5 Black Artists Bringing Excellence to the KC Art Scene

By: Emma Sauer

Kansas City has more to offer than barbecue and sports teams. This is a thriving city teeming with talent, innovation, and excellence, and the city owes much of that to the Black community. From the American Jazz Museum to the AAAC (African American Arts Collective), Black artists have an established presence in Kansas City. Here’s a list (in no particular order) of five Black creators who make incredible art.

Meeks Me Smile Studio

@meeksmesmilestudio Instagram

Shawanna Meeks founded Meeks Me Smile to offer unique, and stylish handbags. One night while getting dressed for a night out with her friends, she realized she didn’t have the right handbag to match her fun night. So, she made her own. The shop offers small accessories, wallets,  clutch bags, totes, handbags, and more–all with cute and colorful prints. Considering these bags are all handmade, they’re marked at a remarkably affordable price. Costs range from $15 to $155 (not including shipping). Meeks Me Smile Studio also dabbles in furniture design and acrylic paintings.

Sonia Sanchez

Source: Creative Commons, John Mathew Smith, https://www.flickr.com/people/36277035@N06

Sonia Sanchez is a poet, playwright, author, and activist. A major influence in the Black arts movement, she’s received both the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. Her poetry is known for its mixing of musical elements and traditional poetry. Through her poems she celebrates the art of Black English. Sonia Sanchez’s 16 books have moved readers since her first collection of poems, Homecoming, in 1969. Not much of her poetry is free to read online, but you can check out her books at your local library or purchase them.

Arie Monroe

“Block and Delete”, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

If you like comics or pop art, you’ll love Arie Monroe’s colorful and expressive art. Her comic Tornado Alley, starring Mainasha and her cat Socks, is a wacky take on the Wizard of Oz, but it’s also been a way for Monroe to to communicate her struggles as a black woman, according to her caption statement on “Block and Delete”, a piece currently on display in the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. She also specializes in caricature art. On Redbubble, she has merch available featuring caricatures, the Tornado Alley crew, and other illustrations.

Whitney Manney

@WhitneyManney Instagram

Whitney Manney is both a fashion designer and her independent ethical fashion label of the same name. WM’s clothes are bold, taking inspiration from street art and urban culture. Whitney Manney aims to make clothes that are more than clothes; they make ready-to-wear wearable art. As for the artist herself, she’s showcased her work at over a dozen galleries and runway shows, including the UMKC Gallery of Art. She’s also done teaching partnerships with the HALO foundation (a foundation dedicated to helping homeless KC youth), and other schools around the area.

NedRa Bonds

Image Source: Connie Fiorella Fitzpatrick, Creative Commons

NedRa Bonds is an activist, quilt artist, and retired teacher in Kansas City, Kansas. Her vibrant, collage-like quilts often make strong statements about the social issues she’s passionate about. Her artwork has been directly inspired by issues of human rights, social justice, race, and environmentalism, to name a few. Bonds also often incorporates elements of satire and political commentary into her art, echoing her principles as an activist. She’s made over 100 quilts since 1989, many that have been shown at different art shows and exhibits in KC. If you’ve spent some time at the Women’s Center, her art may look familiar: for the Women’s Center’s 40th anniversary, she led the creation of our Women’s Equity Quilt!





Wonder Women: SHEroes, Freedom Fighters, and Women Who Kick Butt!

By Arzie Umali

untitledCurrently on display at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center is the exhibit Wonder Women: SHEroes, Freedom Fighters, and Women Who Kick Butt! Despite its title, the exhibit is not about comic books or video games. Nor does it feature provocatively posed damsels wielding weapons. This Wonder Women exhibit is about real life women who are superheroines of our art community doing what they do best: seeking truth and justice through the work that they create, driven by their passions and their creative spirit.

The Superheroines of this exhibit are local artists Michelle Beasley, Nedra Bonds, Nicole Emanuel, Ritchie Kaye, Eugenia Ortiz, and Sonie Ruffin. Each of the artists in this exhibit on her own is a wonder woman. They are activists, advocates, and change makers in the community who create art and imagery that evoke the strength, courage, and resilience of the empowered woman. Michelle Beasley’s works are each autobiographical, revealing her multifaceted life and a reality shared by so many women. Nedra Bonds’ textiles are portraits and portrayals of women past and present who represent the diverse history and struggles of women. Nicole Emanuel’s works take opposing views of wonder women: the superficial, fictionalized women depicted in her comic- book- covered, six-foot “Wonder Bra” versus the more natural, realist rendering of two women posed on opposite end of a large canvas. Ritchie Kaye’s larger than life photo of four properly posed women invites us to wonder about the varied lives of women, where what one see’s on the surface may not always be what rests below the surface.  Eugenia Ortiz’s works in sculpture and on canvas are rich with color and heavy with texture evoking the emotions of conflict, healing, and transformation. And Sonie Ruffin’s textiles tell stories of the African American experience and remind us of the multicultural world we live in and a past we shouldn’t forget.

Together the works in this exhibit create a conversation about women. The viewer is asked to join the conversation and consider the unique and diverse lives of all women, the experiences that they have, and the actions that they take that make them true wonder women.

A reception will be held at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center on First Friday, March 7, 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. and will include a brief talk by each artists. The reception is free and open to all; however, registration is requested at https://wonderwomenartistreception.eventbrite.com. Wonder Women is sponsored by the UMKC Women’s Center’s Her Art Project. The mission of the project is to support the creative achievements of local women artists and advance gender equity in the arts. To learn more about the Her Art Project please visit www.umkc.edu/womenc/herart or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/herartproject.

“Quilted Friendship: The Art of NedRa Bonds and Nancy Dawson” will be Curated by our Her Art Project Intern, Anna-Maria!

QuiltsBy Anna-Maria Kretzer

I love quilts and quilting practices, and I am always looking for new ways to exhibit them.  It is important to show people that quilts are more than covers or objects to be hung on gallery walls; they are often an index of relationships and social networks.  That is why I got really, really excited when I heard that NedRa Bonds, my favorite Kansas City artist, and her friend Nancy Dawson were collaborating on a project with school children from Kansas City, Kansas.  In fact, I was so excited that I was inspired to organize an exhibit in support of their endeavor.

The exhibition, titled Quilted Friendship: The Art of NedRa Bonds and Nancy Dawson, will be available for viewing from November 3 to December 15 on the first floor of the Miller Nichols Library.  Three of the quilts in the exhibition are actually part of the Hero Quilt Project.  They feature drawings of local heroes chosen from a list Bonds has been taking to schools in KC, KS.  The idea is to teach the students there about local heroes so that they will have healthy role models.  After the children learn about local heroes they have the opportunity to make drawings of their favorite heroes which Bonds then transfers to cloth so that they can be made into quilts.

In the final phase of the Hero Quilt Project Nancy Dawson and other members of her acting group will incorporate the Hero Quilts into a performance of If Da Dirt Could Talk at the Juneteenth 2014 festivities at the Old Quindaro Cemetery.  There will be photographs of past performances in Quilted Friendship showing how the Hero Quilts will be used.  The play, written by Dawson, recounts the life of one of her favorite heroes, Elizabeth Thompson.  Thompson was a slave who ran to the free state of Kansas before the Civil War.  She spent the rest of her life in Quindaro and raised a family; Dawson is also her granddaughter.

Quilted Friendship is a chance for people to learn about The Hero Quilt Project, as well as an opportunity for the children who have participated in the project to see their artwork in an exhibition right alongside the work of professional artists.  In addition to the Hero Quilts that have already been completed, the exhibition will include quilts made individually by Bonds and Dawson.  The opening reception will be Sunday November 3 from 3-5pm at the Miller Nichols Library on the UMKC Volker Campus.  Please come and tell any quilt-lovers you know about it too!

We came, we saw, we celebrated: WONDERful WOMEN at the Plaza Art Fair

Plaza Art123By Anna-Maria Kretzer

Her Art Project at the Plaza Art Fair, was a great success! We had beautiful weather, and a lot of people came out to play in the sun! Kids and adults alike kept busy making superhero/super-heroine masks, crafting Mami Wata dolls with local fiber artist Nedra Bonds, and posing against our skyline backdrop. Wonder Woman came by on Sunday and made our celebration complete!

We would like to give a huge “thank you” to our co-sponsors: the UMKC Conservatory of Music & Dance – Community Music & Dance Academy, UMKC Department of Theater, and the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City.

Plaza Art81Plaza Art145
In case we didn’t get to see your beautiful face this weekend, be sure to stop by our office at 105 Haag Hall to pick up a calendar of events for the semester. We are open 8am – 5pm every weekday.

For more information on this or other Her Art Project and Women’s Center events, please visit our website, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.


Celebrating WONDERful WOMEN at the Plaza Art Fair

Plaza Art Fair 2013 AnnouncementDon a Superhero/superheroine mask and come meet Wonder Woman at our Her Art Project Booth this weekend at the Plaza Art Fair!

The Women’s Center and Her Art Project will be at the Plaza Art Fair on the Country Club Plaza. The art fair is an annual event that features artists from all around the nation. RSVPs are not necessary for this event.

Her Art Project booth in the Experience ArtsKC area (47th and Broadway). Stop by to create Mami Wata Dolls, take your picture with Wonder Woman, and find out about programs that support women in the arts.

The booth will be open at the following times:

  • Friday, September 20, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 21, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Sunday, September 22, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This event is Co-sponsored by the UMKC Conservatory of Music & Dance – Community Music & Dance Academy, UMKC Department of Theater, and the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City.

For more information about the Plaza Art Fair, please visit the Country Club Plaza’s website.

For more information on this or other Women’s Center events, please visit our website, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

Silent Auction: “Peace at Sunrise” Quilt by NedRa Bonds

At the 40th Anniversary Galacoming up on April 20, guests will have the opportunity to bid on some amazing items at the silent auction. This is one of a series of posts highlighting the items that have been donated. Be sure to check back frequently as we will update the blog as new items come in. Make a note of your favorites and be ready to bid on April 20! For a complete list of items, please see our Silent Auction webpage.

This beautiful, fine art quilt measures 34″ x 32″ and was especially made by local artist NedRa Bonds to be auctioned at the 40th Anniversary Gala. A fiber artist specializing in quilts, dolls, and soft sculpture, Bonds has exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally for over three decades. Her resume includes classes taught in university settings, inclusions in national publications featuring African American quilters, and travels abroad working with organizations focusing on women’s issues.  Her works can be found in collections at the American Jazz Museum, Sprint, H&R Block and St. Luke’s Women’s Center. In 2011, she was awarded an Inspiration Grant by the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City to facilitate quilt workshops at UMKC. Bonds took the pieces made during these workshops and created the Women’s Equity Quilt, which she formally dedicated to the UMKC Women’s Center in November 2011 to commemorate its 40th Anniversary.

Value:  $750

Donated by: NedRa Bonds

40th Anniversary Video

By Brenda Bethman

In anticipation of our upcoming 40th Anniversary Gala, we made a few videos. You can view the first one here and the second featuring NedRa Bonds is posted below:


Women’s Equity Quilt Project

Students working on their quilt squares.

This post originally appeared on the blog Quilts and Health, which is part of a quilt project of the same name that was started by the Michigan State University Museum and the MSU College of Human Medicine. Written by Beth Donaldson, who works as a Collections Assistant at the MSU Museum in East Lansing, MI.

Nedra Bonds, textile artist, and Arzie Umali, Assistant Director, UMKC Women’s Center, are in the process of cataloging over 100 quilt squares and their stories. They are preparing for the Opening Reception of the Women’s Equity Quilt Project display  (February 2 – April 13, 2012) at the Miller Nichols Library, University of Missouri-Kansas City. The Women’s Equity Quilt is a community project to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the UMKC Women’s Center. Bonds led quilt workshops in the spring and summer of 2011  where students and community members got the opportunity to express their feelings on women’s issues by making a quilt square. Skill levels ranged from first time stitchers to advanced quilt makers. Each participant was encouraged to make 2 squares, one for the Women’s Center and one to keep themselves. Every quilt square represented its own unique story.

For more information on the equity quilt go here.

Quilts That Changed the World: Women, Movements, Healing, and Art

By Emily Mathis

This week the Women’s Center in collaboration with the UMKC Black Studies Program, the African-American Quilt Guild and the Kansas City Public Library will be hosting a Bernardin-Haskell Lecture featuring Dr. Nacny Dawson titled “Quilts That Changed the World: Women, Movements, Healing and Art”. Dr. Dawson is a quilt artist and Professor of African Studies. She will discuss the intersection of quilting, activism, and community building using examples from the work of local textile artist NedRa Bonds. This past year NedRa donated her time to putting together a women’s equity quilt that she will be donating to the UMKC Women’s Center later this month.

This lecture is a great way to learn about how quilts are not only an art but a great way to promote activism and community involvement. Come check it out Monday November 7th at 6 p.m. at the Kansas City Public Library Plaza Branch in the Truman Forum Auditorium.

Quilts on the Quad

By Maritza Gordillo

During the spring 2011 semester the Women’s Center with the collaboration of Nedra Bonds, the Arts Council of Metropolitan KC and the ArtsKC Fund brought together various workshops for those on campus and the community to come and use their skills and creativity for good. Each person got the opportunity to express their feelings on women’s issues by making a quilt square. Every quilt square represented its own unique story.

 I personally got the privilege of making 3 squares. During every single workshop I participated in, the feeling of expressing yourself by making a quilt was fascinating to me because it was my first time ever making a quilt and it was even more amazing how all the feelings, anecdotes, and experiences I have come across through my life as a Latina, were all put together into an art piece. It was a beautiful experience while making these quilts and it was nice to see the different pieces and the stories behind each one and what they represented.

All the quilt squares that were made from these workshops will be put together by artist Nedra Bonds into one big quilt that will be displayed for the first time at the Women’s Center event: Quilts on the Quad that will be this Saturday, October 1, 2011 from 10:00 AM- 4:00 PM. Hope to see everyone there!