Molly Burd acknowledges she applied for the KC Parade of Hearts on a whim. A week before the deadline, the Kansas City artist and Hewn sewing shop production manager saw applications were being accepted for artists to design the big hearts art pieces for 2023.
“Once I got an email saying that there were over 500 applicants, I was thinking, ‘There’s absolutely no way that I’m gonna get this,’” she explained. “‘But I’m just gonna try.’ Because I really believed in my concept. I knew I had a good idea going into it. So I was like, if nothing else, they are really going to like my idea.”
Parade of Hearts is a public art experience that celebrates diversity, unites communities and supports nonprofits by placing beautifully designed hearts by local artists throughout the Kansas City region.
But on Dec. 15, Burd — along with 39 other local artists — learned they were among those selected out of 526 applications.
“I’m super, super excited about it,” she added. “When I saw my name on there, I really could not believe it.”
The Parade of Hearts debuted in 2022 with 156 artist-created hearts that were on display throughout the Kansas City metro during the spring and then auctioned off to support local nonprofits.
The blank, fiberglass KC heart art pieces were designed by Kansas City-based Dimensional Innovations — the owner and CEO of which, Tucker Trotter, is among the founding partners of Parade of Hearts — and based on the iconic KC Heart most recently popularized by Charlie Hustle (later becoming an official symbol of the Kansas City region).
In October, according to a news release, the Parade of Hearts board of directors announced that the hearts would return in 2023 and 2024. While 2023 will include just 40 limited-edition hearts, more than 100 are expected again in 2024.
“526 artists submitted designs for consideration this year — over 100 more artists than our inaugural year,” said Jenn Nussbeck, executive director for Parade of Hearts, in the release. “Our 2022 artists did such incredible work and we were honored to bring their designs to life. We are equally thrilled with the final designs for 2023 and can’t wait for Kansas City to see them.”
Click here to see the ful list of artists chosen for the 2023 project.
Sugar Creek-based artist Ivey Zoellers — who co-owns a private art school — will be designing a heart for the second year in a row.
“I feel very honored,” she said. “I knew it would just be kind of a long shot to get into that small group of 40. So I’m very, very over the moon that I was picked. I felt that way last year, too, but just knowing how narrowed down it was, it’s very special.”
Last year, her heart — which was displayed near the Lightwell building downtown at 11th and Main streets — had lemons on a blue background. She shared she was inspired by the phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” which she learned was coined by Missouri writer Dale Carnegie, who lived in Kansas City for a time.
“It’s a very Midwestern turn of phrase,” she added.
For this year’s heart, Zoellers said, she tapped into her love of ecology and protecting wildlife. The heart will feature several animals that can be found at the Kansas City Zoo.
“I went back and I looked at all the hearts and a lot of Kansas City institutions were highlighted,” she explained. “The skyline was a common theme. But nobody (featured) the zoo. So that’s my husband and I’s favorite date night thing if it’s nice out. They’re getting a new aquarium installed and so I wanted to highlight it.”
For Burd, incorporating her passion for sewing in the design of the heart was important, she said.
“I have not seen anything that had to do with sewing and Kansas City’s Garment District and industry is really starting to take off again,” she explained. “At one point, 100 years ago, one in every seven garments were made in Kansas City and so we’re trying to get back to that.”
Burd — who plans to keep the heart in the break room at Hewn/Southwind Press while she works on it — said the back of the heart will be covered in recycled buttons off of garments that she finds locally. Then the front will be painted like green silk fabric and the KC letters will be filled with buttons. Around the edges will be black stitching connected to a giant spool of thread.
“I have no idea where it’s going to be, although I’m definitely hoping for the Garment District,” she added. “I’m proud of myself for just taking that step (of applying) and then to also be representing this side of the artistic industry, which a lot of people don’t really see. I’m really excited to have that visually seen in the Kansas City area. There’s a lot of seamstresses here. There’s a lot of people that are wanting to go down this path and I’m really happy to have a visual representation of that in Kansas City.”
According to the news release, the goal for distributing the hearts across the metro is March. That means February will be a busy month for Zoellers, who is expecting her first baby around Valentine’s Day.
“I’ve been joking – I have two things due in February,” she noted. “She’s due Feb. 16, so that’ll be a challenge. I knew I was expecting when I applied, but I kind of thought, ‘Oh, it’s a long shot.’ But that’s OK. I like to stay busy. … So I don’t know who’s gonna come first.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.