A look inside the new Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center as grand opening nears

Jay Senter - May 2, 2017 11:32 am
A sign from the original Mission Shopping Center hangs prominently on the museum walls.
A sign from the original Mission Shopping Center hangs prominently on the museum walls.

Looking to showcase the wonders of modern home technology, Kansas City Power & Light in 1954 built a home at 4602 Homestead Drive in Prairie Village chock full of the latest in time-saving features. The drapes in the living room came to a close with the flip of a switch. A dial in the foyer could turn lights on or off in any room in the 1,200 square foot house. A television was set in above the fireplace, and could be covered with a framed painting on a sliding track when not in use. This “lazy man’s paradise” was KCP&L’s way to promote the kind of life possible in the burgeoning Johnson County suburbs following World War II. In the six months it stayed open to the public as a model home, more than 60,000 people visited — more than the entire population of the area at the time.

And next month, the public will once again get to tour the All Electric Home in its new, permanent location inside the Johnson County Museum at the soon-to-be-completed Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center.

In 2011, the county purchased the vacant former King Louie building near Metcalf and 87th Street for around $2 million, and then passed a measure in 2015 to invest $22.2 million to turn the aging structure into a new home for the Johnson County Museum and an off-season home for Theatre in the Park, as well as other amenities. Work on the new facility is nearly complete, with an opening date set for June 10.

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Here’s a look at some of the spaces and features that are part of the new center:

Indoor theatre space for Theatre in the Park programming

Grease_stage

Crews are already at work building the stage for the county’s production of Grease, which debuts in mid-June and will run for three weekends. The center features not only the new theatre space, which can accommodate up to 330 people depending on the arrangement of the stage and seating, but two rehearsal rooms and a workshop for the creation of sets. Across from the theatre is an event space that can also accommodate 330 people and can be rented for wedding receptions, corporate events and other gatherings.

New dance studio

Dance_Studio

A spacious dance studio with windows overlooking Metcalf will provide a space for expanded dance programming. It’s the county’s first dedicated dance studio.

Developmental Supports emerging artists program studio

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Developmental_Art

Johnson County’s Developmental Supports program has already moved in to its new art studio in the center, which provides its Emerging Artist program with a space for clients to work. The Emerging Artist program gives Johnson County residents with developmental disabilities the opportunity to create original works of art that are then displayed at public shows and often sold to collectors, allowing the artists to earn income.

Lounge and meeting space

Visitors will enter the center from the south, where they’ll come into an ample lounge area with space for meetings.

INteriori_Arts

A work table in the lounge area pays homage to the building’s long history as a bowling alley (though the wood from the table itself didn’t come from the King Louie lanes):

Work_Table_Bowling_Alley

New home for the Johnson County Museum

The move of the Johnson County Museum from its aging home in Shawnee to the space inside the King Louie facility that used to house the ice skating rink allowed the curators to expand their displays. The new museum will tell the history of Johnson County from its formative days as the home of the Shawnee Indian Mission and later as a collection of agricultural communities in the southern part of the county to a booming post-war suburb. The museum features the old neon sign from the White Haven Motor Lodge on Metcalf:

White-Haven_714

…as well as a 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Aire, which sits just outside the exhibit’s centerpiece, the All Electric Home, which was transported via truck inside the building last year:

Bel_Aire_All-Electric_House

Here’s a look at the exterior of the facility, which was updated as part of the project as well:

Arts_Heritage_Extrior

Arts-Heritage

The grand opening of the museum will be Saturday, June 10, when admission to the public will be free.

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