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Inner tubes and underwear

In the name of art, CDFM2, a local architecture firm, gives Kansas City a birthday present that would be the envy and embarrassment of any prepubescent boy: inner tubes and underwear.

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During their weekly 9-to-5 shuffles, Kansas Citians drive, ride, and walk past many artists' work. Be they the fountains spewing up and down throughout the city, sculptures idly standing guard over medians and plots of land, or the tags of the graffiti artists, most are given only a glance or ignored completely.

But now, six artists have received an opportunity to change that cursory glance into a pondering gaze -- at least temporarily. Six intersections on Central Street, one block east of Broadway downtown between 9th and 16th streets, will host the work of six artists -- commissioned by the architecture firm of CDFM2, in partnership with DST.

The project is interactive, removing the confining walls of a gallery space and forcing the experience upon those who just happen by. "It is putting art in a different context," says CDFM2's Jim Calcara. "People can randomly experience it.... The pieces themselves are pretty intriguing. The dialogue (the pieces create) may be the most interesting -- it gives the opportunity to have dialogue in an accidental way."

CDFM2 is located at the end of the section of Central Street that Mark Edleman, president of the Theatre League, once referred to as the Avenue of the Arts. As a means of celebrating the city's 150th birthday and the firm's 20th anniversary, Calcara and others from CDFM2 decided that a revitalization of the area would be the perfect gift for the city's sesquicentennial. In 15 months of development, CDFM2, with the help of DST and the Kauffman Foundation, has created what the group hopes is an opportunity for artists, art, and the city itself to interact in an unusual if even accidental manner.

Besides placing artwork on the intersections, the biggest event on the Avenue of the Arts -- at least fiscally -- will be the unveiling of a permanent sculpture by New York artist Donald Lipski on June 1 at "pARTy on the Avenue," a Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Business After-Hours event. With a $200,000 investment by DST, the sculpture will be mounted on the front of its new parking structure, Poindexter Garage, at 9th and Central, which caps the Avenue of the Arts.

To build excitement over the piece, the nature of Lipski's sculpture is being kept under wraps until its unveiling. For now, Lipski vaguely defines the piece as art that is about thinking, and art that invites people to think on their own.

While the Lipski piece is shrouded in secrecy, the six intersection artists have revealed all. Nate Fors' "Toss" -- painted inner tubes stacked over light poles -- will be on display at 10th and Central. Anne Lindberg's "Audible Grass," clusters of steel rods stretching skyward like a patch of prairie grass, will be seen and heard -- the rods will bend and clank together when the wind blows -- at the 11th Street intersection. Underwear will be on display across 12th and Central in a piece by Ken Landauer that celebrates the Folly Theater's burlesque past and the former garment district that once called the area home. Take-home art will be available at 13th Street with Adriane Herman's "Eye Candy Sampler," a 5,000-edition stamp book dispensed free from three orange boxes placed at the intersection. Jesse Small will turn the intersection of 14th and Central into a "U.N. Checkpoint" with a decimated U.N. Jeep and steel street plates shaped like Stealth bombers. And finally, Dan Younger will create a flaming entryway at 16th Street by painting the street with large spheres that will share the sidewalk with pedestrians.

"It is a fairly active street crowd here, and it will be amazing to watch the reaction," Calcara says. "Some of the pieces are very fun and some are, well, controversial. That may not be the right word, but we're hanging underwear from the Folly. So at least it will be a point of conversation."

Underwear, inner tubes, and politics -- happy birthday, Kansas City.

The six temporary works of art will be on display on Central Street between 10th and 16th streets through August. "pARTy on the Avenue" takes place Thursday, June 1, at 5 p.m. For more information, call 816-374-5424.

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