Art for KC Voices collection turns up the volume on inequities in food policies

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Five artists were commissioned in 2019 to lift up the voices of people in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri who are speaking out against racial and economic inequities associated with nutrition assistance programs. 

The Art for KC Voices collection lifts up the voices of residents in low-income, racially diverse neighborhoods in bi-state Kansas City, illustrating stories about how food policies such as the Farm Bill and Child Nutrition Act shape our communities, our opportunities and our plates. 

Partners include Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, Health Forward Foundation, Historic Northeast-Midtown Association, KC Healthy Kids and UMKC’s Center for Neighborhoods, with funding provided by Health Forward Foundation and Convergence Partnership.

Please contact Heather Winslow Gibbons with requests.

Cheyenne Banda
Photosynthesis, 2019
40 x 40 inches
Oil, acrylic, ink and marker on canvas

“With this piece I wanted to get across a message of growth and of feeling beautiful despite the hardships we face in life. We often times feel ashamed of needing help or like we aren’t worthy of it but we are all worthy of it. Flowers are all unique just like us. I wanted to paint the humans as flowers to give a new perspective on what we think of when it comes to assistance. Everything on earth needs assistance in one way or another. Just look at nature, all around us is a network of organisms being helped by an outside force. Flowers need sunlight to grow, I used the hands to represent the sun and the help organizations like SNAP give to people.”

Cheyenne Banda is a self-taught artist who found an escape and freedom in her sketchbooks at an early age. She works with a variety of disciplines including painting & drawing, graphic design, woodworking and wood burning, and photography as well as more ephemeral media such as chalk art, body paint and special effects makeup. She hopes her art will inspire others to find their voice through any form of artistic expression.

Cheyenne grew up in KCK and has had first hand experience with poverty and the poverty of this community. She’s been involved with a local food pantry for six years and has helped feed many members of her community. “…and they have fed me,” Cheyenne says. Through her experience, she’s learned a lot about food insecurity and how important it is for people to feel secure.  

In 2018, she created a mural for Community Health Council of Wyandotte County and received Youth City Network’s Creative Innovator Award in 2017 in recognition for her contributions to the organization.

 

JT Daniels
Home Grown
30in x 40in
Acrylic/spray paint/ paint marker on birchwood panel 

This painting depicts what it would be like to suddenly emerge from a food desert into a place of abundance. The group of people are a reflection of the various types of people that could benefit from SNAP/EBT/WIC, which I feel stands against the norm that it’s primarily people of one or two sub groups only. Within the design and gathering of people, there are various fruits and veggies embedded into the surroundings, showing a new found abundance healthy food and food security. 

Kansas City based artist JT Daniels, has been honing his skills in community-based murals for the past few years. Originally a fine artist, JT gradually transitioned into illustration, which he combined with his five years of youth and community development experience, bringing about the perfect marriage of his two passions. 

JT’s evolution into community murals allowed him to introduce another element to this union and extend the range of his talent even further. His use of multi layered characters, which represent the various people he interacts with in these communities, are woven together with phrases, and transformed into streamlined designs that represent the heartbeat of the urban community.

JT grew up in KCK’s Historic Northeast neighborhood and eventually lived with his wife there. Recently, they and their three children moved across the state line to KCMO’s Historic Northeast neighborhood. There, he was a youth advocate at Mattie Rhodes Center for nearly five years, working with students in middle and high schools in the neighborhood.

He also helped to establish the Murals Arts Program Inspiring Transformation that created opportunities for local artists to lead paid mural projects with local high school students as paid interns.

Natasha Ria El-Scari
Bowl to Belly: Vignettes of humanity and culture
40 in x 40 in
Digital laser print on paper, paint marker, decoupage medium on canvas

Natasha Ria El-Scari explores the faces behind the Farm Bill. The imagined yet real stories of what connects us, frustrates us and requires us to bear witness to the life of those around us. Using real stakeholders and quotes from notes to legislative officials Natasha creates a “border” that holds stories through poems instead of isolating them. The grass displayed at the bottom shows farming as a foundation to all food. The various lengths and stories within the poems shows the diversity as well as inclusion of these stories.

Natasha Ria El-Scari is a writer, Cave Canem fellow, and has been an educator for over a decade. Her poetry, academic papers, and personal essays have been published in anthologies, literary and online journals. She has opened for and introduced many great writers, singers and activists, and has been featured at a host of universities and venues nationwide. 

Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Natasha has a BA from Jackson State University and an MA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Natasha’s Black Feminist approach is reflected in her writing, poetry and performance pieces. Natasha brings the fire! She is a divorced mother of two awesome children. Once asked in an interview what makes her unique she replied, “…most people lie to themselves, but I like to reveal myself.”

When she was in graduate school, Natasha relied on SNAP and WIC benefits to get her through a time of need in the face of a job loss. “The shame I was taught to have was erased as I watched law school students and PhD candidates try to provide for their families. I learned that there were many faces to who receives food stamps,” Natasha says.

Natasha is a founding owner of Rollin’ Grocer, Kansas City’s first mobile grocery store. Though temporarily on a hiatus, the team was authorized to accept SNAP benefits and were partners in the Double Up Food Bucks Program. They were in the process of becoming a WIC vendor before they paused the business. 

“I have been on the back and front end of WIC, SNAP and seeing hard working people who simply needed assistance,” Natasha says. “As director of a college prep program she served an intersection of immigrant first generation and American born first generation college students from families with low income for over 12 years I also know how the body must first be fed before the mind,” Natasha says.

Glenn North for KC Voices
The Hunger Games, 2019
36 in x 40 in
Collage/Assemblage/Poem on wood, spray paint, paint pen

Glenn North uses images of hunger, relevant quotes, and images of compassion to frame a sonnet composed to encourage the viewer/reader to take a stand against the current administration’s proposed cuts to WIC and SNAP/EBT. 

The title, borrowed from the popular novels and films, conjures the dystopian notions they espouse and issues an indictment of government officials who are playing games with the health and welfare of our children by limiting their access to healthy food. 

Since 1997, Glenn North has worked in KCK and KCMO to produce arts and culture programs that educate, uplift, and inspire disenfranchised communities.

He has established poetry circles, taught poetry writing and performance workshops in after school programs, and was poet-in-residence at the American Jazz Museum. During that time, he was appointed poet laureate of the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District.

In 2011, he began exploring the genre of visual poetry and continues to create poems in that form.

“Combining text with visual images provides a unique opportunity to convey messages that resonate with the viewer. Speaking as someone who, for over the past twenty years, has worked with youth in disenfranchised communities, I have seen the horrible impact that hunger and lack of access to healthy food has on the young people we should be nurturing. At a time when we are witnessing proposed cuts to WIC, SNAP and other federal assistance programs, there has to be a public outcry, and artists should be in the vanguard,” Glenn says.

 

Chico Sierra
We Harvest Potential, 2019
Quadryptic, 20 in x 32 in each
Watercolor on Paper

These four pieces express the artist’s idea of food equity through the use of more spiritual imagery. He combines the idea of the importance of diversity both in our diets and in society. In placing the children in a celestial setting, Sierra expresses potential when there is equity in general but especially when it comes to something as fundamental as food.

Growing up in El Paso, Chico Sierra began crossing borders early. As a Mexican-American, he knows that sometimes borders can be fixed and severe, like crossing back and forth between Mexico and the United States. But oftentimes, borders are blurry or even non-existent.

Chico has moved from the United States, to Mexico, Canada, Germany, the Philippines and back. He is conscious of the flux of cultural diversity. That, in combination with the theme of blurred borders is expressed in the different mediums of Chico’s art.

“Coming from a mixed race family and neighborhood in El Paso, Texas, I am acutely aware of the subtle and not so subtle nuances of conversations based around race, ethnicity and community. This is not only present in my life experiences but it is also evident in the illustrative work I’ve done, my murals as well and the installations I have completed.  I am a product of my environment and a champion of those not seen,” Chico says.

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