This week on The Local Show, we talk to Tavis Smiley and Peter Yelorda about the new America I Am exhibit which is now open at Union Station. We profile Alphapointe, the Kansas City non-profit which provides job opportunities for the blind and visually impaired. Kansas City artist Rita Blitt has been commissioned to create a memorial for the victims, rescuers and survivors of the Hyatt collapse. The Local Show’s Randy Mason checks in on her progress.
The Skywalk Memorial Foundation commissioned esteemed international artist Rita Blitt to create a sculpture that will serve as the focal piece of a memorial honoring the victims, rescuers and survivors of the Hyatt Skywalk collapse in 1981.
America I AM provides an opportunity for people from all walks of life to explore this uniquely American story. With the nation’s first African American president, America I AM endeavors to bring together Americans of all backgrounds to achieve a greater understanding of their shared culture and history.
Scholar W.E.B. Du Bois once wrote, “Would America have been America without her Negro people?”
To examine the answer to that question, AMERICA I AM: The African American Imprint is mounted as the broadest museum exhibition of its kind. An assembly of poignant artifacts representing nearly 500 years of American history, the exhibition will convey and celebrate the undeniable imprint African Americans have had on the country and the world.
Covering history from the arrival of Africans to the present day, the exhibition presents a collection of pivotal moments of courage, conviction, and creativity that have shaped the culture and society in which we live today in this nation and around the world.
The exhibition examines four themes in particular: economic, socio-political, cultural, and spiritual impact on America. These themes serve as recurring touch points throughout the galleries, as visitors discover how our experience as Americans has been shaped by African Americans throughout history.
The 15,000 square-foot exhibition is divided into twelve galleries, leading visitors through time on a journey from struggle to triumph.
Featuring more than 200 artifacts culled from every period of U.S. history, the exhibition includes objects, texts, religion, music, narration, and media. An interactive component of the exhibition allows visitors to leave their own video “imprints,” and this collection will grow throughout the life of the exhibition with the potential to become the largest recorded oral history project in U.S. history.
From making office products to assembling Boulevard Beer variety packs, Alphapointe provides job opportunities to Americans nationwide who are blind or visually impaired. The year long celebration of their centennial culminates on November 12 when five-time Grammy Award winners The Blind Boys of Alabama will perform at the Midland Theater. For more details, click here.
Alphapointe started in 1911 when a small but determined group of people, led by our founder Catherine Hale, decided that the American dream of an independent and productive life should be attainable for all people, regardless of their ability to see. Dissatisfied with depending on the kindness of family or suffering the prejudices of employers, these capable and enterprising workers formed the Kansas City Association of Blind Workers and began making straw brooms in a cramped warehouse.
Today, Alphapointe is the largest employer of people who are blind in the state of Missouri and the only provider of the education and rehabilitation services necessary for people who are blind to live, work and be independent.
While she wasn’t at the Hyatt Regency when the skywalk collapsed in 1981, Rita Blitt’s fifth grade art teacher, Ruth Ann Angstead, was among the many people injured that night. Now, Blitt has the opportunity to pay tribute to her art teacher who inspired her to create as well as to the victims, rescuers and survivors of the tragedy. Randy Mason caught up with this Kansas City favorite just down the street at the Carter Art Center.
Blitt has installed over 45 monumental sculptures up to 60 feet in height, had 70 solo exhibitions and participated in many group shows. Her works have been shown and installed in Australia, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and the United States. It isn’t often that one artist is featured in three shows at the same time, but that’s what happened this fall when Rita Blitt had shows underway at both Longview Community College and Penn Valley Community College, as well as in the gallery at Central Missouri University in Warrensburg. Rita Blitt’s Penn Valley show runs thru Nov. 7. The show at Longview runs through Nov. 12th.
The memorial will be part of a larger park developed by Children’s Mercy Hospital partnering with the KCMO Board of Parks and Recreation. Visitors to the memorial will find a 36-foot plaza area illuminated by pinpoints of light. The pinpoints of light will symbolize the victims, rescuers and the ripple effect the tragedy has had on the community. The memorial will include a seating area surrounded by lush plants. The Skywalk Memorial will be installed in Hospital Hill Park at 22nd and Gillham Road.
Blitt will create with advisors L. William Zahner, Hon. AIA, A. Zahner Company and Lorie Doolittle-Bowman, AIA, Bowman Bowman Novick Inc.
In 2009, KCMO Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners approved plans for a memorial, and SMF announced the location in Hospital Hill Park, 22nd and Gillham in Kansas City, Missouri. The Hyatt skywalk collapse remains the deadliest structural collapse in U.S. history other than the World Trade Center. 114 people were killed, 216 were injured and countless lives were changed forever by the unprecedented disaster.