Stacey Sharpe is a wife, mother to three daughters, and a local Kansas City artist. In her past life she worked as a pediatrician, but the creative side of her could not be suppressed by stethoscopes and hand sanitizer. So she traded in her white coat for a work apron, went back to school and received her BA in Fine Arts from UMKC (an institution who deserves a shout-out for their small, yet inspiring and encouraging Art & Art History department). For this summer’s Art in the Loop project, Stacey created the whimsical, brightly-colored trio of kites which hover in West Terrace Park, overlooking the river. I met with Stacey recently at YJ’s after her first Air Play: Fun Fly Kite workshop (of which there are more scheduled, check the calendar) to talk about her project for Art in the Loop and what inspires her as an artist.
Q: What inspired your project for this summer’s Art in the Loop exhibit?
Stacey: There are some reoccurring themes in my work, like pattern, environmental statements, and Native American history. I’m originally from the Lake of the Ozarks, where there was a large Osage population, and I remember my grandparents collected a lot of imagery and objects reflecting the Osage and Native Americans, that stuff was always around the house. A lot of my work ends up being very geometric too; I’m interested in the way things appear from an aerial perspective, like when you look out of an airplane and the landscape appears geometric. For Air Play, those aerial ideas, being outside, and the geometric patterns all came together for the sculpture. Since this year’s theme is “KC Plays!” it makes you think of being outside and doing those things you did as a kid. I wanted to encourage people to come out and do something they maybe have not experienced since their childhood and enjoy those spaces. It is nice to have art that is just fun, that you don’t have to think too hard about.
Q: What do you hope the public will gain through Air Play and the accompanying workshops?
Stacey: I want to encourage people to reconnect with past experiences, do something that doesn’t require debate, or argue, but instead to be present and enjoy the moment. With the workshops, we’ve only just had the one, but it went really well. This particular workshop was for children aged 5-12 and we [Stacey and art-educator Virginia Zetmeir] had large and small examples of different kinds of kites. The kids were given blank slates and total freedom to express themselves in the colors, shapes, texture of their kites. They can just do what they want with the kite, and we went and flew them around, it was fun. The response I’ve received about Air Play has been mostly positive; the parks department said they like it, it brightens up the park. A resident of the neighborhood told me it was a really fun activation of the space; the movement and bright colors really cheer her up. It’s nice to hear that kind of response to my work.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Stacey: In middle school and high school I always really enjoyed art class, was pretty good at it, I think. In college, as many people do for whatever reason, I kind of let art go a little bit. Then I had my kids and wanted to stay at home with them while they were little. As my daughters got older I began crafting and having that urge to make things. So I went back to school at UMKC, initially to study art therapy, my plan was to take the minimum number of required studio credits, but after that first semester I realized I loved it, so I kept going and decided to really pursue this dream of mine. I realized I wanted to make what I want to make, create what I feel compulsive about, instead of feeling the confines of art within art therapy.
Q: What cultural impact do you think public art has on a community?
Stacey: Public art can have many purposes; a historical monument, to honor someone, beautification, and to utilize and attract interest to perhaps an under-used part of the city. Whatever the purpose is, people need creativity in their lives; to think critically and conceptually. Each person’s point of view is unique, it has always amazed me how people can take the same thing and create totally different things with it.
Q: What impact has your participation with Art in the Loop had on you as an artist?
Stacey: Working with Art in the Loop has encouraged me to work more. I have more confidence in myself as an artist, it has been very exciting. I was jumping up and down when I found out I’d been picked. The Kansas City art community as a whole is very encouraging and accepting. One of the biggest things I’ve learned has been accepting the fact that wrenches are going to be thrown, and how are you going to deal with it? No project is perfect, and sometimes, especially when working with heavy materials, you [as an artist] have to roll with the punches. There were times that creating Air Play was super stressful, it was definitely a good learning experience.
Q: What’s your next move?
Stacey: I recently completed the construction and installation of a large, outdoor piece for the St. Joseph Sculpture Walk. I used a lot of resin in the construction, so I had to build it in my kitchen so it would stay warm, three months we worked around it! I also just received an Inspiration Grant through ArtsKC. It’s going to be a large-scale fiber sculpture made from recycled materials, so I’ve got some dumpster diving to do.
Q: Who are your favorite artists?
Stacey: Hmm, that’s a really tough question. (She’s quiet and ponders a moment). Probably Kandinsky, the geometric shapes and bright colors really appeal to me. Locally, I admire Lisa Lala, a painter who uses a palette knife to create those thick strokes in fun colors. I really gravitate towards art with bright colors, and a whimsy to them.
You can see Stacey’s installation Air Play throughout the summer at West Terrace Park, located at 8th & Pennsylvania. Learn more about her Fun Fly workshops here, and more about Stacey and her work by going to her website.