Editor’s note: Startland News is showcasing five Kansas City changemakers from five local organizations through its third annual Community Builders to Watch series. The following highlights one of the 2023 honorees, selected from more than 100 initial nominees. Click here to view the full list of Community Builders to Watch — presented by Cyderes.
Check out these Community Builders and their organizations in person, Friday, June 9 at Startland News’ Startup Crawl. Click here for free tickets to the one-night showcase.
Though his creative and professional work leads him into a variety of different spaces, Jared Horman maintains a focus on building community in every room he enters and every field he takes, he said.
“The intersection of everything that I do with the city, with mural work, and with Stonewall Sports are all from the perspective that, ‘I want to build community,’” Horman said. That’s really a core tenet of my existence.”
Horman wears several hats: he’s the creative director for the City of Kansas City, Missouri; the commissioner for the Kansas City chapter of Stonewall Sports, an LGBTQ+ rec sports nonprofit organization; and a freelance muralist whose work can be spotted across the city.
Arguably most instrumental in Horman’s commitment to building community is his work with Stonewall Sports, which he helped bring to Kansas City in 2019.
The KC chapter has grown from a single kickball league to an operation running eight sports leagues with about 1,500 participants, Horman said.
“It’s really just a space for queer people to find joy, and not have to explain themselves, or deal with the bullshit we have to deal with in the rest of our lives,” Horman said.
Although the organization and its completely volunteer-led board remains concerned about issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community locally and nationally, Horman said that Stonewall Sports is intentionally an apolitical organization.
“Our goal isn’t to fix those things,” Horman said. “Our goal is just to give people space to be themselves and meet new people.”
In January, Horman was re-elected to his final three-year term as commissioner, he shared. The organization intentionally rotates board members to make sure new ideas are being heard, he added, and to provide opportunities for queer people to showcase their skills.
“Our hope is that we’re a little bit of a training ground for LGBTQ people to be ready to step onto boards throughout the city and the area,” Horman said. “If they want to serve in board positions, they can get their feet wet with organizing, then take that experience and move onto bigger and better things.”
Beyond his volunteer work, Horman has worked in various roles as a graphic designer, muralist, and now as a UX designer.
After graduating from Missouri State University in 2014, Horman worked as an in-house graphic designer for two different fraternal organizations until 2018.
By that time, he was seeking a new challenge and “other avenues to extend my creativity,” he said, and decided to attend a course on mural painting.
Horman said he left that workshop feeling inspired to take on the “daunting challenge” of becoming a mural artist, feeling that it combined his graphic design skills and artistic inclinations.
“Two weekends later, I went home to my parents’ house and tested out all the tricks that he taught us on how to scale ideas,” Horman recalled. “I painted a map of the Lake of the Ozarks on their garage and then just went from there.”
Horman’s murals — which can be found painted on walls at Gael’s Public House & Sports, Tom’s Town, Parlor KC, and West Bottoms Whiskey Co., among other locations — range from light to serious topics, a unique aspect about murals that he loves.
“Murals take a blank wall, and give it life, meaning, and context,” Horman said. “They are something that a neighborhood can rally around, that a business can rally around.”
“It can be as easy as something that just brings color and life into the space, and it can go as far as advocating for marginalized communities, speaking up about something that matters, or inspiring people to just smile today,” he added.
The idea of endless possibilities draws Horman to art, he said, noting that he hopes his work leaves people with more questions than answers.
“I like art’s ability to express things really clearly, but also with the level of complexity that comes with things not having a true answer,” he said. “Art doesn’t necessarily have to be an answer so much as it gives space to be a question, and show people that these are things that other people are thinking about as well.”
As much as he loves painting murals, Horman had to reduce his workload during the pandemic after experiencing severe shoulder pain that required costly physical therapy, he said.
While contemplating a new way to pay the bills, he took an online boot camp about UX design and “really fell in love with it.”
“I decided to delve into that and spend some time really learning how I could take my experiences building environmental graphics as a muralist and working as an in-house designer into really improving the experiences for people in the digital world,” Horman said.
In September 2022, that led him to accept a position with the city of Kansas City as a lead designer for the city communications team.
Within six months, Horman was promoted to a newly-created managerial position — creative director — as he took on a leading role in redesigning the city’s flag.
“The process had started to return to using the fountain that the city adopted in 1993 as the official symbol, but trying to find a way that it can look more modern and function in more modern spaces,” Horman said. “I really wanted to pay homage and celebrate its history as a long-lasting symbol of Kansas City.”
Click here to read more about the process behind the KCMO flag’s redesign.
Horman and his team eventually unveiled the new red and blue design in February. According to Horman, the 1993 flag was supposed to be red and blue, but printing techniques and budget costs forced the city to adopt a cyan and magenta color scheme.
“The red represents the warm hearts of the Midwest and the folks of Northwest Missouri and Kansas City, and the blue is both a symbol for the water — the river that we’re on — and the fact that Kansas City is a city of endless potential, like the sky. Kansas City is a place where you can start anything and be successful.”
Horman hopes that his experiences provide an example of that exact mindset, and plans to continue building community wherever and however he can, he said.
“One of the most powerful things we have within our society is community,” Horman said. “Communities coming together can do way more, and can actually enact change; and also, people feel like they belong. That belonging is very powerful.”
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