Kansas City: The Crossroads Art District

With well over 50 different art venues, the Kansas City Crossroads Art District has quickly gained national notoriety as being a premier art destination in the Midwest. From the rubble of old brick warehouses and abandoned businesses, Kansas City created a mixed use neighborhood that brings thousands of people to the area each year.

A favorite event in Kansas City is First Fridays, sponsored by the many galleries and businesses in the district. Each first Friday of the month, the galleries, restaurants, shops, lofts and artist studios open for artist "open houses" from 6pm until 9pm. Hundreds of people walk the streets, enjoying the summer weather and artwork from some of the finest artists in the United States.
The Crossroads Art District is located a little north of Crown Center in the downtown area, beginning at 19th and Baltimore. The district spreads out over several blocks, about a full square mile. The area is easy to walk, and free parking is available. Plenty of restaurants are in the area, so a meal is easy to find. For those who find art intimidating, you will find the district to be casual, with much of the artwork being quite affordable.

One of the more famous galleries, in fact one of the first in the district, is The Dolphin. Located at 1901 Baltimore, this gallery gives support to many Kansas City Art Institute students and regularly features their work. The Arts Incubator is another nice stop. The Incubator is a non profit group that assists emerging artists. The Blue Gallery is my favorite in the Crossroads district. Here you will find contemporary fine art at its best. The gallery hosts mainly painters, each with an amazing style.
After browsing the galleries, stop for something to eat. The Crossroads is home to Lydia's Italy, a premier Italian restaurant in the Midwest. Located at 101 W. 22nd St., her name is recognizable to many because they have seen her television show on PBS. Here, customers are treated like royalty. Lydia's specialty is the Trio Pasta, where your choice of three pastas is refilled as much as you like by waiters who bring the pasta bowls to the table and serve you family style. Get here early as they fill up fast, especially on the weekends!

For something a little more casual, try The Brick at 1727 McGee Street. At The Brick, art is everywhere, with a sharp wait staff and great food. The Brick features music as well, mostly local bands and indie types. Artists from the district hold receptions here on the Saturday after First Fridays, to discuss all things art.
This haven of art and artists is a wonderful bit of sophistication in this Midwest city. The artists are warm and friendly, making any visitor feels at home in their respective galleries, and the shops and restaurants can't be beat. When visiting Kansas City, put the Crossroads Art District on your must see list!
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