The River Market Art Festival is back after a 20-year hiatus — with a nod to the past and an eye toward the future, shared The AI Hub’s Taylor Burris and James Spikes, startup founders who are hosting the event in partnership with the River Market Community Association.
“The biggest thing is trying to connect the historical aspects of the River Market — while also connecting with the other local communities in the area — and bringing in this new idea of what art looks like,” said Burris, who launched the one-stop art incubator in the River Market with her husband a year ago.
While traditional art booths and exhibits are planned, the festival is also expected to feature works that mix art and technology, Spikes noted.
“They come from artists that are creating in different ways and from the conversation of technology, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and just bringing in something that we don’t want people to shy away from,” he continued.
“We understand the context of people and the relationship between technology and art right now,” Spikes said. “They’re butting heads — well, at least people would like for them to butt heads — and we saw this opportunity to present a way that these things can coexist.”
Interactive exhibits will include a large-scale gallery exhibition with a unique extended reality experience produced by The Phoenix Collective in collaboration with Blazttech Inc., and virtual reality experiences with the UMKC Innovation Studio.
“I think one thing that we added that’s really different is the ability to get people involved,” Burris explained, “not just viewing it, not just like a passerby. But we really want you to be immersed into what art in technology is — and experience it and have fun with it — instead of just thinking it’s out of your grasp.”
“We want to introduce artists that may be afraid of what technology does to that setting and show them that they can coexist,” Spikes added.
The art festival — sponsored by the City Market, CID, Sandlot and Co., Port KC, Second + Delaware, and Unity Lofts — will also feature free arts and crafts for kids sponsored by Art Garden KC, and live music by the Holliday/Walsh Band and DJ Dru Fresco (Andrew Burris).
“We have a lot of elements happening,” Burris said. “And we’re just excited to get all of these people in the community connected and having fun.”
The idea to revive the River Market Art Festival came from Janet Schlake, a board member and events chairperson for the River Market Community Association, whose mission — in part — is to promote and enhance a sense of community through events. She approached the AI Hub duo about partnering on the event, Spikes shared. They had already been thinking about organizing a festival, so it was an easy yes.
“It was like an alignment or somebody handing the opportunity to you in your lap,” he added. “So we jumped at that.”
The art festival, Burris noted, also aligns with their goal for the AI Hub: to provide even more opportunity for artists and getting them on that pathway to entrepreneurship.
“We are opening doors for people,” Spikes continued. “We’ve got some first time festival artists that have never had a booth before. We have people who are typically intimidated by festivals. So it opens those doors and even provides some conversation about equity in the art space.”