KC Studio Honors

Honors introduces readers to Kansas City artists who have received significant awards or other recognition of their talents.

By KC Studio

Photos by Jim Barcus and Nathan Lang, first published in KC Studio Magazine by the Arts Engagement Foundation of Kansas City

Karen Brown (2020) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Karen Brown

Karen Brown, now assistant professor of dance at UMKC Conservatory, began dancing professionally at the age of 17, hired by the legendary Arthur Mitchell for Dance Theatre of Harlem. She danced with DTH from 1973 to 1995 as principal ballerina. Her career evolved into a variety of positions in leadership, instruction and administration, taking her around the country, and she’s never stopped dancing. In her first semester at UMKC, she introduced Reinforced Motor Function, developed by Sean McLeod, an emotional-based technique that is scientifically grounded to create healthier dancing for longer careers.

Vivian Wilson Bluett (2021) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Vivian Wilson Bluett

On Sept. 5, 2020, Vivian Wilson Bluett joined five other artists and more than 1,000 volunteers to convert 1,200 gallons of paint into six striking “Black Lives Matter” murals. Located at 63rd and Brookside, Bluett’s mural is not only aesthetically engaging but also intricate and rich with meaningful details. Bluett held her first solo exhibition at the Natasha Ria Art Gallery in early 2021.

Elizabeth Stehling (2020) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Elizabeth Stehling

Elizabeth Stehling is one of 10 awardees of the Charlotte Street Foundation’s “Art Where You’re At: Socially Distant Art Projects” grant created in response to the lockdowns due to COVID-19. In “PAUSE,” created for Art Where You’re At, Stehling examines her own experience and explores the idea of “What if?” A former Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Resident, Stehling has created works for Art in the Loop, Plug Projects and the Kansas City Art Institute. Previous honors include the Robert Altman Emerging Artist Award and the KC FilmFest International 2020 Best Heartland Documentary Award.

Stacy Busch (2020) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Stacy Busch

As a musician and activist, performing artist Stacy Busch knows the life-changing — and saving — power of empathy: listening deeply, sharing honestly and giving generously of oneself to help others. Busch is a composer and performer, and a Charlotte Street Foundation 2020 Generative Performing Artist Fellow. She is also the founder of No Divide KC, an arts-based nonprofit organization that is focused on the “stories of underserved and misrepresented communities in Kansas City.”

Bo Hubbard (2020) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Bo Hubbard

Since graduating from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2016 with an emphasis in painting, Bo Hubbard has been going with the flow while making key shifts in his art practice. With more than a dozen tufted rugs under his belt, Hubbard began showing and selling them in group exhibitions at Plug Projects and Charlotte Street Foundation’s La Esquina gallery. His rugs got him noticed by Bruce Hartman at The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, who would host “queer abstraction,” a groundbreaking exhibition originated at the Des Moines Art Center from November 2019 to March 2020.

Emiel Cleaver (2020) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Emiel Cleaver

Emiel Cleaver has used his video production skills to educate and enlighten by casting a light on Kansas City’s rich, yet complex, Black history. In addition to a critically acclaimed documentary on the Black political organization, Freedom Incorporated, Cleaver has produced documentaries on Bruce R. Watkins and the historic First Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas. His resume also includes mini-documentaries and hip-hop videos on YouTube. Cleaver, who earned a Master of Arts from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with an emphasis on film production and Black studies, received a 2019 Rocket Grant of $6,000 to assist in the completion of “A Legacy of Leadership,” a documentary on legendary Kansas City civil rights figure Leon M. Jordan.

Maryfrances Wagner (2020) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Maryfrances Wagner

Independence-based poet Maryfrances Wagner was the recipient of a 2020 Missouri Arts Award — an honor that recognizes individuals, organizations and communities that have made significant contributions to the state’s cultural and artistic life. “Poetry has always been the way for me to express myself best,” said Wagner, whom William Trowbridge — former Missouri Poet Laureate — praised for poems that “consistently engage with their insight and compassion.”

Haley Kostas (2020) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Haley Kostas

Haley Kostas is dancer, choreographer, potter, writer, student, teacher. As cofounder of RubiX, an artist collective, she is searching for a way to break through some of the strictures of dance, the barriers within and without the genre. In 2019, RubiX was awarded a Rocket Grant from the Charlotte Street Foundation and the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence, to support that aim.

David Dwayne Reed (2019) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

David Wayne Reed

David Wayne Reed might best be described as a genre-busting conceptual artist whose work defies easy classification. Playwright, actor, filmmaker, storyteller — he wears these hats and others. A founding member of Late Night Theatre, in recent years, Reed has worked as a solo creative artist, charting his own path and defining his own unique sense of aesthetics. In early 2019, he was one of two people to win a Generative Performing Artist Award from the Charlotte Street Foundation.

Jason Needham (2019) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Jason Needham

For Jason Needham, creating art is all about the journey. In 2017, The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art at Johnson County Community College purchased “Heat Vision,” one of his recent landscapes. Perhaps even more significant was the news in late 2018 that his second application to the Pollock-Krasner Foundation’s grant program had been accepted. A prestigious honor that places Needham among luminaries from around the world, the monetary award will enable him to pursue his landscape projects more ambitiously.

Sheri "Purpose" Hall (2019) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Sheri "Purpose" Hall

Kansas City spoken word pioneer, educator and minister Sheri “Purpose” Hall is a recipient of a 2019 Charlotte Street Generative Artist Award. She is author of three books, including poetry, epistles and a collection of writings titled “Black Girl Shattered.” A dedicated social activist, Hall has been a steady and consistent fixture in Kansas City’s vibrant spoken word scene, receiving numerous awards and accolades along the way. Hall was the 2016 ArtsKC Inspiration breakfast featured artist and a 2017 ArtsKC Inspiration Grant recipient. She has been a founder of and worked with many local organizations, including Arsyn Press, East of Red ArtHouse, KC Poet Tree, poetry for Personal Power and For the Win slam team.

Marcus Lewis (2019) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Marcus Lewis

Whether as a bandleader or as a sideman, jazz trombonist Marcus Lewis has embraced his artistry. And his approach to music has not gone unnoticed. In 2018, the Charlotte Street Foundation selected the Kansas City musician as a 2018 Generative Performing Artist Fellow. “It’s been a really cool journey,” said Lewis, who leads his own quartet and big band and has performed alongside top artists including Janelle Monáe, Prince and Aretha Franklin.

Maria Ioudenitch (2018) by Jim BarcusKC Studio


Born in Russia and raised in KC, award-winning violinist Maria Ioudenitch appeared as featured soloist in the Kansas City Symphony January 2019 “Russian Romantics” program. Ioudenitch first played with the Kansas City Symphony when she was just 16 years old, as winner of the 2012 Young Artist Competition. To this day, she remembers it was one of her fondest musical moments, performing Aram Khachaturian’s Concerto for Violin and Concerto.

Shawn Hansen (2018) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Shawn E. Hansen

Composer and improviser, photographer and performer, Shawn E. Hansen works outside: outside of convention, outside of expectations, and, sometimes, literally out-of-doors, outside the realm of the traditional concert stage or studio. Hansen received a 2018 Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artist Award. His work goes beyond formal composition practices into the realm of conceptual art. Though he performs most often on analog electronic instruments, imagination is his medium.

Ben Gulley (2017) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Ben Gulley

 In 2011, Ben Gulley walked onto the stage of the Muriel Kauffman Theatre at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and sang the first notes that ever graced the finished space. He performed “Nessun Dorma” from “Turandot” with then Lyric Opera of Kansas City artistic director and conductor Ward Holmquist, accompanying. Since that day, Gulley has become a tenor in demand. His singing has taken him all over the globe, from Germany, to Italy, to Egypt, to Carnegie Hall.

Armin Mühsam (2018) by Jim BarcusKC Studio


On the heels of an exhibit of small collages at Haw Contemporary in November 2017, Kansas City Mühsam opened a solo show, “Armin Mühsam: Archipeinture,” March 2018, at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph. Mühsam has shown in Kansas City since 2001 at venues such as Rockhurst University’s Greenlease Gallery, the Kansas City Artists Coalition and Leedy-Voulkos Art Center.

Angelica Sandoval (2018) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Angelica Sandoval

 In January 2018, Angelica Sandoval’s porcelain sculptures were showcased in a site-specific installation at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Her “Empyreal,” encompassing roughly four-dozen individual slip-cast porcelain sculptures suspended from the ceiling, is included in “Women to Watch | Metals,” an exhibit presented in cooperation with the Kansas City Chapter of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA). A Kansas native, Sandoval has taught sculpture and ceramics for 13 years at Johnson County Community College. She has received two ArtsKC Inspiration grants, one in 2012 for “Celestial Bodies,” an installation at BNIM’s 10@10 Exhibition Space, and the other in 2014, for Brazin’ Mavens, a traveling welding workshop for young artists.

Laura Berman (2017) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Laura Berman

Laura Berman, a professor of printmaking at the Kansas City Art Institute, was awarded a 2017 Inspiration Grant from ArtsKC, marking the second time she has received the honor. She used the grant in support of her solo exhibition, “Once and Then,” which ran October through November 2017 at Truman State University. The Truman show opened during the run of her exhibition of monoprints and watercolor paintings, “Setting Space” at Weinberger Fine Art.

Vanessa Severo (2017) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Vanessa Severo

Over the past decade and a half, Vanessa Severo has emerged as one of the hardest-working actresses in Kansas City, appearing in “Lot’s Wife” and “Cabaret” at KC Rep, “Venus in Fur” at Unicorn Theatre and “Annapurna” and “Blackbird” at The Living Room. And much more. Severo played in “The Miracle Worker” at The Coterie, “Black Pearl Sings” and “West Side Story” for Spinning Tree Theatre, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” with Kansas City Actors Theatre and “Twelfth Night” with the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. In February 2017, Severo, in association with KC Rep, was awarded a Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship for Exceptional Merit.

Mercedes Lucero (2017) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Mercedes Lucero

Lawrence-based poet Mercedes Lucero was winner of a 2017 Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award. Lucero’s prose, poetry and book reviews have appeared in “Curbside Splendor,” “the Chicago Tribune’s Printer’s Row Journal,” “The Pitch” and “Heavy Feather Review” among others. Her short story “Memories I Cannot Recall” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her prose poem “The Possible Causes of Your Suffering” was published in the April 2017 issue of “Paper Darts Literary Magazine.” In April 2016, Lucero was the featured writer for the Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW) during National Poetry Month.

Michael Converse (2017) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Michael Converse

In March 2017, the Charlotte Street Foundation announced its selection of eight artists to create works for the 2017 Missouri Bank Crossroads Artboards, a pair of double-sided billboards at 125 Southwest Blvd. One of the eight artists was Michael Converse, a veteran KC artist known for his signature collage style of mixing cartoon drawings and abstract painting into artworks that are rarely in a fixed state. The Michael Converse artboards were on view from June through August 2017.

David Titterington (2017) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

David Titterington

By the looks of his résumé, Kansas City-based painter David Titterington seems to have mastered the physics of being in more than one place at a time: He works at the University of Kansas as a visiting lecturer in painting and as a researcher in the department of history. In addition, he is an adjunct professor of art at Haskell Indian Nations University, and he works as a server at André's Confiserie Suisse, which displays his work prominently. In addition to all this, Titterington opened a solo exhibition of his “Landscape Theology” paintings at the Kansas City Artists Coalition on December 9, 2016. It ran through January 13, 2017.

Eddie Moore (2016) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Eddie Moore

Kansas City has been a special place for jazz for nearly 100 years. Since its inception in 1997, the Charlotte Street Foundation has noticed and honored this heritage, most recently by awarding a 2016 $10,000 Generative Performing Artist Award to pianist, composer, educator and band leader Eddie Moore. Moore is a popular and well-known presence in Kansas City, regularly performing with his band, Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle, at notable local venues including The Blue Room, Green Lady Lounge, and Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College.

Vi Nhan Tran (2016) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Vi Nhan Tran

 Vi Nhan Tran quickly became a part of the Kansas City arts renaissance when he moved here in 2005; he is a storyteller, an actor, the leader of the Vi Tran Band, an arts advocate, and the owner/curator of The Buffalo Room artists’ salon at Westport Flea Market. In May 2016, financed by grants from ArtsKC and the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, Tran took his folk musical memoir, “The Butcher’s Son,” on tour to small meat-packing towns in western Kansas with large immigrant populations.

Carol Zastoupil (2016) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Carol Zastoupil

Carol Zastoupil has developed an enthusiastic following for her rhythmic fantasy landscapes. And no wonder. With their bright colors and verdant vistas of undulating natural forms, they seem to hold a promise of peace and happiness. Sales were brisk from Zastoupil’s exhibit, “New Paintings,” at The Brick in 2012. They continued steadily with her second one-person show, hailed by critic Elisabeth Kirsch as “dreamy, gentle, even seductive,” at the Steeple of Light Gallery in 2014. In December 2015 the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art purchased Zastoupil’s Hidden Lake Road from her solo exhibit at Todd Weiner Gallery. The acquisition followed the museum’s earlier purchase of one of her “bonsai” paintings from a June 2015 group show at Main Street Gallery.

Bridget Lowe (2016) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Bridget Lowe

Poet and Kansas City native Bridget Lowe is no stranger to accolades.  In 2015, she became the recipient of the Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her work has also appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, and The Best American Poetry series. Last year, she also participated in the Raymond Carver Reading Series in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences. While a student in the MFA program at Syracuse, she won the Hayden Carruth Poetry Prize and the Peter Neagoe Fiction Award and was chosen from among 900 applicants to receive the Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize. In 2016, one of her poems was published in the New Yorker.

Amado Espinoza and Karen Lisondra (2016) by Jim BarcusKC Studio

Amado Espinoza

From PorchFestKC to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Amado Espinoza and Karen Lisondra have boldly enlivened KC’s cultural and arts scene since moving here from Bolivia in March 2014. In that same year, Espinoza was named an Artist in Residence in the Charlotte Street Foundation’s Studio Residency Program. Espinoza plays a myriad of instruments, including all types of flutes, guitars and drums. He excels in styles ranging from traditional Andean to rock, opera and African and Arabic rhythms, which he studied in Argentina and Peru. Espinoza also won a scholarship to the 2015 Folk Alliance International Conference, where he and Karen also performed.

Margaret Marco and Forrest Pierce (2015) by Nathan LangKC Studio

Margaret Marco and Forrest Pierce

With funding from an artistic innovation grant from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, Marco commissioned Pierce to create a “Concerto for Oboe d’amore, Strings and Percussion,” which was premiered in April 2016 by the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra.

Credits: Story

Photos by Jim Barcus and Nathan Lang, first published in KC Studio Magazine by the Arts Engagement Foundation of Kansas City.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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