It’s an unusually warm Saturday morning for April in Kansas City. The air is thick with moisture from last night’s rain as several East students and volunteers arrive at a warehouse in the Crossroads District. They are beginning the final step of a year-long process of creating an independent art exhibition in partnership with the Healthy Rivers Project.
The Creative Co/Lab began several years ago with the help of art teacher Adam Finkelston. Since then, it has expanded into a major project for over 20 dedicated East student artists. These artists have spent several months planning and creating projects that are inspired by the Missouri River, which include paintings, sketches, free-form, sculpture, music and many other mediums. The exhibition also includes an expansive garden dedicated to local plants.
Although this warehouse will be transformed into a lively exhibit of art, this morning it is only in the very early stages of that transformation.
Senior Carolyn Wassmer works closely with a local volunteer to repair the garden, which was planted last year. The garden is divided into different sections, which allows for proper watering of each individual plant. Wassmer makes sure that each wooden partition is stable and will not leak into another section.
In the foreground, a plastic mallard duck leans against a partition. Similar ducks are scattered throughout the garden, propped up against flower beds and hidden among vegetation.
Last year, a major problem in the garden was finding an effective way to water the plants. Due to the structure of the partitions, when volunteers attempted to water one plant, the water overflowed and flooded into other plants. This made it difficult to give each plant the proper amount of water, swamping some while others didn’t receive the proper amount of hydration. Wassmer is focusing on repairing this part of the garden so that each plant can reach its full state of fruition.
There are still three weeks remaining before the unveiling, so the warehouse and garden today are only the bare bones of the final project. In the outside garden space, the volunteers piled soil onto tarps to wait for when planting begins. They used a wheelbarrow to remove soil and plants from last year’s garden, replacing the soil in order to provide fresh nutrients for this year’s plants. A majority of the tools and soil used in the project are donated or bought by the volunteers themselves.
The KC Rowing Club donated this boat to the project last year. The Club is one of the sponsors of the project, providing help and materials for the students involved. This boat was retrofitted to become one of the beds for plants. Holes in the bottom of the boat allow for water to drain out. The long expanse of the boat is emptied and refilled with soil each year, then filled with new plants. The back side of the boat is emblazoned with the names of past sponsors and members of the project.
Inside, the massive warehouse reserved for the student art displays remains mostly barren. In three weeks, however, this entire space will be filled with individual projects that over 20 students have been working on throughout the year.
Senior Hannah Swanson works alongside project director Vicki Richmond to plan out her individual project. Swanson’s project will involve a hung arrangement of college acceptance letters and high school papers. As the director, Richmond organizes the students and takes charge of the event space. She also meets individually with each student to ensure that their projects and art are on track to be ready in three weeks.