Joe Harter’s Green Grass Gallery is within walking distance of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. He’s on the west side of the Crossroads Arts District, not far from other artists’ studios.
Yet he seems to exemplify what is sometimes called outsider art.
Harter took an art class in high school over 20 years ago and had a session with Kansas City Artists Coalition’s Philomene Bennett. Otherwise, he’s self-trained.
He says he has felt like an outsider for most of his life — didn’t do well in high school, didn’t try to go to college, has had a difficult time finding steady work.
Just over two years ago, during what he calls a dark time in his life, he went on a journey.
“I was on a bike trip to the middle of Kansas, on kind of a spiritual thing. I had no job; I couldn’t get hired anywhere. I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. So I went on this sort of bike trip to Cottonwood Falls, and what I was told to do by, whatever you want to call it — God or the Great Spirit or whatever — what came to me was to go home and paint.”
So he did. And he hasn’t stopped. He paints from the time he wakes up until his “eyeballs are ready to pop out” late at night, completing a painting every day or two.
“It made me so happy I was able to draw things how they exactly were. I was so happy while I was painting clouds that basically I decided I’m never going stop.”
He works to create a relaxed atmosphere in the space he began renting last March at 1800 Central. For instance, when he has a visitor, he boils cinnamon to create a welcoming ambiance.
He had his first show in September and has learned a lot from experience and other artists — the cinnamon was Bennett’s idea.
“I sell my art relatively cheap. The quality might be there, but I don’t have the credentials to ask a lot,” he says. “My first show I sold 50 out of 60 pieces.”
He has remained surprised that people are willing to buy his work, what he thinks of as his feelings on paper.
Nature sparks his imagination, so he toys with calling his oil paintings “abstract landscapes.” This winter he has been out very little, though, and has looked to friends and family for inspiration.
He recently spent a week painting a dream that his 5-year-old daughter, Olivia, described to him. It contained elements of the “Nutcracker” ballet, and he used a large canvas to capture the whole picture. The work, a nighttime scene in mostly blues, is 3-by-4 feet.
In fact, the theme of his solo First Friday show is “Dreams,” meaning both dreams that happen at night and daydreams about the future.
Harter envisions sharing his space with other artists. In the past he has done group shows with friends and family: his brother John Harter, friends Dan Trefz, Jenine Casson and Marcia Streepy, among others.
He also dreams of facilitating painting and wine events at Green Grass. He’d like to bring in artisans to sell items like hand-crafted soaps, candles and cards. He’d love to show his work at another, better established gallery.
But in the meantime, he’s happy to paint. The canvas doesn’t judge, he says. And when he paints he doesn’t feel like an outsider.
“Your painting’s not like, get out of here, you’re weird,” he says, laughing.
Contact Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Belger Arts Center
What: “Desire” and “The Garden Party.” Run through May 21. Also, “Every Semester: Collecting KCAI Ceramics 1995-2015.” Runs through March 19.
Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. First Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. Saturday.
Info: 2100 Walnut. redstarstudios.org, 816-474-7316
Belger Arts Center/Red Star Studios
What: “Decalomaniacs,” “Objectify,” “The Kansas City Connection” and “Role Models.” Run March 4-May 21.
Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. First Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. Saturday.
Info: 2011 Tracy. redstarstudios.org, 816-474-7316
What: Mark Knott, Kirsten Stingle, Patricia Kochaver and Bernadette Torres. First Friday opening, 6-9 p.m. March 4; runs through March 28.
Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. First Friday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
Info: 118 Southwest Blvd. bluegalleryonline.com, 816-527-0823
Buttonwood Art Space
What: “Art of Blues & Jazz, KC Style.” First Friday reception, 6-9 p.m. March 4; runs through May 6.
Gallery hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Info: 3013 Main. buttonwoodartspace.com, 816-285-9040
Carter Art Center
What: “Strictly Figurative: Invitational,” “The Sound of Color” by Bede Clarke and University of Missouri-Columbia Ceramics Graduate Student Exhibition. First Friday reception, 5-9 p.m. March 4; runs through March 20.
Gallery hours: 1-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-3 p.m. Saturday.
Info: 3201 Southwest Trafficway. mcckc.edu/pvart, 816-604-4278
What: “International Cone Box Show,” “Past Cone Box Juror Show” and “Flourishing: Ceramic Legacy of Kansas State University.” Run March 4-26.
Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. Saturday.
Info: 1820 McGee. hilliardgallery.com, 816-561-2956
What: Ceramics by Allan Winkler and Lawrence Bush. First Friday reception, 6-8 p.m. March 4; runs through April 28.
Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday.
Info: 123 Southwest Blvd. isomcollective.com, 816-256-5556
What: “Color Calling” by Erlene E.C. Flowers and Anthony High. First Friday show 6-9 p.m. March 4; runs through March 25.
Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 7-10 p.m. Friday.
Info: 1717 Walnut. 816-421-2111
Kemper at the Crossroads
What: “Matter and Force.” Runs through Aug. 7.
Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, noon-4 p.m. Saturday.
Info: 33 W. 19th. kemperart.org, 816-753-5784
The Late Show Gallery
What: “The Human Figure” by Carlyle Raine and “Gesture in the Theatre” by John Davis Carroll. First Friday opening reception, 6-9 p.m. March 4; run through March 27.
Gallery hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.
Info: 1600 Cherry. 816-516-6749
Leedy-Voulkos Art Center
What: National Student Juried Exhibition, Emerging Artists Exhibition and Shapers of the Field: NCECA Honors and Fellows. First Friday opening, 6-9 p.m. March 4; run March 16-19.
Gallery hours: 6-9 p.m. First Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
Info: 2012 Baltimore. leedy-voulkos.com, 816-474-1919
Mid-America Arts Alliance
What: “InCiteful Clay.” First Friday opening, 6-8 p.m. March 4; runs through March 19.
Info: 2018 Baltimore. maaa.org, 816-421-1388
Plenum Space Gallery
What: “Sheriff Joe & His Deputies.” First Friday opening reception, 6-10 p.m. March 4; closing reception, 6-8 p.m. March 26.
Info: 504 E. 18th. plenumspace.weebly.com
Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art
What: “The Once and Future: New Now.” Runs through March 19.
Gallery hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. First Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
Info: 2004 Baltimore. sherryleedy.com, 816-221-2626
Todd Weiner Gallery
What: “Image as Metaphor” by Ole Lislerud. First Friday opening reception, 5-10 p.m. March 4; runs through April 30.
Gallery hours: 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.
Info: 115 W. 18th. toddweinergallery.com, 816-984-8538
VML Wise Gallery
What: “Shave to Save” art auction. Artists’ reception, preview party and silent auction benefiting Hope Lodge. 5:30-7 p.m. March 4.
Info: 2020 Baltimore. 816-665-8118
Weinberger Fine Art
What: “SunSet | SunRise”: Work from the Studio Nong International Sculpture Collective. Opens First Friday March 4; runs through April 16.
Gallery hours: 5-9 p.m. First Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-5 p.m. Saturday.
Info: 114 Southwest Blvd. weinbergerfineart.com, 816-301-4428
Green Grass Gallery
The gallery is at 1800 Central Ave. First Friday hours are 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.