The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is adding an important American celebration to its crowded events calendar in a few weeks.
The Nelson on Friday announced it would be sponsoring a Juneteenth event at the museum, designed to coincide with the city’s already vibrant observation of the holiday recognizing the end of slavery in the U.S.
Juneteenth is an abbreviation of June 19th, the date in 1865 that Union Gen. Gordon Granger read an order freeing the last slaves in the United States, in Galveston, Texas, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln.
The event also will commemorate the 1980 exhibit of the actual Emancipation Proclamation at the museum, an exhibition made possible by the late Horace Peterson III, who founded the Black Archives of Mid-America Inc. and championed the celebration of Juneteenth in Kansas City.
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The Nelson’s Juneteenth observance will be June 10 and feature live music; artist demonstrations from Gullah basket weavers of South Carolina; Kansas City textile artist Nedra Bonds; KC muralist Michael Toombs; former Charlotte Street Foundation artist-in-residence Paul Anthony Smith; and 18th & Vine poet laureate and Black Archives director of education Glenn North.
During a special presentation at noon that day, artist Renee Stout will discuss African art, cultural appropriation and healing through creativity.
Nelson director Julian Zugazagoitia said discussions to create a Juneteenth event at the museum began several years ago.
“It took the time it took because you need to do things very deeply and profoundly,” he said. “And then you continue doing them while deepening the roots and connections to different communities.”
Makeda Peterson, director of JuneteenthKC and daughter of Horace Peterson III, said organizers were glad to hear the Nelson was interested joining the city’s Juneteenth observances.
“They went the extra mile by reaching out to us to try to find out more information about the holiday,” she said. “But they also wanted to see what kind of activities we do and how we can all work together and do more of a citywide celebration. It was a really cool experience having that conversation.”
JuneteenthKC kicks off its activities with a parade down 18th and Vine on June 10 (the same day as the museum’s activities), with the big celebration on June 17 that features a kids zone, cultural activities, vendors, entertainment, a blood drive and more.
Several more events are happening throughout June. Peterson said JuneteenthKC also is partnering with Funk Fest on June 17, which features Keith Sweat, Bel Biv Devoe and more at Providence Medical Center Amphitheater in Bonner Springs.
The Nelson’s Juneteenth events are free. The new programming joins the museum’s other annual cultural celebrations, including Day of the Dead, Chinese New Year and the American Indian Cultural Celebration.
Zugazagoitia said as plans were made, museum officials believed it was important to add to, rather than take from, the city’s current observance of Juneteenth.
“I think a centerpoint of many of these conversations has been how to bring people together and reflect,” he said. “I think it’s more vital today and more relevant today than it was ever.”
If you go
June 10: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, featuring music and demonstrations. JuneteenthKC will host a parade down 18th and Vine.
June 17: JuneteenthKC celebration in 18th & Vine district with activities and vendors.