Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Grand Opening for the Kauffman Center

   Today was the official open house for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. A free event offering not only a peek inside, but a chance to hear over 600 performers on various stages, inside & outside the spectacular building. 20,000 people were expected to attend, but over 50,000 turned out—and that was despite rain that started early in the morning and lasted through early afternoon!
   There was a long line to get inside; my conservative estimate would be that I had 2,000 people ahead of me. But I was undaunted. I've been waiting to get in there ever since construction started. The line wound around and around, and stretched out for several blocks past the Center's grounds. The excitement in the crowd was palpable. It was refreshing, though  quite surprising, but everyone was so happy and friendly—no one seemed to mind the wait one bit. It only added to their anticipation and enjoyment once they eventually got inside.
   The employees were exceptionally friendly, and everything was so well-orchestrated. They did an outstanding job preparing for today's event!
   Some funny synchronicity: as I was waiting, I saw a honeybee who flew right in front of me and hovered above a kid's head—and for probably the first time in my life, I had no desire to swat him away. Seeing those wonderful bees and enjoying the product of their hard work yesterday really made an impact on me. So I let him be.
   I took out my camera and was shooting photos of the Center and of the crowd, when a couple behind me, Ron and Dorothy, struck up a friendly conversation. Ron started asking me about my camera, and I soon learned that he is a professional framer, and an amateur photographer, and a fellow fan of the Adobe CS Suite. The couple opened their own gallery years ago in the now-revitalized 18th and Vine district, but closed it 10-12 years later to find more stability for their growing family—three kids. They said they were thinking about starting up again. How cool!
   I enjoyed talking with them so much that the hour and fifteen minutes in line passed in no time. And we stuck together for a bit once we got inside, too. What a sweet and fun couple. I wish them the best in their endeavors and hope our paths may cross again. Talking to them really made the day special!
   It was also special that about halfway through my wait, I looked over to see Karen Owings & her husband, my former director from when I was an artist in the Licensing department. She looks wonderful—exactly the same as I remembered! I swear she hasn't aged a day. Retirement clearly agrees with her.
   Once inside, the day kept getting better. The architecture was simply stunning: like the product of a marriage between the Guggenheim and the Sydney Opera House. The huge windows afforded an incredible view of the whole city, and there were multiple levels and angles from which to look out. It exceeded my expectations in every way... and then some!
   There are two large theaters inside, and they had set up several stages outside, around the building to entertain the guests in line: everything from Irish dancers to Salsa music, classical, a children's choir, and ballet, to Bobby Watson and his jazz ensemble. 
   I walked around stunned by the immensity of the whole experience, talking with strangers as if we knew each other, trading cameras to take photos for each other.
   And when I left, I headed right for the food trucks lining the block. I bought a tall, fresh-squeezed lemonade and the guys were so nice that they presented me with a free Italian sausage with onions and peppers—their last one. I love Kansas City!