Visual Arts

New downtown art installations say ‘LUV U’ to Kansas City

Lightwork by Jamie Burmeister, an artist from Nebraska, will eventually be at nine locations around downtown Kansas City. It’s called “Message Matters.”
Lightwork by Jamie Burmeister, an artist from Nebraska, will eventually be at nine locations around downtown Kansas City. It’s called “Message Matters.” The Kansas City Star

If you’re downtown Friday night, you might be wondering who is using downtown office windows to say they love you.

The rest of you may just be wondering what’s up with the flashing lights.

Starting Friday, lights in the Central Library, the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center and four other buildings are scheduled to begin flashing the message “LUV U” in Morse code as part of a light installation by Nebraska-based artist Jamie Burmeister. Two other venues will be included by next Friday.

The work is sponsored by the Mid-America Arts Alliance, a Kansas City-based regional arts organization that supports and presents programs and exhibits in Kansas, Missouri and around the country.

Burmeister’s project, titled “Message Matters,” is one of the alliance’s periodic presentations of works by artists from the states it serves.

Burmeister boasts a long resume as a public artist, including a commission for the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He previously presented “Message Matters” at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, and at the Akron Art Museum in Ohio.

Kansas City’s eight-venue version, which will remain on view through the end of February, represents the work’s most ambitious installation to date.

Burmeister said the idea came to him when the Bemis Center was installing new windows in its top floors.

“I knew I wanted to engage the windows and use lights,” he said. “A simple light bulb is the source. Incandescent fades on and off nicely. The timing is by microcontroller.”

After coming up with the idea to send a message in Morse code, he went home and started experimenting with a code generator and sent the message ‘L-U-V U,’ to his wife. Burmeister decided to use the same message for his Bemis installation.

“I think of it as, ‘I can project positive or angry,’” he said. “Choosing to project positive relates to the organizations I’m working with. They’re all trying to have a positive presence in the community.”

Kansas City has a long history of embracing light art, from Keith Sonnier’s neon “Double Monopole” at KCI to Walter DeMaria’s “One Sun, 34 Moons” at the Nelson-Atkins to Leo Villareal’s pulsing lightwork at the entrance to the Nerman Museum at Johnson County Community College.

Burmeister came to town in mid-January to begin installing the work and spent part of his visit making digital scans of M-AAA employees for a sculptural piece he is creating for the organization’s entry gallery.

It will feature four 9-foot-tall capital letters made of galvanized steel rod and strapping. He used the scans to generate 3-D prints of 4-inch-high human figures, which he is casting in bronze and will situate around and within the sculptural letters.

The figurative component relates to Burmeister’s “Vermin.me” installations of small ceramic figures, which have appeared in public places around the world.

“This might be an idealistic thought,” he said, “but maybe a positive message will cause positive actions.”

On exhibit

Jamie Burmeister’s “Message Matters” can be seen at night in February at:

▪ Mid-America Arts Alliance, 2018 Baltimore Ave.

▪ Commerce Bank Building, 1000 Walnut St.

▪ City Hall, 414 E. 12th St.

▪ Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.

▪ Sheraton Kansas City Hotel, 2345 McGee St.

▪ Fine Folk, 122 Southwest Blvd.

▪ Meers Advertising, 1811 Walnut St.

▪ Charlotte Street Foundation/

Paragraph Gallery, 23 E. 12th St.

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