Tuesday, November 30, 2021
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An inside look at Kansas City’s first Selfie Boutique

Whether they are attending events at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, going out on First Fridays in the Crossroads Arts District or visiting any of the hundreds of exhibits around the city, students at UMKC don’t have to look far to find new artists and ideas showcased around the city. One of these exhibits, titled Selfie Boutique, popped up in Westport this winter. Inspired by the millennial love of selfies and photography, the boutique was an immersive art display that allowed patrons to put themselves into the show.

Located in the basement of Snow and Co., the boutique started with an archway of balloons, a small foreshadowing of the world beyond. Full of colorful walls, the space was filled with various different “sets” for personal photoshoots. From balloon displays to painted designs and even a room with AstroTurf and a swing, visitors were transported into a fun atmosphere of self-love and creativity.

Ambrielle Alexander (Source Ethan Armstrong)

Though the Selfie Boutique only lasted a short while, its impact in the community has not gone away. Pictures of the exhibit were shared all over social media. According to founder Alex Altomare and artistic director Molly Balloons, part of the concept was to be highly “instagramable.”

Altomare said the idea came to him during a visit to The Nelson-Atkins Museum, where he saw dozens of patrons taking selfies in front of the art. This made him wonder what art would look like if it were meant for taking selfies and photos, or “art designed to be photographed” as he calls it. From there, Altomare called Balloons and they set about designing and creating KC’s first Selfie Boutique. Designing the exhibit with the goal of being as immersive as possible, the team tried to make sets that allowed patrons to climb, stand, sit and lay.

“It was also important to us to make things dynamic,” said Balloons. “I wanted to give people something to work with.”

Balloons was responsible for all the unique sets, such as the pink “balloon womb” and orange and yellow “coral reef” which she described as “long skinny balloons with pow-pow and energy.” Very enthusiastic about her work, she’d seen this type of trendy exhibit in other cities. She knew Kansas Citians would be very receptive to this kind of art.

“I was eager to bring something of that culture and trendiness to KC,” she said.

Another unique feature of this exhibit were the professional photography studio lights available at each set. This helped the photos appear more professional.

“The goal was to make it super easy for great photography,” Altomare said, adding that the lights were set to work well with phone cameras in particular.

Although the boutique was designed with selfies in mind, the largest group of repeat customers were photographers who utilized the space for various different shoots. Altomare and Balloons said the large crowds were something unexpected but exciting. They estimate thousands of tickets sold. Once a guest had paid, they were able to use the exhibit the entire time it was open, many returning again and again.

Many are now asking if the Selfie Boutique will ever open again and are anxiously awaiting its return.

Of plans to bring the Selfie Boutique back, Altomare says, “That sounds like a great idea.”

To catch a glimpse inside the selfie boutique, check out the project’s Instagram at @admireyourselfie. 

mps2pw@mail.umkc.edu

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