Friday, June 22, 2007

Amos Family

Mike and I had an incredible visit with Gene and Margaret Amos, of the Amos Family Funeral home on Johnson Drive, one of the very few remaining independent funeral homes along the path. Gene has been very invested in local history and has written records of his family history, anecdotes from his life in the mortuary business, and has contributed to StoryCorps efforts to document the oral histories throughout the United States.

Gene has an incredible wealth of knowledge of the history of Shawnee, particularly regarding its growth into into the diversified suburb that it is today. One thing that caught my attention was his reference to the ongoing international corporatization of the funeral business.

This is from USA Funeral Homes online:
In recent years, there has been a growing and alarming trend toward consolidation in the funeral home industry. Many neighborhood funeral homes thought to be locally owned, are often owned by a national, publicly-traded corporation, which can lead to more standardized but perhaps less personal service from a business that may be more dependent upon and responsible to the investment community than the local community.

I'd assumed this would be the last industry that would shift from local to international control. There are signs however that the few remaining locally-owned funeral homes are prevailing.

For now, Amos continues to be managed by the family in its original stately location in downtown Shawnee.

Further reading.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Photograph - Race Politics Art

Last week in The Star our new mayor challenged Kansas Citians to compare two intersections of our city: 27th & Prospect and 63rd & Brookside. I could picture 63rd & Brookside but to be honest 27th & Prospect was not a place I could see in my mind. So even thought it’s off the path I thought the mayor had a good idea. Here are pictures of those two intersections (click on the picture to see it larger).

27th & Prospect

63rd & Brookside

As Mayor Funkhouser said-
“I don’t know a lot about race relations, but I do know it ought to be better. I know racism is a huge problem. What I do know about is how to run a city. It ought to be as attractive, as safe and as nice at 27th and Prospect as anywhere else in the city. And the majority community as well as the minority community will move better when that’s fixed.”

I have to give credit to the artist, Matt Wycoff, former Kansas Citian now living in Brooklyn, for helping to keep the question of race and our city so present in my mind. His bold project of training as a white male for a marathon in some of our poorest neighborhoods tells much about race relations in our city. Starting in the spring of 2002 Matt began his training-

“I executed this action over a period of four months from the beginning of May to the end of August 2002. As is to be expected with almost anything of this nature reactions varied from disturbing and obvious to reassuring and depressing. In the beginnings verbal and physical abuse was prevalent and it was apparent that aspects of these communities harbored obvious frustration towards whites. During the course of these four months I was the object of close to two hundred verbal attacks and three physical attacks. I was jeered at, laughed at, spit on, kicked, chased, pushed, swerved at by cars and told to; “Get the ---- out of my neighborhood”. I was the target of thrown bottles and rocks, and I was warned several times about being seriously hurt or killed if I continued this action. I met several children that asked for my assistance in various things from pulling a bike from a ditch to coming up with rap lyrics. I was accused of being a narcotics officer. I received over thirty smiles from strangers. I was intimidated into smoking a cigarette on a street corner and chased by a group of young men waiting for the bus. I was a participant in nearly twenty five friendly waves and was the recipient of a hand shake from a skeptical, but good natured, man at a garage... My integration into these areas was minimal but sustained. I came to be familiar with several people and groups as I passed almost every day through their neighborhoods. The verbal and physical attacks directed towards me went down substantially and the amount of friendly gestures went up as the project continued....”

My suggestion for the mayor would be to try and talk Matt into being his driver for a while, whatever car Funk chooses to drive.

Check out Matt’s web site for the complete story.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Shifting Sands - Path Present

Shawnee Mission Beach Volleyball
, 19800 Johnson Drive

Each night during the summer between 800 and a thousand people play volleyball here.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Friday Photograph - Path Past?

The perfect $100,000 house?
Diamaxion House, adapted corn bin, built by Butler Brothers, Kansas City. Designed by R. Buckminister Fuller, 1941

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Pie Town to Chi-town

The history of photography is full of great pairings of a photographer and a city. Eugene Atget spent most of his adult life photographing Paris and its surroundings. In America in the 1930's WPA photographers produced some great pictures of cities, often spending relatively short amounts of time in each place. If Walker Evans is the best known of that group Russell Lee's pictures of the small New Mexico town, Pie Town, are among my favorites.

We in the midwest have a unique example of a city/photographer combination in the Chicago pictures of Art Sinsabaugh. Sinsabaugh came to Chicago in 1946 to study at the Institute of Design (founded in 1937 by former Bauhaus teacher Laszlo Moholy-Nage). In the early 1960's, while teaching at the University of Illinois,Champaign, he started on his Chicago Landscape Group using a newly acquired banquet camera. A huge camera that produced a 12x20 inch negative and made prints with extraordinary clarity and richness.

The project was a collaboration with the Chicago Planning department - and what a partnership it was...

"I loved working in Chicago. We essentially made a trade. City Planning gave me the official authority to gain access to buildings, stop traffic, raise bridges, use city boats and helicopters, in exchange for prints, and a small amount of money. I felt as if the whole city were mine."

Sinsabaugh has connections to Kansas City and even to the Path. As a graduate student at U of I in the 80's I was lucky enough to spend a year studying with him and he was a major influence on me. The closer connection to the path is that the definitive book on Art's photography was written by someone who works on the path--Keith Davis, now curator of photography at the Nelson. Part of my excitement about the Nelson opening this week will be the chance to see the much expanded collection of American photography at the museum. Congratulations Keith!

P.S. The New Yorker web site has an amazing set of photographs of the new Steven Holl addition to the Nelson by David Allee.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Path Present

Friday, June 1, 2007

Old Shawnee highlights

These activities are weekend long in the Living History Area North of the Bandstand

Kid's Urban Planning at Box City
Children are invited to help Shawnee create community connections. Box City is an activity in which children alter boxes to “construct” businesses, houses, stores, public facilities and farms to create a community. The children design, decorate and place their building in an appropriate location within the miniature city limits area. Boxes and art materials are provided.

Buffalo Soldiers

The Greater Kansas City-Leavenworth Area Chapter 9th and 10th Calvary Association will educate visitors about the courage and endurance of the first black volunteer soldiers after the Civil War. Display items include regimental memorabilia, books, video tapes, posters and historical photos of Calvary soldiers.

Civil War Surgeon

John Duggan and his Civil War surgeons will enlighten the crowds with his knowledge of the Civil War and the lifestyles of the era. They will focus their presentation on surgical skills used during the war and the important role that doctors played. This staged operation is not for the faint of heart!