An Interview with Robert Gann

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Robert Gann has been the associate director of since the fall of 2016. In addition to curating Gann is finishing his degree in art history, criticism and conservation at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.  We recently sat down and spoke with Robert about what drew him to curatorial work, what goes into planning a show, and what he aspires to do next in his life.

  1.    Who or what got you interested in art? More specifically what sparked your interested in curatorial work?   

I have always had artistic inclinations.  Over the years my interest and areas of study have gone from drafting, studio art and finally Art History.  When I first started my collegiate pursuits this was the only field of study that held a passion for me.  I have always been in gallery settings in one form or another.   All these factors eventually brought me to Studios Inc where I was given the chance in the curatorial role to utilize my skills, creativity and education.

  1.    What brought you to Studios Inc?

I was attracted to Studios Inc because it was a non-profit organization.  Throughout my life I have always wanted to give back through volunteering and have sought organizations that offer that.  I have been acquainted with Studios Inc for a long period of time and was always immensely impressed with the opportunity they offer mid-career Artist.  Studios Inc was the perfect place to land for me, it’s an extremely creative environment which believes in giving back to the Artist in our community.   

  1.    When you finish your degree at the University of Missouri, Kansas City what do you hope to do?  

Take a day off.  Maybe even treat myself to a weekend off who knows?  On professional note it has been a long term goal to combine my insurance background and academia to pursue a career insuring fine art and specie.  Professional goals change though so we will see what the future holds.

  1.    When putting together a show, who decides what pieces are in the show? If it is you, how do you go about which pieces will be the best fit for the show?

I make the decisions, but also use the knowledge and skill set of my coworkers if I am second guessing exhibition of a piece. When curating each new show, I look to the different types of works in the collection to see how well they will speak to each other within their juxtaposition once displayed.  My goals when I curate the quarterly exhibit is to ensure its cohesive and the pieces are displayed in a manner that maintains the artist integrity of the works

  1.    To bounce off the last the question, what all is involved in curating? Is it just organizing the exhibition or is there more to it? Is there more that you wish curators did?

As the public enters the gallery, they have to walk into an environment that flows and invites their attention to the works.  The exhibit requires a cohesiveness and the show should stand out to make an impression.  This takes weeks of planning and preparation.  Several phases are required.  These include conceptualizing the next show, selecting the right pieces, if acquiring a new piece also working with artists to coordinate pick up, removal of the prior show, repairs to the gallery space, meticulous attention to hanging and spacing, ensuring press releases go out, updating online public art forums and on occasion making a last minute change in the exhibition to make the show flow better.  To answer the last question I think it would be beneficial for curators around Kansas City to meet and exchange ideas regularly.  This would work towards best practices, offer broader inspiration and create closer ties within the Arts community.

  1.    What is the most rewarding part of your job at Studios Inc?

Each show highlights some of the best artist that Kansas City has to offer.  I am thrilled to be able to use my creative process to help recognize them.

  1.    Contrary to that, what is the least rewarding part of your job?

Love the Vinyl letter signs but they are definitely not my favorite to put up.

  1.    What has been your favorite show put on at Studios Inc?

The Artist Statement.  This allowed to exhibit spectacular pieces but also provided the public insight into what may have been a driving force or influence of the Artist at the time the piece was being created.

Internship Spotlight: Northland CAPS

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Studios Inc is proud to be a partner of Northland Center for Advanced Professional Studies (Northland CAPS) this semester. The Northland CAPS program provides high school students with a hands on learning environment while being immersed in the business community. The goal is to have students ready for the real world and give them the opportunity to pursue their desire
d career path. Our first two interns from the Northland CAPS program are Sicily and Jesse.

Sicily is interested in pursuing journalism after high school, which is why she decided to join th
e team. She helps with managing the Studios’ social media accounts and assists the other interns with content production for the Studios’ various media outlets.

Jesse, our Digital Medial and Design intern,  is in charge of digital media content. When being asked why Jesse wanted to pursue an internship with the Studios he said, “The instructor for CAPS told me about the program and knew it was something that could get me started in the graphic design world.”  Jesse closed his interview by stating, “I researched the Studios Inc and saw how helpful they are to artist and the arts community in Kansas and decided to dip my toes in”. (more…)

First Friday opening: \spek-trəm\ 5:00 PM

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in News is pleased to present \spek-trəm\ variance of sculpture and form, an exhibition featuring current and former resident artists ; on view from 2.03.17 to 3.21.17. is the one-stop shop for KC’s greatest artists. The gallery in the Studios Inc facility hosts a large and varied collection of work donated by artists from our Residency Program. Proceeds generated through sales and lending program are used towards funding of Studios Inc programs.
 Gallery Hours
Tues – Friday 10:00 -12:00 PM
1:00 – 4:00 PM
Saturday 12:00 – 4:00 PM
1708 Campbell St, Kansas City, MO 64108

Tonight: full of art, good company and fine crafted beer!!!!!

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Join us tonight for studiosinc:2017, a group exhibition featuring resident artists Ricky Allman, Patty Carroll, Jill Downen, Caitlin Horsmon, Misha Kligman, Miguel Rivera, Colby K Smith, Debra Smith, Hyeyoung Shin, and Gerry Trilling. The exhibition will open at 6 and go until 9 PM.  Prior to the group exhibition is a book signing by resident Patty Carroll with her new book, Anonymous Women from 5-8 PM (refreshments provided). After stopping by Studios Inc and seeing not only the group exhibition but also The Artist Statement installment in space you  can head over to The Bunker Center for The Arts and see former resident artist David Ford’s show Bare Edge. This is also his first solo show of new paintings in three years. To round out the night of art, stop by the Haw Contemporary to see current resident  artist Debra Smith’s recent work and former resident artist Warren Rosser’s show, Loitering with Intent. This is Rosser’s first solo show at the Haw Contemporary in which he occupies the three ground floor galleries with his work. It is shaping up to be a night full of art, good company and fine crafted beer from the Torn Label Brewery amidst the cold.

Studios Inc,, & Torn Label Brewery: 1708 Campbell, KCMO 64108
The Bunker Center for The Arts: 1014 E 19th St, Kansas City, MO 64108
Haw Contemporary:  1600 Liberty St, Kansas City, MO 64102

Book signing this Friday 5-8pm Patty Carroll’s: Anonymous Women

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Join us this Friday @ Studios Inc from 5:00 – 8:00 PM to celebrate Patty Carroll’s newest book: Anonymous Women with essays by Professor Naren Barfield and Dr. Lauren DeLand.

Meet and greet with refreshments from 5:00 – 5:30, brief artist talk at 5:30 with book signing following!!!  The book, Anonymous Women, will be available for purchase at the event and is available at Daylight Books & Amazon  .

For over twenty years, Patty Carroll has staged photographs using models, drapery, and household objects to create humorous, provocative photographic tableaux that comment on the role of women in the home.

Anonymous Women (Daylight Books, January 2017) presents visually stunning images of women in theatrical domestic scenes where their identity is lost in the trappings of domesticity. These not-so-still-lifes are colorful, beautiful, and mysterious, articulating the many complex relationships — both personal and cultural — existing between women and the home.

Anonymous Women is a project in 3 parts. In the first series, Carroll photographs the head of a vulnerable, very white woman with domestic objects covering her head — a cabbage, a cake, bacon strips, a picture frame, tea bags, and more. As the woman’s eyes are obscured, the viewer can only see her through the (more…)

Colby K Smith Talks Growth and Challenges with Kansas City Spaces

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kansas-city-spaces-imageDirector of Studios Inc, Colby K Smith recently sat down with lifestyle blog, Kansas City Spaces, to discuss Studios Inc and its growth.

The article, written by Kansas City Spaces contributing writer Susan Melgren, gets into the finer details of what influenced the conception of Studios Inc, its various programs, and the challenges that the organization has faced in its journey towards growth in support of mid-career artists.


This Friday: Opening Reception

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in News is pleased to present The Artist Statement, an exhibition featuring current and past resident artists Ricky Allman, Barry Anderson, Miki Baird, Matthew Dehaemers, Marcie Miller Gross, Dylan Mortimer, Garry Noland, Brett Reif, Colby K Smith, Debra M Smith, Gerry Trilling, May Tveit, Peter Warren and Hye Young Shin. Exhibition on view from 12.02.16 to 1.27.17 with an opening reception Friday, 12.02.16 from 5:00 – 9:00 PM. is the one-stop shop for Kansas City’s greatest artists. The gallery hosts a large and varied collection of work donated by artists from the Residency Program. is an exhibition space and art lending program included in the Studios Inc non-profit organization. The exhibition rotates four times a year, which allows current works to be displayed from Kansas City’s most prominent artists. Proceeds generated from sales through are used towards funding of Studios Inc programs.

Gallery Hours:

Tues – Friday 10:00 – 12:00 PM

1:00 – 4:00 PM

Saturday 12:00 – 4:00 PM

Opening Reception 12.02.16 5:00 – 9:00 PM.

Dylan Mortimer’s Art Breathes Life in Regeneration

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Alumni Dylan Mortimer work is showcased in Regeneration.

Regeneration features a collection of pieces that resemble anatomical organs, such as bronchial trees, the brain, and the eye. Covered with glitter and presented in the style of a Times Square billboard, Mortimer intends to transform them to “reflect the growth and healing imagined and hoped for”. The idea of regeneration is invoked in the forms from the combination of inexpensive glitter and more durable materials.


Gerry Trilling Featured in Transformers: Re-contextualizing Our Material Culture

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gerry-trillingGerry Trilling’s art is featured in Transformers: Re-contextualizing Our Material Culture at the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts, Florida Institute for Technology in Melbourne, FL. The show opened in September and will continue until December 17.

The show presents Trilling’s and several other artists’ work as reflections of the raw materials they find in everyday culture to build their pieces. Transformers showcases how normal aspects of the most common materials can gain significant meaning through the artists’ reconstructions.


Opening Reception: ReModel by Miles Neidinger

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neidingermiles01The Studios Inc Exhibition Space is pleased to present ReModel, an exhibition featuring resident artist Miles Neidinger, on view from 11.11.16 to 12.16.16 with an opening reception Friday, 11.11.16 from 6:00 – 9:00 PM.

ReModel is an exhibition of insipid objects and materials that are collectively charged with social signifiers and class identity. This work is a sinister response to a cultural drive to categorically rank material, organize our surroundings, and infuse our machines and structures with a (more…)

First Friday One-Stop Shop For Art, Music, and Beer!

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You’re inpostervited to a one-stop shop First Friday event by, Torn Label Brewey Co,, and Cosmic Cowboy  this Friday, November 4th!

/stärk/ exhibition at

The release of Joe Conklin’s new CD, “With Friends Like These!” at Cosmic Cowboy

First Friday Beer and Cheese Pairing at Torn Label Brewery Co.

Event is opened free for the general public with free parking provided!
First Friday One-Stop Shop For Art, Music, and Beer!

The Thread You Follow: Debra M Smith

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Resident artist Debra Smith’s show The Thread you Follow is ongoing at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Sedalia, MO until December 20. The exhibition features her work as well as the art of artist Donna Sharrett. The exhibition premiered at a member’s reception Sept 30.

In the Thread you Follow: Debra M. Smith and Donna Sharrett, the two artists partner their techniques together for an interesting dialogue. The aesthetic space between Smith’s and Sharrett’s creations returns the audience to the past. In the former, the viewer’s imagination is presented with an intangible narrative that disrupts the otherwise formal quality of the compositions with ghostly and poetic connections to the past. In the latter, the viewer is grounded through familiar fabrics and cultural arrangements of fabric.

Smith, through combinations of fabric that resemble paint from Japanese silk kimonos, suit linings, and neckties, composes abstract, rectangular assemblages that take the viewer to another place and time. Smith’s compositions are meant to stimulate the mind and imaginations of her viewers

A gallery talk for The Thread you Follow is Nov 3 at 6 pm, at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art located in State Fair Community College, 3201 W 16th St, Sedalia, MO 65301. Visit the Museum’s website at

Click here for more photos of the exhibition.

Colby K Smith’s Navah finds beauty among clutter

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colbyBy Tracy Abelin

The Pitch


The title of the show and most of the works in it is “Navah.” There’s no intervening statement posted anyplace, so I asked the Late Show’s Tom Deatherage, “What’s Navah?” He almost rolls his eyes, launching into a rote recitation about “Hebrew word, means to …” Right, I didn’t pay attention because this work doesn’t need you to know anything before you look.

Simply put, Colby K Smith’s exhibition this month at 1600 Cherry appears custom-made for this space, with its corrugated metal walls, exposed beams, lots of corners. Since it’s a bright Saturday afternoon and not a crowded first Friday, the splinters, dust and fur from the resident fluffy canine are visible. The mixed-media paintings themselves include splintered edges, but these are intentional, and all other angles are precise, each stroke meticulous. The industrial materials are cut cleanly with a respect that some artists choose not to give found objects.

So I did what I always recommend anyone do; I started looking around. Soft yellow, flat grays and a rusty red repeat between the variously sized canvases. There is also a clear blue here and there that is brighter than the sky but that evokes its transparency by the way it’s applied. Reading the hand-penciled wall cards gives a few hints that these expanses — with their repeating lines created by boards, a soft and light-purple foamcore, and paint, are landscapes.

There is “Navah (Chase County View),” a rather minimal expression of a place, with a meshed top section underscored by a double line of blue, a large middle field that is blank and white, and a suggestion of a very low mountain range plotted in a few smears of white putty or paint. The foreground employs no two-point perspective; the viewer fills in that illusion deliberately.

The larger of the two works called “Navah Cityscape” has the addition of “red sky” to distinguish it from the other. The thin red lines that were allowed to bleed softly into the white field wrap around the sides of the canvas, a detail I always relish. All visible surfaces are acknowledged, and there is less sense that “this is a painting” with artificial boundaries looking to be covered over by a future framing exercise.

These lines extend across the front (an approximate maximum distance of 3 feet) in descending horizontal lengths from a set of “towers” that themselves generally descend from right to left, starting by touching the top two-thirds of the field and ending a few inches from the lower edge of the canvas.

These towers are made of strips of boards of uniform thickness, in varying widths and painted in the typical industrial gray paint found covering the attic floors of old wooden houses. Bits of natural-wood and stained-wood sections punctuate the skyline structure, and with time and some imagination, the red lines can be approximated to stylized telephone wires, geometrically perfected sunset streaks or simply an illusion of receding horizon.

Up close there are scratches, blisters and nails that act as punctuation and additional reminders of the materials’ origins, previous uses and character.

The other “Navah Cityscape” is a much smaller, vertical grouping of rounded baseboard trim “buildings,” with what appears to be original paint worn off in patterns from time. These rest on a two-layer foundation of other salvaged boards, complete with old staples and set over a two-dimensional ground that, again, with vision, extends into the foreground while maintaining right angles and proportions of abstraction.

Deatherage and I don’t talk about the work anymore, just that he and Smith have had a long association and he was happy that the KCUR arts program had recently featured them and this exhibition. He’s running around adding more handwritten wall tags to the works in the back section of the gallery, because a group of about 100 people (who are members of the Nelson-Atkins’ Society of Fellows) are stopping by soon as part of a Kansas City gallery tour.

Travis Pratt, who will be showing here the month of December, asks me what I think of the show, and I say I don’t know how to talk about it but that I find it beautiful.

Pratt reminds me that Smith makes a living through buying and selling everything under the sun, and that this work employs both that process and those materials. I remember that time when Smith and I worked in the same office and he was running himself ragged dealing with the contents of a few railroad cars. He takes delight in finding rare and significant objects and collections and matching them with people who find them most valuable. And anyone who has been in his studio is familiar with the piles of every other thing under the sun that are waiting for a perfect buyer or to be used in his art. The aesthetic is familiar to anyone who’s ever visited the City Museum in St. Louis (created by the late Bob Cassilly).

“Navah 7” is framed under glass, as are a few postcard-size works, and while they are more delicate than most of the other works exposed to the air, the separation is slightly off-putting, even though the composition and handling of materials remains as skillful and inviting. “Navah 7” is mostly a light wash of yellow, topped by the mesh motif found elsewhere, tiny white circles on blue, and repeated in a green grid below, as part of a scalene triangle that rests on a soft blue shape that juts into what other works have taught us to regard as buildings but here are scant and can be appreciated as forms and colors alone.

When the tour group arrives, they’ve come from Studios Inc., where Smith is director, and they make the connection a few minutes after completely filling the space that the artist who is about to address them is the same person who just introduced the residency program a few blocks away. And he tells everyone that he is in the salvage business and that the show’s title and purpose is “to bring home and make beautiful.” Out of the thousands of items that come across his purview, in this case, for this show, it took going over the characteristics of at least 350 boards to select the ones he wanted to use in the works here, he says.

That’s all the statement there is, and ultimately, it’s summed up by his saying he just wants to create things that are beautiful.

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