City gallery makes local art accessible

Lenexa artists Catherine Kirkland stands in front of her paintings from a solo exhibit in April 2018.

Visitors to Lenexa City Hall enter an expansive, light-filled lobby that also contains an art gallery spreading across three rooms and two floors. You are immediately greeted by art exhibits adorning the walls and display cases, with benches for comfortable viewing. It’s not what you’d expect to see in a typical city hall building.

The Lenexa Arts Council curates rotating 2D and 3D art shows at the Lenexa City Hall gallery — roughly a dozen each year. This appointed board stimulates awareness and interest in the arts through developing accessible art programs and events throughout the city.

Lenexa has hosted a gallery space within its city hall facilities for roughly two decades. Incorporating the arts was central to the design and function of Lenexa’s current bustling, mixed-use civic complex, which opened in 2017. 

Art shows offer a different and memorable way for people to engage with a government building beyond seeking building permits or attending a meeting. People look forward to the ever-changing 2D and 3D displays of paintings, photographs, sculptures, pottery, wood carvings, fibers and mixed-media art throughout the year. And the Lenexa Arts Council is proud to shine a spotlight on the metro area’s numerous talented artists. 

HeART of Lenexa contest winners from 2020.

The City Hall Art Gallery brings attention to art that people might otherwise not get to experience. Some artists rarely pursue displaying their work publicly outside of this venue. Other artists have gotten their start at Lenexa’s art shows before moving on to bigger things.

Fine-art painter Catherine Kirkland, a Lenexa resident, exhibited a solo show of her work in the gallery during April 2018 that proved very popular. Photographers used it as a backdrop for prom and senior photos, and a fashion photographer even shot a series of photos featuring her art behind the models. 

The heightened visibility resulted in some exciting professional opportunities for Kirkland. After seeing her work in the gallery, Hal Shapiro of RPG REAL Property Group contacted Kirkland to see if she was interested in selling her art. He sought to display art throughout a new boutique apartment multiuse property development and thought Kirkland’s aesthetic would be a good fit. Shapiro ended up purchasing a number of Kirkland’s existing paintings for The Lofts at City Center, commissioned a new original work of art, and installed dozens of her prints in the hallways of residential floors. On top of that, Kirkland is set to open a studio space at The Lofts in 2021, where she will be able to paint, have an artwork exhibit, and may eventually offer public art lessons and events.

“I am so very excited that my solo exhibit at the Lenexa City Hall Art Gallery has led to this opportunity not only to make a wonderful sale, but also to find amazing support of my artistic endeavors by Hal and his team,” said Kirkland.

By the numbers

Wood sculpture by Kevin Neelley from an exhibit in October 2020.

Through the years, Arts Council members have leveraged connections with many community partners and artists. Since the current gallery opened in 2017, the Lenexa Arts Council has:

  • Presented 33 solo and group art shows
  • Showcased the work of 460 artists (many have participated multiple times)

Ways to get involved

Here are four ways to engage with the Lenexa City Hall Art Gallery.

Visit: Keep up with the changing exhibits throughout the year. Art shows are always free and open to the public, and the gallery is accessible during evenings and weekends. Attending periodic artist receptions is a great way to connect with other art enthusiasts.

Volunteer: Volunteer as an art gallery assistant to help the Lenexa Arts Council with exhibit installations and receptions. Sign up at Lenexa.com/Volunteer. .

Calls for artists: Submit artwork to be considered for standing art shows or a solo exhibit.  Learn more at Lenexa.com/ArtGallery.

Support artists: Consider purchasing displayed artwork that artists make available. Or contact artists to learn about other work or inquire about private commissions.

Location and hours

The City Hall Art Gallery occupies space on the first and second floors of Lenexa City Hall at 17101 W. 87th St. Pkwy., Lenexa, KS 66219.

Gallery Hours: Monday–Thursday: 6 a.m.–9 p.m.; Friday–Saturday: 7 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sunday: 7 a.m.–7 p.m.

Through Jan. 14, 2021, the gallery will feature photography from various artists associated with the Digital Dimensions photography club, wearable fiber creations by Marci Blank and acrylic paintings by Judith Gallipeau. Up next is the HeART of Lenexa Contest Show, on display Jan. 26–Feb. 28. This popular juried show will display artwork inspired by something each artist loves about Lenexa.