Sometimes it takes the eye of an artist to see a neighborhood’s true potential. The Crossroads Art District is an eclectic mix of energy, creativity and innovation, all animated by an ever-changing exhibition of expression and entrepreneurial passion. With a unique culture all its own these streets, back alleys and brick walls have become an ever-changing showcase of creative spirit; and it all started with an art gallery.
But before there was the Crossroads, there was Film Row, whose four-square blocks were first built to distribute Hollywood’s newest motion pictures throughout the Midwest. Around that same time, the nearby Kansas City Costume Company was outfitting the city’s growing musical theatre scene with materials custom-made for the spotlight. It seems as though these streets were destined to fuel creativity since day one.
Years later, long after the movie industry had moved on, urban pioneer, Jim Leedy, took a look at the old empty warehouses and saw a huge creative void. Leedy, an artist and a teacher, figured if he could convince aspiring artists to stick around, likeminded art lovers would follow. So he converted an old paintbrush factory into studios and lofts and soon opened a gallery to show off the work students and colleagues. One gallery led to another as more illustrative locals flocked in to be part of the multicolored movement.
The CAD is now shaped by both its originality and opportunity, where the line between art and observer is beautifully blurred, giving rise to an all-new creative class. First Fridays anchors the neighborhood’s role as the cultural heart of Kansas City. Fearless designers like Peggy Noland keep people guessing at what’s next. And, David Ford, as if following in the Leedy’s vibrant footsteps, rouses the next wave of artists ready to do their own thing.
Today, the Midwest’s most colorful community canvas is alive with inspiration. Wherever you look, there’s the same original energy that started it all, and still opening eyes, minds—and galleries.