JagWire recommends local museums

JagWire reporters recommend museums displaying art, music, and natural history

April 15, 2015

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Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

4420 Warwick Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.

While the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is often overlooked by residents of Kansas City  due its more popular and larger neighbor, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, what the Kemper lacks in quantity it definitely makes up for in quality.

Before you even walk into the museum, which is free of charge, you’ll notice how much the building differs from those around it. It shows off a gleaming silver roof jutting in different directions while sculptures litter the area surrounding the museum.

Walking in, depending on when you go, the entry room is often filled with voices from the restaurant in the museum, Cafe Sebastienne, tucked away, almost out of view. However, it’s easy to ignore the noise when you are immediately introduced to gorgeous works of art that contrast with the stark white walls.

Excluding the entry room, there are four rooms filled with various pieces that use multiple mediums such as paper bags, shoestrings, wood, metal and, my personal favorite, two-way mirrors.

As you make your way through the rest of the museum-which is, unfortunately, a short trip-there are plenty other displays of work that will hypnotize you which include a massive, wooden Buddha head and even a wall of soap bars.

If you’re a fan of contemporary art then the Kemper Museum is absolutely the place to go. It boasts an incredible permanent collection that will leave you wanting more each time you go.


 

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Natural History Museum

1345 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, Kan.

The first thing you see when you enter the University of Kansas Natural History Museum is a skeleton of a mosasaur, a 45-foot long marine reptile. During the Cretaceous period, this creature swam in the waters that covered most of Kansas. This impressive fossil sets the stage for the rest of the interesting specimens in the museum.

The museum features exhibits about evolution, fossils, taxidermy, live animals and ecology in general.

The main panorama room portrays the major biomes of the Earth. Whether you’re bringing younger children or you and your friends are competitive, the scavenger hunt checklists found at the entrance of this section can provide a fun challenge.

If you go upstairs, you will find an exhibit on evolution. Head downstairs, and you’ll be met with lots of specimens. Some interesting exhibits include taxidermies of hundreds of birds, a pteranodon skeleton and a mastodon skull. One of my favorite sections was a group of specimens lit up so you can see their skeletal structures.

One downside to this museum is that one can only look at fossils for so long. If you’re not interested in fossils or taxidermies creep you out, you might want to skip this one. However, if ecology is interesting to you, you should definitely take the time to visit the KU Natural History Museum.


 

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American Jazz Museum

1616 E 18th St., Kansas City, Mo.

Situated in the same building as the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the American Jazz Museum is a lively and interactive experience. Albeit small, the museum makes up for it by putting the visitor right into the action. In one space, the viewer is transported to a ‘50s living room, where they can watch and listen to popular jazz music.

Going through, the museum features spotlights on jazz legends, including Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. These spotlights include tracks of their famous songs, as well as famous historical mementos, including a dress Fitzgerald wore. In one area, the guest becomes the conductor of his or her own band, choosing how the instruments can be incorporated into the music pieces, creating mixes for classic jazz pieces.

Also, the museum features a small music bar called the Blue Room, open from 5-11 p.m. and featuring live performances at 8 p.m. The jazz bar sends the viewer back in time to the historic speakeasies. The exhibit ends with a captivating documentary about musical figures in jazz.

The entire set of the museum is nothing short of dramatic and energetic, filled with beautiful recordings of popular jazz songs and fun sets. The American Jazz Museum will make anyone, fan or not, happy with his or her fun, hands-on museum experience.

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