As the city continues to make lengthy strides in shaking its old Cowtown image, public arts initiatives have become an increasingly important part of downtown architecture, a movement that has extended its creative reach to some of the city’s outlying areas.
Art in the Loop is a nonprofit organization that commissions permanent art exhibitions in public spaces throughout downtown Kansas City . A partnership between the Downtown Council, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, the Kansas City Art Institute, and the Kansas City Municipal Art Commission, Art in the Loop also works to introduce artistic and educational opportunities for artists affiliated with the Kansas City Art Institute.
Several Art in the Loop exhibitions can be seen throughout downtown, including Celestial Flyaways (Oppenstein Brothers Memorial Park, 12th and Walnut Sts.), ARTwall (Town Pavilion Parking Garage, 13th St. and Grand Blvd.), and Uplifted Arms (Transit Plaza, 10th and Main Sts.).
The Charlotte Street Foundation, founded in the mid-1990s, is a multifaceted organization that assists with artist needs as well as fulfills a role as a creative, social, and economic resource for Kansas City. Charlotte Street’s services are numerous and include the gift of annual cash awards to visual and generative performing artists, the supply of free studio space, coordination of public exposure, and the facilitation of educational and professional development opportunities.
The Urban Culture Project, part of Charlotte Street, is one of the foundation’s more significant accomplishments and works to repurpose vacant storefronts and downtown buildings into gallery and exhibition spaces. La Esquina, Paragraph, and Project Space host a variety of events, including video screenings, performance art, and exhibits, in street-level spaces that can be viewed from both inside and outside the building.
Although public art has become an undeniably important part of Kansas City ’s appearance and culture, the installation of such works has not been without controversy, especially in earlier decades. The sculpted shuttlecocks carefully perched around the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art  caused an unbelievable amount of outrage when plans for the commissioned works were announced, yet now the playful creations have become an iconic image for the city and a photo backdrop used for everything from local weddings and events to magazine covers and advertising campaigns.
Another project, “Wrapped Walk Ways,” brought almost as much controversy to Kansas City in the 1970s. Bulgarian native and world-renowned contemporary artist Christo wanted to cover Loose Park ’s walking paths with a huge continuous sheet of gold nylon. He had completed similar projects before, such as “Valley Curtain,” a sheet of orange fabric that was hung across a valley in the Colorado Rockies. Once Christo arrived, parks officials reluctantly gave their support, although the Municipal Art Commission did not.
On October 2, 1978, art students and workers joined to staple the fabric over the walkways, resulting in a public art installation that stretched nearly three miles. Just over two weeks later, the fabric was removed at the exhibit’s conclusion and left in [node:91615 link Starlight Theater ]’s parking lot for those who wanted to snip off a piece of artistic memorabilia.