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Got FLO? UMKC student develops her own flow arts community

You may be asking yourself, what is “Flow art?” Flow art is an art where your body is the main medium. It can be the manipulation of several kinds of objects, such as juggling, hula-hoops, poi, fiber whips, staffs and even umbrellas. 

“Being a flow artist is being able to enter the flow state easily,” explained UMKC sophomore Jayla Atkinson, who created the group, FLO KC. “It’s like an extension of your own body.”

There are always new props emerging on the scene, like fire hoops, fire staffs, fire poi, fire fans and also juggling and eating fire.

Now who would want to eat fire, touch it or even spin it? If you’ve been to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, you’ve probably already seen some kind of flow art. As wild as it may seem, flow art is not new. It’s quite dated, but it’s making a comeback in the electronic scene.

“How I see flow art is how break dancing is to hip hop, but in correlation to EDM (electronic dance music),” said Atkinson.

She discovered flow art when she moved to Kansas City in 2017 after meeting Luke Stafford, another notable name in Kansas City’s EDM and flow art scenes. Stafford spins poi along with fire and teaches others. However, Atkinson found her own device. 

“I saw a fiber whip at Dancefestopia in 2018 and fell in love,” Atkinson said. 

Starting a new chapter in her life, Atkinson discovered a new passion. Prior to Dancefestopia, Atkinson attended an August First Friday. She went alone, upset with her friends not getting back to her. While walking around the Crossroads, she stumbled upon 18th Street Union’s opening. The owner of the venue said, “We have lights and music,” and Atkinson thought to herself, ‘Yeah, I could flow in here.’

The owner mentioned to Atkinson an EDM night is hosted there every Wednesday. She then pitched him the idea of starting a flow night with different DJs every week as well. After some consideration, he granted her the space to do as she pleased.

The idea took off, and FLO KC was born. Atkinson began to promote her group at Dancefestopia in 2018 and around the city with flyers and on Facebook pages.   

The early struggles of maintaining the new-found community weren’t easy. 

“The most stressful thing about it was booking DJs in the beginning,” said Atkinson. “Specifically, one guy gave me a hard time about how I had the same DJs every week, and it was discouraging. He micromanaged and told me how I should do it, but no one was doing it or helping. I almost gave this guy full-reign.”

She further explained it just took time to network with DJs and other artists to get the ball rolling. In return, this gave local DJs an opportunity to practice and perform for live audiences. 

Atkinson also began hosting workshops.

“I used to run flow workshops and let others run workshops. For $5, people could be admitted,” she said. “At the time, I was trying to pay my artists. I wanted to create a place where flow artists could make money on what they do and to serve as a resume builder. I wanted to inspire people.” 

Atkinson said the flow art community is welcoming. A future goal of hers is to get more workshops during the group time to make beginners more comfortable. She understands how it can be discouraging for new people and mentioned she wants to merge the groups. 

“People in this community can get cliquey, but when people come to FLO, it’s all love,” she said. “We all know we are here for the same reason; the main thing I want to do is merge the groups between fire and lead artist.”

If you attend a session, you can expect to make new connections and friends in the Kansas City area. You might feel slight discomfort and vulnerability if you decide to learn a flow art. However, you can also expect to learn new things from a community that is excited to teach you. 

If you are interested or want to get involved, follow FLO KC’s social media pages. Atkinson hosts this group every Wednesday night and posts weekly updates about DJs and locations. During the summer, Atkinson tries to find outdoor spaces, such as Kaw Point or the ‘slabs’ in Gillham Park, but for the coming weeks, it will be back in 18th Street Union. 

If you are interested in helping out, Atkinson is open to suggestions. Whether you have a friend that can DJ or want to run a workshop, she is ready to hear what you’d like to see at FLO KC. 

aamnx9@mail.umkc.edu

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1 COMMENT

  1. I know Jayla, I’m her Dad. You think you know your children but Jayla continues to grow as a person with her own hopes and dreams. You never know what is next with Jayla but I feel she has really found her niche in FLO art and continuous to develop and grow in the art. I’m very proud of her…. love you Jayla. Great article

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