In News, Opportunities, Press, Rocket Grants

KANSAS CITY, MO, March 2, 2021: BECAUSE OF THIS ​is a ​year-long exhibition + performance series​ that​ ​celebrates contemporary Black artistic life​ through the healing and transformative works of ​Midwest artists of the African Diaspora​. ​Because of This​ is an ambitious undertaking in community building, spearheaded by ​curator Mary Lawson (Omaha, NE)​ whose selection of ​over thirty virtual and outdoor programs​ includes visual art, performances, audio archive, critique series, panel discussions, and community bike rides.

Performances and public programming for this series will be divided into four parts. For ​Quarters 1 + 2​, public programming will be accessed virtually, and ​outdoor installations including a sculpture walk, light work, sound art, murals and window vinyl​, will be visible to the passerby at ​Charlotte Street Foundation’s new art campus and headquarters​ (3333 Wyoming St., KCMO) before the organization’s summer grand opening. For ​Quarters 3 + 4​, public programming and performances will take place in real space and be limited to small, outdoor gatherings. Virtual platforms will be used as a contingency plan for these series components.

This afternoon, co-founders of the BIPOC Femme collective ​Strange Fruit Femmes​, Lawson and Glyneisha Johnson (Kansas City, MO), will be releasing the first episode of the​ audio archive Here We Are. We Are Here​. Like other programs in the ​Because of This​ series, Lawson and Johnson are connecting local and regional communities by celebrating the cultural legacies of BIPOC art, literature, and music​. Lawson states,

“I want to expand and help push the work we do towards transformation and the city itself, towards (r)evolution. To me this inevitable change can be a successful one, if we put more time and consideration in connecting, networking and investing in our Black, Indigenous, and Brown artists and creatives. In building this network of BIPOC artists in the Midwest, I imagine us ​centering a culture of care​.”

You can stream ​Here We Are. We Are Here ​audio archive on ​Soundcloud​. ​To schedule an interview​ with Mary Lawson or to learn more information about Charlotte Street Foundation’s grand opening, contact Hope-Lian Vinson at ​[email protected]​. View our ​Events + Exhibitions​ web page for more information about upcoming programs and artists featured in ​Because of This​.



Here We Are. We Are Here​ is an ​audio archive​ designed by Mary Lawson + Glyneisha Johnson, co-founders of ​Strange Fruit Femmes​, a BIPOC Femme Collective that centers the works of Black, Brown, and Indigenous femmes living in the Midwest. ​Carrying the gift of storytelling and cultural preservation, ​Here We Are. We Are Here​ draws upon the legacy of Black, Brown, and Indigenous music and literature to talk about the spectrum of ​contemporary Black Artistic life and spirit​.


Soulful Safe Space Sundays is a program created by artists-of-color, for artists- of-color with the purpose of building trust through ​healthy, mindful exchanges​ within an ​art space. ​Meditation, literature, and discussion will be used as tools to facilitate this gathering.


Partnered with Urban Planner and Placemaker, Emmanuel Cook Jr. will promote local community engagement through a community bike ride series:​ ​Just Ride​. This effort will be co-leading this effort with a KC Urban Planner/Developer in the latter half of the year. These rides are rooted in the ideas of community + mobility justice​, meaning the right to live in and move through public space without the fear of violence, harm, or oppression.


A panel discussion facilitated by ​Strange Fruit Femmes​ where co-founders ​Mary Lawson and Glyneisha Johnson will center past, present, and future works of​ Black + Indigenous artists, art historians, designers and developers​, and their contributions to the arts in the midwest. This panel discussion will explore why Black + Indigenous people chose to make the midwest their home, and after putting down roots, chose to leave. ​Panelists will include urban planners, designers, developers, arts workers and art historians based in the midwest​. This ​two-part series ​will explore the ​legacies of redlining, migration, and its impacts on arts and culture.


The exhibition opening of ​Because of This​ will feature ​sculpture, light work, sound art, murals and window vinyl​ at​ ​Charlotte Street Foundation’s new art campus and headquarters​. This work will be accessible in a COVID-safe manner, without scheduled openings or crowd gatherings. Performances and public programming for this series will be divided into quarters. For ​Quarters 1 + 2​, public programming will be accessed virtually, and outdoor installations will be visible to the passerby. For ​Quarters 3 + 4​, public programming and performances will take place in real space and be limited to small, outdoor gatherings. Virtual platforms will be used as a contingency plan for these series components.

Participating artists:​ ​Michael Toombs, Dwight Edward Brown Jr., Tonina Saputo, Kat Wiese, Desiree Morales, Pamela Conyers-Hinson.


Mary Elizabeth Jo Dixen Pelenaise Kapiolani Lawson is a Black + South Pasifika woman/femme who is an artist and arts worker in the Midwest. Her interests include the study of cultural and art theories that use a ​black feminist lens​ to guide, shape, and inform its development in praxis. Lawson studied Vocal Performance and Theater at Doane University before transferring to Columbia College Chicago to study Cultural Studies.

To Lawson, the acknowledgement and affirmation of the BIPOC artists and creatives at all times, is necessary, in order for the midwest to cultivate a sense of collective prosperity and reckoning with its past. To her, prioritizing conversation in Public Programming can be a ​healing and transformative experience ​in the arts/art spaces she works in. She has been curating for six years, and wishes to learn and grow with people from other institutions/organizations in the Midwest region, nationally, and internationally.


Glyneisha Johnson is a​ multimedia artist​, currently living and working in Kansas City, MO. Johnson completed her Bachelors of Fine Art in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2017. Johnson was a 2019 summer studio artist-in-residence at Art Omi in Ghent, NY and is currently an artist-in-residence at Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha,NE. She is a 2020 Charlotte Street Visual Artist Award Fellow and a recipient of the 2020 Byron C. Cohen Award, administered by Charlotte Street Foundation.


Emmanuel is a ​placemaker and urban planner who works to develop vibrant places and more livable built ​environments. Manne works closely with local artists and grassroots organizations to produce events, ​exhibitions, and creative place based projects. ​He is the project lead for Spark CDI and recently worked for the City of Omaha planning department ​where he led the Forever North Strategy and specialized in planning for people-oriented, human-scale ​development for the neighborhood planning section.


Charlotte Street identifies the needs and fuels the evolution of an ever-changing multidisciplinary ​arts ecosystem​, acting as its primary provocateur. Charlotte Street cultivates the contemporary, the exceptional, and the unexpected in the practice of artists working in and engaging with the Kansas City art community. Since 1997, Charlotte Street has distributed ​over $1.1 million​ in awards and grants to artists and their innovative projects, and connected individual artists to each other and to the greater Kansas City community. For more information about Charlotte Street, its awards, programs, and initiatives, visit ​


You can read the press release in PDF format here.

Recommended Posts