Here my Summarized Journey through this Project

So, at first I rushed into the project after not being able to decide on a topic.

“The local community, eh..How about Troost since I do live near it and can visible see the racial division from that side of town from the Plaza, Crossroads, and West Bottoms districts.” is what I thought to myself.

My first media idea was moss graffiti, which turns out to be something of an internet hoax. So, scratch that!

Next was duct tape graffiti but that turned out to be a bad idea since it’s relative expensive for tape and would have taken me forever to construct. So, scratch that, as well.

But, then my sketches were terrible. I wasn’t really moving anywhere with them, and I was loosing motivation for them. Alas, my Hallmark mentor gave me excellent tips and pointers toward getting a better project. So, following her advice, I brainstormed for a day, making a chart of icons and theses and created two main theses for my project. From there I made sketches, to final sketches, to line art, to digitally made line art, and then digitally colored art.

From there I had to figure out how to print these images without emptying the bank. Luckily, a solution was reached when the Print Center head, Casey, suggested sticker paper, since it was mostly waterproof and it would only be up for a month at the most.

So, that was 150 dollars out of my pocket and onto two wall of KCAI campus. Now here I am writing this.

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A Couple of Solutions to the Teacher Problem

How can a student or education enthusiast help get campuses, in this case an art school, more diverse teacher-wise (and staff and fauclty,too!)? Well, here are some simple answers that people don’t think of, since they don’t know that that is possible.

But, before we dive into that, I would like to say that the KCAI Human Resources staff are great people and are aware of the diversity issue on campus. They are actively getting the information out there about the job openings, but advertisements and word of mouth via the KC community can only go so far or in certain directions. Plus, they are also keeping in mind to not only look for racial diversity but for political, ideological, and religious diversity when hiring new staff.

Here are some ways to help diversify campus!

  1. Recommend an artist, who might have the time and skills, to submit a resume to KCAI. There is, in fact, several openings for four departments on campus that are to be filled up before next year or later, I believe. And sooner or later, several of our devoted teaching faculty will decide that they finally deserve that retirement status, full-time, so keep your eyes peeled.
  2. Encourage those around you who has a spark of teacherly spirit in them to pursue that teaching career! Programs in high school are already doing this by finding those teaching-leaning individuals early and getting them through college and then having them come back and teaching at the high schools.
  3. Celebrate your school! Even if you find it lacking in some areas, all schools are like this in some way or another. (Honestly, trust your own judgement and save your scorn for your college until you’ve spent a couple years at another college to compare it to.) If KCAI’s name gets out there and becomes a teaching destination, KCAI will land more adjuncts and more professors that have diverse backgrounds and skills.
  4. Let your school know that the lack of teacher diversity is troubling. I mean, they already know but having a nice (nothing too distressing, please) pressure is conductive to change. Never get complacent to the lack of diversity.

I hope these solutions are helpful. I know they are doable but they seem like a small act in the big scheme of things. Every action helps, though.

The Relationship between the City and KCAI

They go hand in hand really. If one ever looks at the KCAI timeline and historic photos, one tends to see all white students. It wasn’t until 1948 that the first Black student, Leonard Pryor (1924-2015), was admitted to the art school. It was before the Brown v Board of Education case, but colleges have been accepting students way before 1948. Sure, the Black students were sometimes¬†not given their diplomas or college credentials or schools built separate but equal facilities (which has always been a false statement).

Even locally there were battles to get admittance to universities. The University of Missouri admittance of Black students’s was an 15 year-long uphill battle! First, Lloyd L Gaines challenges the school in court about his “separate but equal” admittance. The Supreme Court rules in his favor, but Lloyd Gaines mysteriously disappears in Chicago soon after the hearing of the case. Later Lucile Bluford challenges the school when they refuse to let her enroll for classes. She ultimately wins but the major is closed shortly after the court decision due to low enrollment numbers.

The first admittance is Gus T. Ridgel along with 7 other students. He succeeded and earned his four-year Master’s degree in 2 years (amazing!). He has a scholarship named after him and was invited to talk to the school during a two-day event to honor his legacy.

I only bring this up to compare the actions of University of Missouri to the lack of actions that KCAI. There are a few mentions of Leonard Pryon around campus, but I don’t think that the school has ever dedicated any amount of time to their first Black student. There is ¬†a scholarship for minority students named after him, but I’m not sure the scholarship dedication process was ever carried through with as much celebration as Ridgel’s.

This further illustrates the imbalance of teacher diversity. The events of Leonard Pryon and Gus T Ridgel didn’t create the imbalance of teacher divserity at KCAI, but they do show how racism and the effects of racism have impacted people of color for generations when they are trying to gain higher education and teaching jobs. In fact, there are many factors that are building up that are leading to less and less people of color getting a teaching degree.¬†

 

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The student demographics fit with the nation’s demographic, meaning that KCAI is quite on par with the nation in terms of diversity. KCAI is not as good as other art schools, but that’s okay. As long as the school is always working on the diversity of enrolling students, KCAI will stay above the average diversity levels.

But the teachers are another story. If you look around campus here or on any campus, they are mostly white, including the faulty and staff. For certain students this is a problem, while for others, it is not. But, to create students of diverse knowledge and of world-class problem solving skills, diverse teachers and teaching styles is needed at an art college! And like the article above mentions, having a role model to look up to and see yourself in is a fantastic and incredible aiding visual.

Just to be clear: the number for white people is about 62% as of 2015 while the number of white teacher is around 80% as of 2013. There is a disproportionate number of white teacher at colleges and university compared the growing enrollment of minority students.

Historically, teachers are important and honored person in a community. In America, that is not also true, but maybe as the teaching pool becomes more diversified, the teaching job itself can become more valued and honored like it once was.

The Effects of the Divide and how People can Help

Due to the systematic racism that keeps minority people poor, uneducated, and in a constant state of exhaustion, the area east of Troost is crime ridden. These reports show how the crimes map out.

The astounding number of vacant lots and houses doesn’t help either; these places become spots where crime can grow and thrive, such as drug usage and sex work. Here is a movie that shows how difficult it is to get the city to keep up the appearance of the foreclosed and city owned empty houses. The movie also shows how people are fighting the negative stereotypes of the east side of Troost and trying to turn their neighborhood back into a thriving community. The Ivanhoe community is an example of a community that is incredible involved with their community and community members and are successfully working towards a better future for everyone.

Poverty is a cycle. If the neighborhood is bad, people who can afford it move out, the tax intake decreases, less and less money is collected and put back into the district, the public amenities and spaces start breaking, the place becomes more dangerous, nothing can be fixed because there is no money to be given or made since all the businesses are in the west of Troost, there is not enough around here, and they won’t hire non-white applicants, the neighborhood gets worse, people move if they can afford to……

 

For instance this article talks about how there is an increase in how many Black people are moving to the suburbs. Meanwhile, white people are increasingly moving into the inner city.

“Black residents who have the means to leave Kansas City are looking for ‚Äúbetter jobs, better schools and safer environments,‚ÄĚ he said. In addition, the quality of housing has ‚Äúdeteriorated substantially‚ÄĚ in parts of the urban core, Eaton pointed out, while home ownership has fallen and the number of renters has soared.”

The previous paragraph illustrates why people are moving and how its because the previous neighborhoods they lived in are indeed dangerous.

 

But usually people have to stay in the blighted area and work together with the community for change if change is going to happen. And it is! There are many projects underway to try and get the east of Troost revitalized, NOT gentrified, into a thriving community. There was a lot of talk behind a project initiative to help the Troost area attract more businesses, and the people working on the project even went so far as to develop an aesthetics manual for the hypothetical shops. Hopefully, it gets pushed through!

There is Lots of Love, developed in a KCAI classroom and carried on by Sean Starowitz. This project is trying to get empty lots turned into more sociable and safer environments. Many people have done this on their own, such as Charles Brown.¬†Here’s a more in depth conversation about the project from KCUR.

Another option would be to take more of an active role in local government and local going-ons. TIF and other subsidies were put in place to entice people to build in Kansas City when Kansas City was still ¬†young and small. But, now the subsidies are being abused and taken advantaged of by wealthy companies and the tax payer being forced to pay¬†that company’s taxes for 25 years. Not only is this unfair to hard working people but it is also something that is unevenly given to different parts of the city.

Additionally, the schools districts should be worked on to reallocate the money and get the old schools fixed up or to reopen the closed down schools across the city. Not only would it get an empty building full with learning children again, but it would increase property prices and allow the children to receive an education, an education that can only get better and better when the school district gets more and more money. Right now some schools are really struggling to get the kids an appropriate education fit to move them forward in the ever-changing future. This chart is to show two schools in the Kansas City area, not charter schools but neighborhood schools. Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 12.23.35 AM.png

Furthermore, the children that grow up in the neighborhoods could come back from college and try to make their childhood home a more thriving community, but sometimes the incentives just aren’t there. It would be too hard trying to make a living in a neighborhood and area that just isn’t fitted to make living from. But, college students could potentially have the time and drive to lend a hand during their years at their school and could possibly even stay in the city after graduation to try and get the city into a better shape than before.

Kansas City is unique in that the population is nearly half white (non-hispanic) and half minority (people of color). Since KC is still relatively young and fresh, many things are liable to change here if people put their mind to it, but they could change it for the better. There are people here who have a vision and skills to carry it out, not to mention many artists how can lend a helping hand or two.

In other words, if it’s possible here, it can happen anywhere! So if the city and its people can get an old issue, made by systematic racism, fixed, then any other similarly determined city can follow Kansas City’s lead. But, KC has to first address their problem and overcome it!

 

Let us Start at the Beginning

KCUR.org‘s Beyond our Borders project collected data about the start Kansas City. On their website, they share information of the start of KC and the formation of Troost Ave into what it is today. This specific article summarizes the historical events that lead to the formation of Troost as the dividing line and the most recent events that took place to further enforce the division, such as purposefully drawn school districts, which this article goes into.

Here is an article called Drawing the Line from SqueezeBox, a website that aims to tell the hidden stories of Kansas City. This article tells the story from a Italian Catholic family’s perspective of the changing times and events. It beautifully illustrates how quickly the white flight took and how it left the Black community in disrepair.

Another article that goes into more detail about JC Nichols’s hand in urban and real estate developing. Sara Stevens is interviewed by KCUR and tells the listener about deed restrictions and how influential JC Nichols was in the urban planning field. Additional information is given to how real estate works and this can give the reader an idea why a racist white man, a product of his time, did what he did and thought the way he thought.

Another factor to the state of the Black community is the race riots of 1968. When Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated, major cities across America broke out in protests against the terrible tragedy. Many Black properties were destroyed and left in shambles. With no money to fix or invest in anything, people and businesses had to leave, and they restarted in the Black neighborhoods east of Troost.

With the combined factors of racism, difficulty of securing a loan, poverty, and a unequal investment of public resources, such as schools and community centers, the east side of Troost was doomed to fall to its current state of blight.

Here’s a PDF of a Powerpoint of a more summarized point to point history of KCMO.¬†Feel free to use it for any educational purposes!

Some definitions of tactics that investors partook in:

Redlining: Redlining is the unethical practice where financial institutions make it extremely difficult or impossible for residents of poor inner-city neighborhoods to borrow money, gain approval for a mortgage, take out insurance or gain access to other financial services because of a history of high default rates (Investopedia).

Blockbusting: The illegal and discriminatory practice of helping ethnic or minority individuals into predominantly non-ethnic or minority-dominated areas, and then using scare tactics to force current neighborhood residents to sell their homes at depressed prices (business dictionary).

 

To Start this Off: the Thesis of the Images and some Info

My murals and this blog go hand in hand. The plan was, you see, that, hopefully, the murals would attract visual attention and then the soon-to-be-made QR codes, placed right next to the posters, would lead the viewer to this blog where they are able to read up on the topics of the posters. By the time readers read this, the QR codes should be up and are the reason why several of the readers are here now. So, thanks for reading, till now!

I have created two images and put them up in two locations on school campus that are placed in high traffic areas. They face inward, toward the campus, since they are deliberately made for student/faculty/staff consumption. These issues concern them and they are the ones that need to act to change conditions in and around campus.

To move along, my studio project thesis:

Using figures from Kansas City’s past, these two posters address the impact of institutional racism while simultaneously advocating for change in society today.¬†

In the first image, I have a figure of JC Nichols dragging his finger through the city, specifically through Troost Ave, dividing the city into a black people side and white people side. This in reality happened when he professionalized urban planning and created a sustainable urban system that thrived off of racism and fear. The system was, and still is, highly profitable for privileged white populations. In the following posts, I will summarize and provide links to information that goes into detail about how this city’s division came to be, ¬†how it persists today, and the enduring effects of that divide. I will also offer several solutions for change if viewers would like to take a look at what the community is doing to try and improve the situation. A helping hand is always welcome!

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This image about how JC Nichols divided the city into two, between black and white.

 

In the second image, several icons of the Walt Disney company are used (in a loose way) to bring up the fact that the school and city celebrate Walt Disney (the man) for having taken his art classes at Kansas City Art Institute. While this by itself is not a bad thing, it does highlight how the city and school tend to focus on its white success stories. By using the boat and canoe images, a metaphor was made about how different people (specifically black and white people) are stuck with different foundations. These foundations are made and fixed into place by systematic racism and prejudices, which I will go into with information and links like the image above. And, again I will offer solutions to KCAI’s teacher diversity problems.

MURAL TEACHERS

This image is about how teacher diversity on campus must be addressed to improve the college environment.

With hope and optimism, I look forward to this project’s completion and possible spread to many readers.