You’ll hear it a lot in Kansas City: “Ten years ago…yikes.”
It’s not hyperbole. Once a major train depot, with goods and people shuffling east, west, north and south across the nation, “KC” crashed out after WWII. It was a familiar story across the nation — the post-war middle class fleeing to the green acres of the suburbs, while the cities they left fell derelict. For Kansas City, the blight lasted almost fifty years. Property prices bottomed out and there were some places, like the old Crossroads warehouse district, that you just did not go to. Forget the prosaic image of the Midwest; Kansas City was one tough town. But instead of fixing urban decay by fighting it, Kansas City did something ironic. It embraced it.
The city turned the decrepit Crossroads into a neigborhood-sized canvas. Graffiti artists, AKA “taggers,” men and women who were true masters of what is the epitome of urban art, were encouraged to come and use the walls of abandoned buildings as every-changing canvases. And by golly, it worked.
The Crossroads is now one of the most artistically vibrant neighborhoods in the country, and it ushered in Kansas City’s rebirth as an art center. As artists poured in, their neighborhoods became youthful, hip, and trendy, and businesses are gaga for “youthful, hip, and trendy.” Lured in by the cheap real estate, new business established themselves: bars, galleries, salons, and coffee houses. Kansas City turned it around like a total pro.
Here are some pics of the artwork that started it off.