in the areas of painting and sculptures. His works rival some of the best formally trained artists known today.

At a young age, Joseph drew on whatever he could get his hands on. His mother often put newsprint on the walls so that he could be creative and draw to his heart’s content. In high school he once had an art teacher assert that he was not a ‘real artist’ because as they put it, he did not “paint from life.” As one could imagine, this statement could be devastating to a young budding artist; but instead, it inspired him to prove that statement wrong. One look at his portfolio drives the point home that this declaration couldn't have been further from the truth. He began painting in grade school and as he got older he progressed to painting with oils and acrylics on canvas.

His works are an artistic expression of the spirit within and without-an elaborate detailing of how our Creator intricately designed us. His paintings are heirlooms that can be passed down for generations.

Many of his earlier works included black and whites. As technology advanced, his work has evolved to the use of digital paintings as his medium of choice due to the cleanliness and the convenience of it. Joseph believes that the subjects he paints have a story to tell and he captures a visual representation of that story as a distinct moment in time. He incorporates a variety of visual elements using a combination of expertise, detail, symmetry, and lighting to immortalize their story. While the goal is not ‘photorealism’, it has often been stated that his portrait paintings “looks like a photograph.” When asked, what is it that you are trying to convey in your paintings, Joseph's response is simply, “The beauty……. the beauty within their story.”

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Joseph Newton

Painter | Illustrator

Joseph was born in Kansas City, Kansas. For as long as he could remember Joseph always liked to draw. In high school, Joseph entered some of his artwork in an art contest. Two representatives from the school were so impressed with his work that they came to his house to speak with his parents. They talked to his mother and father about the artwork that he had entered for an art competition. The school representatives explained to his parents that they could not judge his drawings as a teenager but as an adult, because his drawings were very atypical and just that advanced. His parents then enrolled him into art courses while in high school. Joseph took those basic classes that mostly taught traditional landscapes and still life for about two years. He continued his love for art and became a self-taught artist in the different visual art media.

With dedication and persistence, Joseph continued to draw. While on his journey, Joseph found that abstract art was how he liked to convey and express his ideas. Like most artists, Joseph tried different mediums to find the particular one that allowed him to work with both detail and ease. Joseph found that he was most drawn to oils. He finds that oils make his paintings rich and vibrant. While using oils, Joseph also incorporates different types of materials into his paintings and adds new textures to enhance the effect of his paintings.

Joseph likes adding geometric graphics into his paintings. He believes it gives them great depth and 3D effects. The theme for Joseph T. Newton’s selection of paintings is called, ‘I Ching’ in the Abstract; and ‘Metapharaonic’ (Metaphor) meaning Egyptian Hieroglyphic Symbols and (Pharaonic) meaning in relationship to the characteristics of the Pharaohs.

His artwork was found to be such alchemy, that Joseph became one of the first African American artists in Kansas City, Missouri to have his artwork displayed at 18th and Vine in the Historic Jazz District. He has had various art showings at Westwood City Hall in Kansas City, Kansas; along with street shows, and a private showing event in Kansas City, Missouri. Joseph Newton has been a member of the Charlotte Art League of Charlotte, NC and he has had showings of his unique work. 

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Kim Newton

Fiber Artist | Designer


Kim Alexis Newton was born in San Francisco, California. She moved to Nashville Tennessee and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Fisk University and a Master of Business Administration from Vanderbilt University. 


Kim enjoyed a 20 plus year career with one of the world’s largest privately-held companies in America, most recently serving as senior vice president of Consumer Experience of the Hallmark Brand and has been recognized as one of the top 100 African Americans in corporate America. Additionally, Kim was named to the 2017 class of The Henry Crown Fellow by the Aspen Institute. She is also a member of The Executive Leadership Council, The Network of Executive Women, African-American Artist Collective,The Links, Inc. and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.


Throughout her career, Kim honed her skills as a fiber artist and recently decided to pursue her artistic passions more seriously. Kim learned to quilt (the traditional way) when she was 22 from her Grandmother. “That summer changed my life. I still don’t know if it was learning a time-honored craft from my grandmother or just the time we spent together. I fell in love with quilting.” Kim evolved to a modern approach to quilting, putting herself and her experiences into the storytelling. Instantly recognized as unique, Kim had the opportunity to feature her quilts in her first show at 28. Since that time Kim has exhibited at several shows episodically while she pursued her career and became a wife and mother. In 2018, a fellow quilt artist invited Kim to show two new pieces despite her apprehension of being pulled in several directions.


Kim fell in love again and with her new life experience was able to elevate her work in a way that was noticeable. The reaction was affirming. With this renewed interest from the art world, Kim secured her first solo show in May 2020. Kim works almost exclusively with Indonesian batik fabric because of their color vibrancy, symbolic meaning and workmanship. Batiks are hand dyed giving no two pieces the same affect.She believes their variation brings movement to and enhance the emotion of her pieces

"Fabrics speak to me and the emotion they convey are often my inspiration.” 

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Glenn North 

Poet | Writer

Glenn North is currently the Director of Inclusive Learning & Creative Impact at the Kansas City Museum. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from UMKC. Glenn is the author of City of Song, a collection of poems inspired by Kansas City’s rich jazz tradition and the triumphs and tragedies of the African American experience. He is a Cave Canem fellow, a Callaloo creative writing fellow, and a recipient of the Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artist Award and the Crystal Field Poetry Award. His work has appeared in the Langston Hughes Review, Kansas City Voices, One Shot Deal, The Sixth Surface, Caper Literary Journal, Platte Valley Review, Kansas City Voices, KC Studio, Cave Canem Anthology XII, The African American Review, and American Studies Journal. He collaborated with legendary jazz musician, Bobby Watson, on the critically acclaimed recording project, Check Cashing Day and is currently filling his appointment as the Poet Laureate of the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District.

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Maria North-Morgan

Acrylic Artist| Fluid Abstract Art

Maria North-Morgan is an acrylic artist born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. As a life-long civil rights lawyer, and a social justice advocate with expertise in equity and inclusion, art has served as an escape to a place of peace and harmony. A self-taught multidisciplinary artist who focuses primarily on fluid abstract art, Maria uses her art to heal and to address social justice and civil rights issues around the country. I’ve always been drawn to color and the patterns in abstract art, as an adult I have used that attraction to dramatic color and art to express and interpret my feelings. Her art has been featured in KC Studio Magazine and on display in programs in Kansas City, and across the country. Maria encourages everyone to find an interest or something that brings you peace, harmony, and joy, then embrace it!

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Michael Patton

Poet | Educator

Michael Patton is a retired secondary school teacher of the Kansas City Public School District.  He began his involvement in social activism while growing up in the Civil Rights Movement as a member of C.O.R.E.   As a college student he served as a member of the Black Student Alliance of Westminster College working to advance the goals of black students on that campus.  As a classroom teacher and union executive, he called for the increased participation of minorities in educational systems and has been an advocate for the continued inclusion of minority histories as valuable and necessary for enhancing the dialogue between the diverse parts of the American society.

His activism has also been expressed in the arts.  Michael worked for several years instructing students for the Gems of 18th and Vine, a research and writing project sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation and UMKC.  He has performed with the Gorilla Theater Group and the Theater Gym.  His poetry is a reflection of his advocacy of art as a revolutionary necessity.  He is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Black Archives of Mid-America.  As a member of the African American Artists Collective, he continues to work to promote the artistic endeavors of artists struggling to be recognized for their talents and excellence.

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Jason Piggie

Film Maker | Photographer

Kansas City, Mo-based photographer/filmmaker, Jason Piggie, has been honing his skills in photography and filmmaking for the past three decades. Jason blended his thirty-six years of photography and twenty-year of filmmaking experience into a perfect marriage to create thought-provoking and inspiring works.

Jason was the recipient of The Rocket grand Award in 2019. He has received two residency opportunities through Charlotte Street Foundation. Jason has written and directed 15 short films including “A homecoming”, “Otis’ Song”, "Bad Dream", " Mattie's Song", " Agent C" and “Domestic" and has won 1st place at the 3/5/7 Film Festival in the 5 Minute Category. In 2012 he won best in show at the Arts KC show. He has exhibited in the Kansas City Artists Coalition: River Market Regional Exhibition, Reflecting the Time – The Box Gallery Kansas City Mo, Jazz Speaks to Life legacy – American Jazz Museum Kansas City Mo, All Hail to Hale – American Jazz Museum Kansas City Mo, Tomahawk Community Center: Overland Park Ks, Depictions: People, Places and Things Black Archives of Mid-America, and Jazz Then and Now – American Jazz Museum Kansas City Mo.


Jason Piggie currently lives in Kansas City, Missouri, but has work in other parts of the continental USA. 

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Tony Ramos

Painter | Film Producer | Educator | Arts Advocate

Tony Ramos, was born in 1944 in Providence, Rhode Island, and lives in the South of France. He studied painting at Southern Illinois University and received an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, where he was graduate assistant to Allan Kaprow. He has received a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, and an Aspen Fellowship from the Aspen Institute, among other awards. In the 1970’s, Ramos was a video consultant for the United Nations and the National Council of Churches. He lived in Paris in the 1980’s, where he was a professor at the American Center and oversaw the first television cabling of Paris. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, Ramos traveled widely in Europe, Africa, China, and the Middle East. He recorded video during the end of Portugal's colonial rule of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, in Tehran during the 1980 hostage crisis, and in Beijing just prior to the Tiananmen Square massacre. He taught at Rhode Island School of Design, New York University, and the University of California at San Diego, among others.

 In the late 1980’s he turned to painting as his primary medium. He has exhibited his paintings at numerous international venues, including the American Jazz Museum and Bruce R Watkins Cultural Center, Kansas City, Biennale de Dakar, Senegal; and Galerie du Dragon, Paris among others.

Ramos' video works have been shown internationally including at the Pasadena Art Museum, California (1973); Musee d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (1974); Whitney Museum of American Art (1975) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1992) among others. Recent screenings and exhibitions of Ramos’ early video work include Light Industry in New York (2010); Circa 1971 : Early Video & Film from the EAI Archive at Dia: Beacon (2011-2012); The Embodied Vision: Performance for the Camera at the Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporanea do Chiado in Lisbon (2014); Anthony Ramos: Video et apres at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2014), and Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York (2015). (EAI)

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Sandra Revelle

Textile Art | Journalist

I create original textile art of lesser-known African-Americans that provokes thought and prick the heart. My intense interest in people can their stories have stirred within me since childhood. I carried it with me as a journalist for the African-American newspaper, The Arizona Informant. My Focus was the personal stories of those in the community. When I began writing Black History short stories the need for visual representations of the characters and circumstances later followed. I started with what I had on hand.

My medium is repurposed upholstery fabrics, linen, and cotton which are the backgrounds for original appliqués. Stitching is done by hand and machine. My art has developed over the past four years. I am self-taught and am expanding my collection to include contemporary art pieces. |

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Christa Rice also known as Crissi Curly

Painter | Mixed Media | Arts Advocate

​Christa Rice also known as Crissi Curly is a contemporary artist known for her vibrant and expressive artworks. Inspired by nature, culture, hair and the human experiences. Christa creates visually captivating pieces that invite viewers to dive into a world of emotion and imagination. With a background in social work, Christa combines traditional techniques with innovative approaches to push the boundaries of their chosen medium. Her distinct style incorporates a harmonious blend of bold brushstrokes, intricate details, and rich textures, resulting in captivating compositions that evoke a sense of wonder and introspection. Throughout Christa’s artistic journey, her art is deeply rooted in the lens through which they explore identity, relationships, and the intricacies of the human condition. 

Christa’s work has been exhibited in galleries and art fairs both nationally and internationally. 

Christa aims to inspire others to embrace their own creativity and connect with the beauty and complexity of the world around them. Christa invites you to embark on a visual journey that celebrates the power of art to transcend boundaries and foster connection.

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Nia Richardson

Arts Business Consultant 

Ms. Richardson oversees the day-to-day operations of the KC BizCare Office, the City’s Business Customer  Service Center, a free business resource, advocacy, and information center for new and existing businesses operating within Kansas City. Established in 2009, BizCare provides guidance and assistance for businesses navigating the City’s licensing, permitting and vendor approval processes. Her work also includes streamlining initiatives to remove barriers to entry and systemic issues that impede a business’s ability to grow in Kansas City. She is an advocate between businesses and City departments to coordinate business-related concerns. Her work is vital to the City’s goal of becoming the “Most Entrepreneurial City in  America.” Nia started with the City in November of 2018. 

Her goal is to create a more streamlined approach for new and existing businesses to navigate the city’s registration and permitting process through the BizCare Office. She is also working towards procurement reform to improve the City’s contracting practices and use its purchasing power to help grow and support small businesses doing business with the City of Kansas City and other local public agencies.  

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Carole Lyles Shaw 

Master Quilter | Designer  


Carole Lyles Shaw is a modern quilt designer, author, and workshop teacher. She is a master at teaching virtually, and her live and on-demand modern quilting workshops are very popular with individuals and students all over the world. Carole started quilting over 20 years ago when she decided to make quilts for her nieces and nephews. She was mentored by the heirloom quilters of AAQB.

She co-founded the Sarasota Modern Quilt Guild and served on the Board of Directors of The Modern Quilt Guild from 2015-2017. Carole is the author of Madly Modern Quilts and Patriotic Modern Quilts and modern quilt patterns. Quilt Con 2019; American Quilter’s Society QuiltWeek in Paducah (September 2018); Modern Quilts: Redesigning Traditions at the Ontario California Museum of History and Art (2016) and the Modern Quilt Guild Exhibit at the Texas Quilt Museum (2016).

Her work is found in private and public collections and have been juried into the Modern Quilt Guild Showcase at the 2018 International Quilt Festival in Houston; Quilt Con 2019; American Quilter’s Society QuiltWeek in Paducah (September 2018); Modern Quilts: Redesigning Traditions at the Ontario California Museum of History and Art (2016) and the Modern Quilt Guild Exhibit at the Texas Quilt Museum (2016).

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Mary Silwance 

Poet | Author | Poetry-Editor-in-Residence  


Mary Silwance is an Egyptian immigrant living in Kansas City and mother of three daughters. She teaches adult EAL at Penn Valley, is a KCAI writing adjunct, and facilitates workshops on writing as well as ecology for area organizations. Mary serves on the editorial teams of Whispering Prairie Press and Flying Ketchup Press where, as Poetry-Editor-in-Residence, she conceptualized and was editor of, Of Our Own Accord, an anthology of women’s embodied experiences.Mary released her first full-length collection of poetry, We Remember Ourselves, in 2024. You can find her publications, radio, and zoom presentations as well as workshop offerings on writing and ecology at Mary’s work focuses on the ways the personal and collective are intertwined. Mary writes toward emancipation from within to create a lush future for all beings. 

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Dwight Smith

Collector | Artist

Dwight Smith (Major, U.S. Army Retired) is an Equal Opportunity specialist and Chief of the Intake Branch in the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Region 7. He recently served as the Regional VP (Region 7) of the National Council of HUD Locals 222, prior to working at HUD. Smith served our great nation for 25 years in the U.S. Army. During his years as an officer, Dwight served as a platoon leader, executive officer, company commander, public affairs officer, professor of military science, and most recently as a special advisor to senior Afghan government officials for the NATO mission Operation Resolute Support.


Mr. Smith was deployed 5 times in support of our nation's interests to both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other areas deemed critical. Mr. Smith’s awards include the Bronze Star, The Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, The Meritorious Service Medal, and the Combat Action Badge, only to name a few. Dwight is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Ft Leavenworth, Kansas and Chapman University earning both his B.A. and M.A. in Organizational Leadership. Mr. Smith is an avid collector of fine art, supporting local, national, and international artists. His collection has an emphasis on works by women and people of color.

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David Bruce Stevens

Photographer | Film Maker

David studied at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. After leaving KU, he was commissioned in the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant in the Signal Corps (Communications). Upon discharge from the Army, Stevens became Director of the University of Iowa's Minority Film Workshop.


After leaving Iowa, Stevens worked for the NBC O/O, and Channel 4 In Denver, Colorado for 12 years as a photojournalist. Leaving Channel 4 in the early '90s, he became a freelance photographer/videographer. Through the years, he worked on documentaries, corporate and government video projects, as well as his personal photography.


Stevens' work has appeared on most major television networks, including ABC; CBS; TNT; and in the BBC-produced documentary, “Racism and Sports in America.” His passion is Black and White photography.

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Sarah Smith 

AAAC Art History Intern

Sarah Smith is a Dylon scholar recipient, an undergrad at Park University studying European History with a minor in Sociology. She has served as a former class president of her alma-mater, Paseo Academy, where she attended from 2006-2013. She is also a former participant of Delta Cotillion 2013. Sarah has participated in multiple organizations, such as the National Honor Society and Student Orchestra. She is a recipient of the United States Achievement Academy as a National Mathematics Award winner, while also being labeled an outstanding citizen. Sarah has received recognition from the Missouri House of Representatives Gail McCann Beatty of the 26th District, and Randy D. Dunn 23rd District. Among other recognition, she has received a Certificate of Outstanding Achievement from the 16th circuit family judge, while participating in the law program at the University of Missouri- Kansas City (UMKC).

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David Bruce Stevens

Photographer | Film Maker

David studied at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. After leaving KU, he was commissioned in the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant in the Signal Corps (Communications). Upon discharge from the Army, Stevens became Director of the University of Iowa's Minority Film Workshop.


After leaving Iowa, Stevens worked for the NBC O/O, and Channel 4 In Denver, Colorado for 12 years as a photojournalist. Leaving Channel 4 in the early '90s, he became a freelance photographer/videographer. Through the years, he worked on documentaries, corporate and government video projects, as well as his personal photography.


Stevens' work has appeared on most major television networks, including ABC; CBS; TNT; and in the BBC-produced documentary, “Racism and Sports in America.” His passion is Black and White photography.

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Veronica “Roni” Sublett

Visual Artist | Author | Illustrator | Educator

Veronica Sublett has a passion and God-given talent that has led her to become an visual artist, author, illustrator and educator. Though she’s been teaching for over twenty years, she started drawing pictures before she could even write her name. Veronica signs her paintings, “Roni”, the nickname given to her as a child, indicates a very personal relationship with her. 

It lets the viewer know that they are getting an intimate peek into the heart, soul and mind of the artist. Roni loves bright and bold colors and believes it comes from her deep island roots and is the essential element of expression in the paintings and collages she creates.  
As a young child, she spent countless hours day-dreaming at the colorful pages of children’s books, gazing at the faces and imagining new ones. This has become a central theme throughout her creative development.

When you encounter her work, you will see influences of African, Mexican, Native American, Belizean and the Southern Pacific Islands depicted as people of color as she expresses her experience as a Black woman looking back into the past and always looking forward at the same time. The steady movement of time and place. Roni has exhibited in a variety of venues throughout the Midwest, with artwork in the Negro League Baseball Museum, The American Jazz Museum, The Jones Gallery, Portfolio Gallery, Homer’s Coffee Shop in Overland Park and others.
Veronica has also caused an explosion in the Picture Book industry by publishing her first Children’s book entitled, “When I Grow Up”, written and illustrated by her.  Although Roni has been creating, painting, writing and imagining for many years, she is only beginning to make her mark in this world as an artist… one creation at a time!

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Bili Redd Thedford

Vocalist | Composer

Bili Thedford is a Los Angeles native, a phenomenal premier vocalist who stirs you to rise from your status quo and soar in melodic wanderings of all sorts. His voice brings the wealth of the intuition of the ‘art of music’. His ‘gift of song’ is not to be taken lightly and you won’t be able to take it for granted. He demands, with a precedent, every part of you that can love a song.


With forty-plus years as a professional singing career with extraordinary musicianship, Bili Redd Thedford embodies the incomparable multi-talent pulsing in a city that boasts an immeasurable number of names and unmatched quality in entertainment throughout the world, accomplished as music arranger-composer, lyricist, percussionist, bassist, and overall – a ‘musician’s musician’. His humility lends a gentle strength of sensuality to his vocal performance.


His credits include working with and accompanying Quincy Jones, Andre’ Crouch, George Benson, Randy Crawford, Billy Higgins, Jeromy Lubbock, Melissa Manchester, Minnie Ripperton, and Sarah Vaughan. The list goes impressive, 6 Grammy nominations winner of 3 Grammy’s and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1996.

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Sonie Joi Thompson-Ruffin

Fabric Artist

Sonié Joi Thompson - Ruffin is a fabric artist, fabric designer, curator, and author.

She uses her artist’s platform to share the African American narrative. Her artwork is a celebratory testimony of courage, struggle, and strength that is intertwined through the life of African Americans.

She has conducted workshops and lectures about African American fabric art at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, and the Nerman Museum. She has been invited to exhibit her artwork at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, David C. Driskell Art Center, Mulvane Museum, Spencer Museum, the Holter Museum, and the Leedy Volkous Art Center.

Sonié is a co-founder of the African American Artists Collective. She serves on the Kansas City Museum Foundation Board and Curatorial committee, she served ten years as curator in resident for the American Jazz Museum’s Changing Gallery in Kansas City's historic jazz district. Sonié is a Charlotte Street Visual Arts Fellow, an Art Omi Fellow, Delta Sigma Theta Woman of Courage recipient, and a Kansas Masters.

Her artwork and fabric designs have appeared on the cover and in KC Studio magazine, New Letters, and quilt magazines across the country.

Her most recent public arts selection by Helix Architectural Firm is the 2017 commission of Community Dignity and iNeema which rests on the exterior building walls of Kansas City’s Leon Mercer Jordan East Patrol and Crime Lab Campus. Her artwork can be found in galleries, museums, public and private collections throughout the United States, Europe, and Africa.


“...a celebratory testimony of courage, struggle, and strength that is intertwined through the life of African Americans...”

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Ja Tatu WOKE3

Muralist / Writer / Traveler 

“I create art that is meant to be a reflection of who I am in relation to what’s observed in and outside of myself.”

Woke3 is a muralist and studio artist from Nashville, TN. He attended Tennessee State University 2016, Bachelor of Science with concentrations in Studio Art and Graphic Design. Woke3 has a special gift: he has the ability to make people feel connected, appreciated, respected, and completely submerged in his art works. His works are greatly praised by the community for being inclusive, diverse, and having the ability to show how no one thing is greater than another.

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Michael V. Toombs

Muralist | Painter | Educator

Michael Vance Toombs is an accomplished painter, art activist, and founder and CEO of Storytellers Inc., Artist Collective. Mr. Toombs is a community leader and champion for young people and working artists in the Greater Kansas City area. Michael began as a young student with Matthew Monks at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. He furthered his study through classes at the Kansas City Art Institute and completed a business entrepreneurial course of study through Donnelly College, Kansas City, Kansas. Michael left the corporate world as customer service manager for GEHA Insurance for 8 years where he helped setup their customer service dept, which handled 3500 calls a day with 75 customer service reps.

I left to develop my own business in the belief that ”Art is a Change Agent for society’s difficulties.” Michael’s art form is “interactive community-based art”. As Executive Director of Storytellers Inc, Michael has developed contracts with many high profile organizations including the University of Missouri, Wichita State University, Environmental Protection Agency, Accessible Arts, Bartle Convention Center, Olorun Foundation in Burkina Faso, West Africa, Kansas City Kansas Public Schools, Kansas City Kansas Housing Authority, Jackson County Family Courts, and C.O.M.B.A.T – Jackson County Prosecutors Office, KCMO Mayor’s office, KCMO Police dept.


Michael Toombs has worked with the Department of Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Kansas Medical ArtsTech and InterUrban ArtHouse, as well as 18th and Vine Jazz district.

”Art is a Change Agent for society’s difficulties.”

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Remy Wharry


Remy Wharry is from Kansas City, Missouri. I’ve been drawing and painting since I was young. I’ve participated in various local art shows and community events as a self-taught artist. Acrylic paints and graphite are my medium of choice. I enjoy creating portraits, outdoor scenes, and even more so original works that emerge from my mind. Portraits have always been an exciting challenge for me. Taking time to grapple with the likeness of an image pushes me to grow my skills each time I take on a commission. Capturing life outdoors with special attention to flowers, plants, and herbs are extremely calming for me to paint. Most importantly, taking time to create my own original work helps me hone in on my own style of art. My original pieces have meaning to them and I aspire to have the messages I convey on the canvas come across through my brush to the rest of the world. My work is inspired by Afro-American life and beauty. I use my art to be a storyteller and messenger. I want my art to inspire others and shine light on the many layers of black life in hopes of being a change agent for reform. I plan to continue to practice and perfect my craft as well as share my knowledge and passion for the arts with the world.

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Jason Wilcox

Painter | Muralist

I’m from Kansas City and I’m an Artist!!!!


Art has always been a passion of mine. I knew from a very early age that art would be a strong influence in my life. My artistic mission is to entice the viewer to escape reality and live an alternate life within the painting.


J Art Pro is born out of Jason Wilcox's creative mind and influenced by a collaboration of painting, graphic design, video production, and music. Jason's artistic vision developed from an early age and advanced through education at Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri where he was awarded Best Visual Artist of his Senior class of 2000. The Scholastic Arts Award earned him college art program scholarships.


Current media include acrylic, gold, silver, copper, and green leaf, ink, paint marker, oil pastel, spray paint and watercolor. Natural sponges are the preferred application method for blending, but some pieces are done with a brush. New media and application techniques are uniquely utilized within each piece of work, such as embroidery, Marley hair, and French lace veil. Jason's work shows a contemporary outlook on realism, abstract, and pop art styles.

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Duke Windsor

Painter | Arts Educator

Born in Texarkana, Texas, Duke Windsor served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a combat illustrator and drill instructor.
Windsor’s Golden Skies Series, Balboa Park works, and his new Burger Series have been exhibited and received awards at juried exhibitions, group shows, and corporate venues across the country, and they are held in many private collections throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Windsor is an Associate Artist member of the California Art Club, Oil Painters of America, International Acrylic Painters Association, San Diego Watercolor Society, and Foothills Art Association. Windsor is former Education Chair of the San Diego Museum of Art Artist Guild and has also served as a member of the Public Arts Selection Committee of the San Diego Regional Airport Authority Art Program. With over 15 years of museum exhibit design experience, Windsor has juried many local and regional art exhibitions as well. Exhibitions, group shows, and corporate venues across the country, and are held in many private collections throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Windsor is an Associate Artist member of the California Art Club, Oil Painters of America, International Acrylic Painters Association, San Diego Watercolor Society, and Foothills Art Association. Windsor is former Education Chair of the San Diego Museum of Art Artist Guild and has also served as a member of the Public Arts Selection Committee of the San Diego Regional Airport Authority Art Program. With over 15 years of museum exhibit design experience, Windsor has juried many local and regional art exhibitions as well. Windsor's art studio is located in Mt. Helix, California. |



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John Wood

Advocate| Photographer


John is a native Virginian, but moved to Kansas City in July 1977 where he was employed by the City of
Kansas City in the Office of Housing and Community Development. After five years, John left the City
and worked for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce as Community Affairs Manager, and then
onto Citizens Jackson County Bank as its first African American bank officer. In 1990, John joined the
Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas where he eventually became Assistant Vice President of Community
Affairs and its Community Affairs Officer.

In 2003, John joined Wells Fargo Home Mortgage as Manager of Emerging Markets, and two years later
in 2005, he joined LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) of Kansas City as Senior
Lender/Underwriter. Then in January 2011, John returned to the City of Kansas City as Assistant City
Manager and its Director of Neighborhoods and Housing Services Department until he retired in August

Among his proudest accomplishments were, leading Kansas City’s efforts to complete the Beacon Hill
redevelopment project (22nd to 27th St., Troost Ave. to Paseo Blvd.) from 2012 to 2021 that resulted in
over 400 new single family and multi-family housing units, and mixed-use commercial and totaling over
$150 million in new investment and value, and leading the efforts of redeveloping the Linwood
Shopping Center, a $17 million city investment that featured a new 40,000 sq. ft. full-service grocery
store and major renovation of 26,000 sq. ft. of existing retail shops. As a City Director, John led a diverse
department comprised of over 300 management and labor staff with a $58-million budget to support
housing, code enforcement, abatement of nuisance and dangerous buildings, management of the City’s
tow and animal control operations and oversight and regulation of minors’ purchasing of alcohol and
tobacco products.

John earned his undergraduate degree in Sociology – Urban Studies from Virginia Union University in
Richmond, and M.A. in Public Administration from The Ohio State University. He is a member of Kappa
Alpha Psi Fraternity and the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc., respectively. During his work experience, John
was active on several boards and organizations. Currently, he sits on the Board of Directors of The Folly

Wood J
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Sonia Sanchez, Ph.D.

Master Poet | Author | Educator

Sonia Sanchez is one of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement. She is a poet, activist, and scholar she was the former Laura Carnell Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Temple University. She is the first Poet Laureate for the city of Philadelphia. She is the recipient of both the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. Sanchez is the author of sixteen books. Her poetry has been read all over the world.


Congressman "Rev" Emanuel Cleaver II

Cleaver was elected Kansas City's first African American Mayor in 1991. During his eight-year stint in the Office of the Mayor, Cleaver distinguished himself as an economic development activist and an unapologetic redevelopment craftsman. 


Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II is a native Texan, now serving his seventh term representing Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, the home district of President Harry Truman. He is a member of the House Committee on Financial Services; Chair of the subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy; member of Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance; member of the House Committee on Homeland Security; member of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security; and member of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. During the 112th Congress, Cleaver was unanimously elected to the 20th chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

In 2018, Congressman Cleaver received the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award Foundation. Past honorees include President Bill Clinton, the late Senator John McCain, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Cleaver has received five honorary Doctoral Degrees augmented by a bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M, and a master’s from St. Paul's School of Theology of Kansas City.

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Charles Bibbs

Master Illustrator

Internationally acclaimed artist Charles Bibbs, whose work is featured in museums, galleries, organizations, and homes of many collectors, displays a deep sense of Spirituality, Majesty, Dignity, Strength, and Grace in his images. His work is done in a combination of realistic and larger-than-life interpretations of contemporary subjects that are ethnically rooted.

Born in San Pedro, California, and raised in Harbor City, California, Bibbs managed to work an eight-hour job and use his God-given talent in his spare time. But In 1991, Bibbs decided to leave his management position of 25 years, to form his publishing and distribution company, B Graphics and Fine Arts, Inc. Today, Bibbs is one of the top-selling artists in the country, and his business has grown to be one of the leaders in the African American art print market.

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Ed Dwight

Public Artist | Master Sculptor

Ed Dwight has been an artist since his youth. He is a graduate engineer, a former USAF Test Pilot, and America’s first African American Astronaut candidate appointed by President John F. Kennedy. After successful careers as an Air Force Officer/Pilot, and real estate and construction entrepreneur, Ed has dedicated the last 33 years solely to his artistic endeavors.

In 1975, while in the Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) Program at the University of Denver, Ed was commissioned by the Colorado Centennial Commission to create a series of bronzes depicting the contribution of Blacks to the American Frontier West. The series of 50 bronzes was exhibited for several years throughout the United States, gaining widespread acceptance and critical acclaim. In 1979, while the series was on exhibit at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (National Park Service), Ed was encouraged to create a bronze series portraying the history and historical roots of Jazz.


The series created, entitled "JAZZ: An American Art Form," now consists of over 70 bronzes characterizing the creation and evolution of Jazz from its African and European roots to the fusion of contemporary music. In 2009, Ed was honored with the commission to create a historical life-size sculpture presentation of President Barack Obama’s first inauguration scene. The scene includes the President, The First Lady, the two Obama girls, and Chief Justice John Roberts administering the oath. The exhibit is on tour throughout the U.S. in museums and other venues.

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Dean L. Mitchell

Master Painter

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 Mitchell is well known for his figurative works, landscapes, and still life's. In addition to watercolors, he is accomplished in other mediums, including egg temperas, oils, and pastels. Mitchell has been featured in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, American Artist, Artist Magazine, Fine Art International and Art News.

His art can be found in corporate and museum collections across the country, including: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, Mississippi; Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, Missouri; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Beach Museum of Art, Manhattan, Kansas; The Autry National Center, Los Angeles; The Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Arkansas; Gadsden Art Center Quincy, Florida; Canton Museum of Art, Canton, Ohio and the Library of Congress.


Dean L. Mitchell is represented by Marie Brooks Gallery in Quincy, FL Mac-Grader Gallery in New Orleans, LA, Astoria Fine Art in Jackson, Wyoming, Cutter & Cutter Fine Art in St. Augustine, FL E&S Gallery in Louisville, Kentucky, Hearne Fine Art in Little Rock, AR, J. Willott Gallery in Palm Desert, California, and The Red Piano Art Gallery in Bluffton, South Carolina

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Maurice A. Watson

Advocate | Collector

Maurice Alvin Watson, co-founder and principal of Credo Philanthropy Advisors, LLP, has more than 30 years of experience in law, social and public policy, and board governance as a lawyer, advisor, and board member. He has been a partner and chairman of the law firm of Husch Blackwell, which is among the 100 largest law firms in America, representing public and private schools and school systems and colleges and universities, education advocacy groups, education associations at the state and national levels. Recognized as one of the most influential leaders in the Kansas City community and in the nation, he is a frequent speaker before groups across the country and has been named among the 100 most influential leaders in Kansas City, among the 500 leading lawyers in America, and among the most influential Black lawyers in America. As an undergraduate at Harvard College, he concentrated in Social Studies, a selective interdisciplinary honors program, and received a baccalaureate degree, cum laude. He subsequently received his law degree at Harvard Law School. After law school, Maurice served as Museum of Art, board—Kansas City legislative aide to the Honorable John Danforth in the United States Senate in Washington, D.C, where he advised on education, welfare, health care, and judiciary legislation. He has served on the Kansas City Ballet, board, Ford’s Theatre, board—Washington, DC, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art along with a host of the board in and outside of the Kansas City area.  

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Jacqueline Woods, Ph.D.

Educator | Poet | Author

Jacqueline Wood (Ph.D., University of Florida) specializes in twentieth-century African American literature with an emphasis on African-American women dramatists. She is a retired Professor Emerita of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. As an English professor teaching in the African-American Studies Program at UMKC, she taught Black Studies introductory and advanced theory courses and African-American literature. In addition, she has taught courses on early American immigrant experience, women writers of color, and composition and culture. Her scholarship centers on varied forms in the rhetoric of resistance in African-American women’s drama. Her published works include articles in Studies in the Humanities, The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, The African American Review, College Literature, and various American drama critical anthologies. Dr. Wood also has published the first edited collection of plays by Sonia Sanchez with Duke University Press: I’m Black When I’m Singing; I’m Blue When I Ain’t and Other Plays by Sonia Sanchez.  She is currently working on a Sonia Sanchez Reader (also with Duke UP), a novel, and her own plays.


Julián Zugazagoitia

Director and CEO of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Julián Zugazagoitia is the Director and CEO of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, one of the nation's leading encyclopedic art museums. Born and raised in Mexico City, educated at the Sorbonne and the École du Louvre in France, Zugazagoitia has worked at institutions like UNESCO, The Getty Conservation Institute, The Guggenheim Museum and Museo del Barrio in the Americas, Europe, and Africa.


Since his arrival at the Nelson-Atkins in 2010, museum attendance has grown 43% thanks to improved engagement with the community, superlative exhibitions ranging from antiquities to contemporary, and more inclusive programming.


Zugazagoitia is widely known for inspiring the community with his passion for the arts, scholarship, and education, and for his high energy leadership and collaborative spirit. He also currently serves as board chair of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in New York, NY, and on the board of the Kansas City Art Institute.

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