Shawnee Mission students set to exhibit creative pursuits through unique partnership in West Bottoms

The annual show includes a variety of student work, from fashion design to music to visual art. Photo credit Adam Finkelston.

Next week, a group of Shawnee Mission high school students will have the chance to exhibit their creative labors on a unique stage.

For the past seven years, through his organization Creative Co/Lab, SM East art teacher Adam Finkelston has collaborated with the group Healthy Rivers Partnership for an annual multi-media, cross-disciplinary art exhibition. The exhibition, which features a range of visual art — from photos, drawings and sculptures, to 3-D and video installations — and performances is held in the Healthy Rivers Partnership headquarters in an old warehouse space in the West Bottoms.

Through tours of the river and surrounding downtown areas, students get inspiration for their art projects. Photo credit Creative Co/Lab.

Finkelston said the goal is to give students a chance to experience the art world beyond the confines of a high school classroom. Through the partnership with Healthy Rivers, students learn about the history of downtown Kansas City, its waterways, and how they intersect with the community through a series of tours and field trips. They are then encouraged to take what they’ve learned and turn it into art.

“I think students that do this project always feel a much stronger tie to Kansas City,” Finkelston said. “They see the potential of being an artist and what that means.”

Finkelston then works with other area artists to select works for installation in the gallery space. The show will be open two night next week, May 3 and 4, from 6 to 10 p.m. each night.

In addition to the visual art, the exhibition includes a fashion show, and live music and dance performances.

“The thing I love about the exhibit is that it gives students the opportunity to think big, and do things they couldn’t in a high school setting just because of space constraints,” he said.

This year’s show will include works from student from SM North, SM South and SM East.

The shows are free and open to the public. Much of the student work is for sale, with half of the proceeds going to the artist and the other half to Creative Co/Lab for the production of the exhibition.

The Healthy Rivers Partnership space is located at 815 Woodsweather Road in Kansas City’s West Bottoms.

Students have helped transform the roof of the space into a garden and gathering area for performances. Photo credit Creative Co/Lab.