• 2018 Article from KCUR for 1000 Footsteps Tell The Story

    For Refugees Who've Made New Homes In Kansas City, Quilts Are A Universal Language By Anne Kniggendorf • Jan 29, 2018

    A refugee from Ethiopia named Birtukan (KCUR is withholding her full name due to safety concerns) prepares to set color transfer into the fabric of a wedding photograph for a quilt that will tell of her journey to America.

    A Sudanese woman gathered her six grandchildren to explain the family’s 1996 escape to Ethiopia from war-torn Sudan. The children had not yet been born when a bomb hit the village and the grandmother and her own children fled.

    The family literally ran night after night, sleeping in bushes during the day to escape fighters’ notice. In 1997, they reached Ethiopia and settled in a refugee camp where they lived until immigrating to the United States a year ago. An international agency assigned them to Kansas City.

    This woman wanted her grandchildren to know the family’s story as they grow up so far from the strife of their homeland, says Ann Say, director of education at the Kansas City non-profit Once We Were Refugees. But this grandmother cannot read or write in any language, and her English is poor. (KCUR is not using the woman's name because she fears for the safety of her family members still in Sudan.)

    So she told it in a quilt. It's one of several that will go on display for a month starting on Friday at Metropolitan Community College’s Carter Art Center.
    A woman from Sudan learned how to sew in a class at the non-profit Once We Were Refugees, and told her family's story in a quilt so her grandchildren would know their history.

    Besides offering local refugees the opportunity to create story quilts, Say's organization also teaches rudimentary and intermediate sewing classes, where students can create items such as placemats and napkins and some items of clothing. And her husband coordinates a computer class.

    No English is required for the sewing courses. So regardless of language capabilities, every participant has the chance to tell his or her story while learning to sew. Since the class started in 2016, each of its 58 graduates has made a story quilt.

    Many of those will join the one describing the grandmother's story above, along with the art of Sandra Van Tuyl and the photography of KCUR's Julie Denesha.

    Van Tuyl, who aside from being an artist works for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, notes that the world is facing its worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. As of last year, 65.6 million people were displaced; of those, 22.5 million are refugees, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

    At the same time, immigration to the United States has dropped dramatically since President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting travel into the U.S. from Muslim-majority nations. Say recalls that she and her husband used to make weekly trips to the Kansas City International Airport to greet newcomers, but now such trips are rare; in September no one came at all.

    Say's sewing students are primarily from 13 nations, including Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, and South Sudan. Upon graduating from the nine-week course (which is limited by volunteer capacity to 10 students), each person keeps the donated sewing machine he or she learned on, and also receives an ironing board, new scissors, and fabric.

    Students often depart with a job as well. Restoration Apparel, a local maker of juvenile athletic ware, staffs almost exclusively with graduates of Say’s course.

    Say also sells her students’ placemats, napkins, microwave bowls, and crocheted “mug rugs” – made in and outside of class – when she speaks to other organizations about refugees. All of the proceeds go to the items’ creators.

    She recalls the first time a 60-year-old Somalian woman sold a placemat set. The woman’s son called Say to tell her his mother had cried when she saw the money.

    “My mother’s whole self-esteem has changed,” the man said. “She has never in her life made a single dollar. She said to me, ‘I never knew that I would ever make anything that was worth anything.’”

    The exhibition of quilts also has a strong educational component. In programs throughout the month of February, nine guest speakers will touch on topics such as refugee employment programs, migrant farm workers, and refugee health care.

    Van Tuyl says those conversations about health care are vitally important.

    “People are making their homes in the worst possible positions in the world and staying there for 12 years, and having their babies there without medical care,” she explains, adding that some refugees have never seen doctors.

    She hopes high school classes will visit the exhibition so that Kansas City’s young people can see a perspective from beyond their daily lives.

    “If one kid says, "Hey, I want to help,' and plugs in somehow, we’ve done our job,” Van Tuyl says. “We’ve just informed them. That’s the first thing. And secondly, we’ve just made them advocates in the world.”

    1,000 Footsteps Tell the Story opens with a reception from 5-8 p.m. Friday, February 2 at the Carter Art Center MCC-Penn Valley, 3201 Southwest Trafficway, Kansas City, Missouri, 64111. Speaker programs continue throughout February, and the exhibition closes on March 8.

    Follow KCUR contributor Anne Kniggendorf on Twitter, @annekniggendorf.

  • UrbanSuburban X: Perception & Reflection September 2014

    The Epsten Gallery announces the opening of its tenth anniversary program, UrbanSuburban X: Perception & Reflection, featuring a stellar exhibition of works of art for sale by 58 artists from our region.

    Contact: Heather Lustfeldt, Curator (hkl.kcjmca@gmail.com)
    Epsten Gallery at Village Shalom
    5500 West 123rd Street (at Nall Avenue)
    Overland Park, KS 66209
    www.epstengallery.org | 913-266-8414
    Hours: Tuesday – Friday, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Sunday, 1-4 p.m., Closed Saturday and Monday (open by appointment)

    UrbanSuburban X: Perception & Reflection
    The Epsten Gallery celebrates the 10th anniversary of UrbanSuburban with some significant format changes to this well-known exhibition and auction fundraising program that has been bringing together local artists in Kansas City’s urban and suburban creative communities since 2005.

    New for this year, the Epsten Gallery is hosting an exhibition without an art auction with all works of art available for purchase. Artists may collect 50% of the proceeds on the sale of their works with the remainder going to support Epsten Gallery’s programs. Artists are also invited to make full donations of sales, and some have already offered such contributions. “We continue to be inspired and awed by the creativity and generosity of our community’s artists,” says Epsten Gallery Executive Director Marcus Cain.

    Additionally, the Epsten Gallery invited Joshua Fischer, Assistant Curator at the Rice University Gallery, Houston, TX, to serve as guest curator/juror to review submissions and select artwork for this exhibition. The Rice Gallery is especially known for its installation-based exhibitions and some of this year’s new participating artists submitted installations for Fischer’s consideration.

    The 2014 UrbanSuburban Co-Chairs are Epsten Gallery Executive Board member Bill Kort and Past President Michael Klein, and a dynamic and creative UrbanSuburban Patron Party is being hosted at the nationally-recognized Bruce Goff-designed, Mid-20th Century residence of Rod Parks, owner of Retro Inferno. Patrons this year will also enjoy a private, first-look, preview brunch prior to the exhibition opening.

    This year’s exhibition is a great opportunity for Epsten Gallery Patrons, collectors and visitors alike to support Kansas City’s most talented artists by acquiring a quality work of art in painting, sculpture, ceramics, fiber, photography, drawing, printmaking or mixed media in support of the Epsten Gallery and its programs. For more information on becoming an UrbanSuburban Patron and attending this year’s events, please contact Epsten Gallery Curator Heather Lustfeldt, at 913-266-8414 or hkl.kcjmca@gmail.com.

  • Flatfile review in Pitch Weekly Sept 13, 2012

    Five Flatfile artists to look for as you leaf through the latest Artspace sprawl
    by Theresa Bembnister

    2012 Kansas City Flatfile
    Through September 29 at H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, 16 East 43rd Street,
    816-561-5563, kcai.edu/artspace

    Every other summer, the H&R Block Artspace assembles the Kansas City Flatfile, an invitational exhibition of two-dimensional work stored in two metal chests of drawers in the main gallery. A rotating cast of artists and curators selects individual works from the artists' portfolios to display on the walls, but the best way to experience the Flatfile is to put on white cotton gloves (the gallery has them for you) and page through the drawers at your own pace. It's like an art version of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Here are five cul-de-sacs worth wandering into on your own Flatfile artventure.

    Artist: Sandra Van Tuyl
    Education: B.A., Carthage College, 1980
    Website: sandravantuyl.com
    What's in her portfolio: Van Tuyl writes that her work is about "dialogue (or lack thereof) in society." She paints slender, ropelike lines that interweave and knot together, forming nets in some places, dead ends elsewhere. You don't have to buy her dialogue metaphor to appreciate her brushwork and palette, though. Tiny strokes of brilliant, kaleidoscopic color blend to create umber-toned ropes. (Pictured above: "Bound/Unbound" [detail], 2012)

  • Transitional Dimensions Opening Feb 4 Carter Art Center KCMO

    Transitional Dimensions
    February 4-March 4, 2011

    This exhibit explores the concept of depth within space that is both real and suggested. Through the works of three local artists you'll see a range of two-dimensional paintings with dramatic architectural space, constructional textual collages, high-relief sculptural paintings, and three-dimensional constructions. The artists, Steve Mayse, Ellen Wilkins Wolf and Sandra Van Tuyl, have a combination of multiple art and educational awards in their professional fields, both nationally and internationally.

    "Some artists may want to hide how the pieces are connected; I like showing them. It seems more honest." -Steve Mayse

    "I hope my art is thought provoking; not outwardly confrontational, but quietly insinuating and laced with humor. I hope each viewer is intrigued enough to stop a moment to ponder not only how the art is made but also what it might have to say." - Ellen Wilkins Wolf

    "My paintings are an act of recording the emotional landscape." - Sandra Van Tuyl

    This show is sponsored by: The Friends of the Carter Art Center

    February 4th, 6:30 p.m.

    February 4th, 6 to 9 p.m.

    1 - 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday
    Noon - 3 p.m. Saturday

    (816) 604-4ART (4278) or visit www.mcckc.edu/pvart

  • The first class for Artist, INC Workshops Announced

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Contact: Paul Tyler

    First Class of Artist, Inc. Workshops Announced
    New seminars for artist teach entrepreneurial skills

    Kansas City Metro - The first class for Artist, INC, an eight-week series of Monday night seminars for individual artists, was recently announced by the program administrators: The Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City, the Charlotte Street Foundation, KCSourceLink and the UMKC Small Business and Technology Development Center. The first session will begin in May 2009.

    Artist INC, developed through the UMKC Small Business and Technology Development Center, is designed to provide artists with small business skills to manage the business end of their art careers. Artist, INC, a series of in-depth entrepreneurial seminars that will reach more than 100 area artists over the next two years.

    The first class of artists are from a diverse range of arts disciplines and ethnic backgrounds. Artists represent the visual arts, music, film/video, theatre, and dance.

    Artist, INC Artists:

    Patrick Alexander
    Julie Denesha
    Deborah Drake-Huff
    Nicole P. Esquibel
    Amy Farrand
    Stanton Fernald
    Kurt Flecksing
    Sue Friesz
    Rachelle Gardner
    Elton J. Gumbel Jr.
    Kevin Hiatt
    Reilly D. Hoffman
    Elaina Wendt Michalski
    Jason Needham
    Laura Nugent
    Lyndsey E. Ogle
    Jade Osborne
    Robert Quackenbush
    Joel Schlotterer
    Karen R. Schory
    Margaret Shelby
    Dan Frueh
    Charles F. Stonewall

    Sandra Van Tuyl

    Tina West

    The creation of Artist, INC has been funded by LINC, a ten-year national initiative to improve conditions for artists by providing knowledge, information and financial resources to organizations in 15 communities across the country. The Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City, in partnership with Charlotte Street Foundation, is the lead Kansas City participant in the Creative Communities program of Leveraging Investments in Creativity, funded by the Ford Foundation. Many thanks are due also to our local funders, whose match of the LINC support over the past two years has been vital to making Artist, INC a reality: Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation, Francis Family Foundation, Hallmark Cards, Bank of America, American Century Foundation, Steve and Karen Pack Family Fund and the Missouri Arts Council.

    For more information about applying for the Artist, INC seminars, please go to www.LINC.ArtsKC.org.

  • 2008 - New public art in Blue Springs

    By Alex Robichaud
    The Examiner

    Blue Springs, MO —
    For the third year in a row, the Blue Springs Public Art Commission is hosting a public art exhibit. Mayor Carson Ross, City Council members, one of the artists and citizens filled Rotary Park for the dedication last night in an effort to make art a defining aspect of Blue Springs.

    “A lot of people feel they have to visit art,” Sandra Van Tuyl, the creator of one of the four pieces in the park said. “This brings art into people’s lives. It comes out to meet you, taking down those barriers between people and art. When art is there with kids, they grow up realizing they deserve art, (making it) a part of people’s lives.”

    This year’s theme was “Reflections,” and pieces came from artists from Bogota, N.J.; Fairfield, Iowa; St. Louis; and Kansas City. Van Tuyl, the Kansas City area artist, was the only artist in attendance.

    “We picked the theme because of the site,” Eleanor Frasier, acting chair of the Blue Springs Public Art Commission, said. “Vesper Hall and Rotary Park is a place where you often reflect on your life. Mothers and children in the park and citizens who walk the trail (can come here to) meditate or contemplate, reflecting on life.”

    The commission asked artists from all over to send in slides or examples of their art in an effort to find four artists who would best fit the theme. Frasier said a selection panel, separate from the commission, chose artists based on their entire bodies of work in order to find the best pieces Blue Springs could get. Jan Duffendack, an architect, was on the panel.

    “We gathered and went through slides on all the artists and talked about the things that appealed to us. I was telling Sandra that the appealing thing about her was that she responded very personally and very specifically to Blue Springs’ needs. That was really important and was noticed by everyone (on the panel).”

    Duffendack said Van Tuyl’s piece entitled “Convergence,” along with Judy Bales’ piece “Weave-Through,” were created for this event.

    “I love this process,” Duffendack said. “I’ve done this for two years, and I hope they ask me again. I’ve had a blast.”

    “Convergence” is attached to a bridge in the park and is a painting that Van Tuyl said was solely about Blue Springs.

    “When we talked about the work we wanted to talk about Blue Springs’ past, present and future, how we reflect on the past and present and how we look forward to the future. There’s not an iconic building here that defines Blue Springs. But (Blue Springs) has art and several parks, and that’s why the gazebo was in my piece. The gazebo is a drawing place that pulls the community together. That’s why I use structural pieces as a metaphor for abstract ideas.”