Donors gift symbolic statue to UMKC

In 2018, Flávio Cerqueira boarded an airplane, traveled 5,318 miles from his home in São Paulo, Brazil, and landed in Kansas City.

The 36-year-old Brazilian sculptor settled in for a residency at The Kansas City Art Institute where he spent three months creating a bronze statue entitled, “Any Word Except Wait.” 

The life-sized piece shows a young woman confidently striding forward with a steady gaze, seemingly unaware of the tall stack of books balanced perfectly atop her head. 

“To me, the piece talks about the power of education to build a better future,” said Cerqueira. “Education feeds the body and soul. It empowers a person.” 

UMKC displayed Cerqueira’s finished statue on campus in 2018 as part of “Open Spaces: A Kansas City Art Experience,” a nine-week citywide visual and performing arts exhibition. After the piece garnered a slew of positive attention from campus administrators and viewers, the R.C. Kemper Charitable Trust purchased the work of art and donated it to UMKC, where it will be permanently installed later this month near the Fine Arts Building and Atterbury Student Success Center. 

Cerqueira said the young woman under the textbooks is a character frozen in an unfinished narrative, allowing spectators to reflect on the artwork and offer their own unique end to her story. 

“This piece is an homage to Ruby Bridges, the women of my family and all young women that feel represented by the piece,” said Cerqueira. 

One woman who feels strongly about “Any Word Except Wait” is Mary Kemper Wolf, chairperson of the Kemper Museum Board of Trustees. 

“This statue is an inspiring symbol of what education can be,” said Wolf, who helped spearhead the donation that gifted UMKC the artwork. “I think it’s about the commitment to question and to build your future with knowledge and curiosity.” 

Wolf saw how much those at UMKC enjoyed the sculpture while it was on display during Open Spaces. 

“We knew purchasing and donating the piece would be a great celebration of the event and of art being such an important part of Kansas City,” said Wolf.

Cerqueira was ecstatic about his statue’s new home.   

“I’m so proud my piece will be permanently installed on campus,” said Cerquiera. “No doubt this adds a lot of meaning to the piece.”

As with most art, the meaning of Cerqueira’s statue is unique to each individual interpretation. 

“I think it’s about the task that society puts on young people to be in school, and the pressures that come with that,” said junior art history major Zoey Barnes on the statue. “Maybe the books represent the weight of schooling, but also the knowledge of school and how it can grow you but also shrink you.” 

Another student, junior Genevieve Ismert, offered a different outlook on the statue and a different continuation of the young woman’s story. 

“I think the books represent education, art and knowledge,” said Ismert. “She should feel pressure, but she looks totally okay with it. Knowledge and school aren’t a weight that needs to be added, but something that can be gained.”

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