Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:

Art in KC sm



“Mom! Mom!” I heard a boy’s voice yelling from the sidewalk in front of my house.

I looked out the door and saw a boy who was 8 or 9 scramble to get on his bicycle. He continued to shout and ride, trying to catch up with the slow-moving minivan which was ahead of him on the street. The van pulled over and his mother got out.

The boy parked his bike and ran back, stopping in front of my house. He picked up a turtle, and carried it back to where his mom was standing. I couldn’t hear the conversation, but there was some back-and-forth and then the boy solemnly nodded his head up and down twice. The mother took the turtle with her in the car and boy and mother each continued southbound in their separate conveyances.

What thrilled me here was the sound of desperate excitement in the boy’s voice. A turtle! He wanted it. I had to wonder when the last time I was that desperately excited about something.

Over the years, our sense of discovery may fade. By age 16, most of us have moved on from the delight of finding a turtle. And by the time we’re 40 or 50, we’ve seen just about everything, or so it seems. What we haven’t observed in person, we’ve heard about on radio, TV or the Internet. This is the Information Age and we’ve been exposed to millions of pieces of information: good, bad and ugly.

It hadn’t occurred to me that anything was missing in my life until I heard that boy’s voice. So it might be time to think about how to get back some of the unbridled enthusiasm of a child.

One thing that helps me reconnect with that sense of discovery is art. Art helps us to see the world in novel ways, from different perspectives – and to me, that’s pretty exciting.

Dave and I took an overnight trip to Kansas City for First Friday. The first Friday evening of each month, galleries and make-shift galleries in the Crossroads Art District open their doors. People fill the sidewalks.

In its gallery guide, Pitch Weekly, an entertainment publication, listed 82 stops within the crossroads district and 12 stops elsewhere in the city.

Lone guitarists and bands played in a number of venues. Two guys played rock music from the doorway of a closed business. Street musicians were on every block it seemed.

And, on a cordoned-off street, a mime circus performed – but they were a pretty quiet bunch.

After three hours of walking on concrete, our feet had had enough, but in that time Dave and I saw interesting paintings and collage, sculpture and photography.

The next morning, Dave and I visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The current visiting exhibit features Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and other artists from Mexico. These works will be on display in the Bloch building until August 18.

It’s the freshness of contemporary art that I like. I want to be surprised by other people’s imaginations. I’m taken by art that offers an unexpected juxtaposition of objects – such as a bride peering over a cut watermelon in Kahlo’s still life painting, “The Bride Frightened at Seeing Life Opened.”

And in the photography gallery, also in the Bloch building, I spent time studying an untitled photograph by Todd Hido. The photo appears to have been taken through a wet windshield. Clouds are low and telephone and power poles line both sides of a muddy country road with a set of headlights coming down the road. When I see a photograph like this, my mind tries to fill in the story. I wonder – who is out there in the storm? Why? What’s going on?

Art helps us to see ordinary things in new ways. I like that thrill of discovering the story, my story, within someone else’s piece of art. For me, that might even better than finding a turtle in the yard.



Copyright 2013 – Cheryl Unruh


  1. I love that. Only, I must say, I still get excited over turtles. I love turtles. Oh and snakes and lizards too. Yes, art touches us deep inside. Well, you said it very well Cheryl. I very much enjoyed reading this. And agree!

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