As a proud born and bred Kansas Citian, I have been immersed in art since I was little. Whether I was attending Mattie Rhodes, stopping by the Nelson, or walking down art ally on the occasional First Friday; art has always been prevalent in my life. Kansas City is a happening scene when it comes to art, always has been and hopefully always will be. But as a performative artist, I struggled to envision where my creativity would take me. And, as a performative artist whose motivations often stem from social and political injustices, my path became even foggier as I imagined where my art could someday take me.
The fog cleared when I stumbled upon the HE[ART]LAND Fellowship. This cohort is concentrating on the effects of houselessness and the housing crisis taking place in Kansas City. Informed art, like the artistic policy integrations we are doing surrounding houselessness, has always been a significant focus of my work.
While working with Heartland Arts KC on addressing the ever-lasting effects houselessness has on individuals and our community, I have been able to observe the incredible work of organizations like KC Tenets, Veterans Community Project, Artists Helping the Homeless, and more. My research has led me to find some incredible resources our city has to offer, like a tenet bill of rights and the right to counsel for evictions, thanks to the work of KC Tenets. Veterans Community Project offers tiny homes and other resources to veterans regardless of discharge status, a burden a lot of vets must overcome to access resources. Artists Helping the Homeless offers a Detox program, housing, and job assistance to those facing houselessness. All of these organizations are working to address the needs of our community and yet, without my research for the HE[ART]LAND Fellowship, I highly doubt I would have been up to date on ALL of these amazing resources and actions from organizations. Just as likely, you, reading this, might not have known about these initiatives.
The final (and my most beloved) part of the Fellowship is the educational aspect. By integrating art and policy through our performances we hope to educate, engage, and empower our community to interact with the democratic process. I believe presenting abstract ideas, like legislative policy through artistic performances such as comedy, poems, even children’s books, can inspire our community to become conscious and active participants in our democracy on all levels: local, state, and federal. By making “policy personal”, as guest lecturer Maya Contreras stated, the HE[ART]LAND Fellowship's goal is for the public to understand the personal effects of public policy and how to proactively resolve issues facing our communities like houselessness. Further, Heartland Arts KC is devoted to uplifting artists and direct service organizations who are committed to making our city better. Ultimately, leading to a more just, equitable, and fair world for all.