Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art: We will speak for Darius

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art: We will speak for Darius

"Do children‬ have a place in Museums if unaccompanied by an adult." 

The morning of Saturday May 16th during a recent business trip to Kansas City, MO that featured the Black Art In America pop-up fine art show celebrating our 5th anniversary I ventured around the city taking in some K.C. flavor, antique shops, local eateries in the crossroads district and, of course, a visit to one of the museums, on this trip it happened to be the Kemper Museum of Contemporary art. The recently installed show American Montage by Adam Cvijanovic was really nice.

Had the art been the most eventful thing to occur it would have been a pleasant day however ... at the front counter I notice this child, a black child, and so he caught my eye. I thought this was so cool so I ventured over and engaged him in conversation. I noticed he was getting some promotional material from the guest services person and that's when I asked him "what yah up to" and he was happy to share that he loves art and he was an artist and he lives in the neighborhood. Turns out his name is Darius S. and he is 10 years old and attends the art Institute and frequents the museum often. He also mentioned that he was selling bouncy balls for 25 cents each in hopes of raising a little money to help support his mother whowasn't doing so well.

After purchasing a number of balls, I asked if I could give him some money and allow me to take his picture informing him that I may use it in some future works. After a few brief shots I asked him if he had a favorite work of art in the museum so he lead the way to the exhibit, American Montage by Adam Cvijanovic that i just came from viewing. There he pointed out which pieces he found most interesting, dissecting elements of the work and the mood of this piece. He was very articulate and expressive -- I was blown away.

I asked or better yet gave Darius a bit of advice about using his artwork as a way to make money to support his mother and his interest in art.

I asked if he had any works with him, he said no but that he didn't live far and could bring some back for me to see. He returned within 10 mins or so with a clay pottery piece, now I must admit I was skeptical that at such a young age this wasn't his work but I wanted to be supportive and so I asked him to walk me through the process of how it was created. I purchased it for a nominal $10, but I noticed it wasn't signed.  So I asked to borrow a sharpie from the museum gift shop clerk (I believe his name being Karl) and after he signed the work this is when it got real funky for me between the shop attendant and myself.

I asked the clerk if he knew Darius and that he was an artist, me being so proud of my new art friend and all. He said "we know him and he knows he's not suppose to be in here by himself without an adult", at this time Darius mentions he has to leave to go meet up with his mother who has a doctor's appointment and I assured him we would stay in touch. 

Then out of the blue the shop attendant makes a comment I found to be extremely inappropriate about Darius.  He said, "that kid's going down the wrong path" he says and that he hated to burst my bubble but that pottery wasn't made by him and that it was in the dumpster and that Darius stole it from there. I'm pissed at this moment asking him how could he label this child as going down the wrong path -- he's an artist, he hangs out in museums, he's going to an art school and is a beautiful spirit, this is a great kid and if the pottery came from the dumpster how could it be stolen. This is an institution, I expound, and if its not here to serve the interests of the 'Dariuses' of the world then what in the world is it here for. The gift shop attendant then says it's the Kemper Museum's policy that children have to be accompanied by an adult and it wasn't his JOB TO BABYSIT and he basically shuts down the conversation asking me to have a good day sir ...

I'm furious at this point and decide to leave but not before informing the clerk that I would be addressing this incident with management. 

While I reviewed the visitor policy I did not see where it mentioned that children needed to be accompanied by an adult but the attitude displayed speaks to a lack of tolerance by an employee hired to work with the public and hopefully not to a culture within the museum. I informed the clerk that no one needed him to be a babysitter but is it too much to ask of him being a decent human being. Museums around the world are working hard to reach new and younger audiences, if this is the attitude that the young people like Darius of the world will encounter ... then God help us all...

#WESPEAKFORDARIUS @KemperMuseum

Kansas City Crossroads by Najee Dorsey - (digital media collage) featuring Darius

As promised to Darius, here is a new work inspired by my recent travels to K.C.,and by its rich tradition of jazz found in the city. 

View the Kemper Visitor Policy

We love kids and kids love the Kemper! Strollers are welcome in practically all areas of the Museum. Special exhibitions may suggest alternatives if space is limited. Please note that we do not allow child harnesses / leashes in the galleries. Visit our Kids & Families page to see if your visit coincides with one of our outstanding programs designed specifically for children and families.

The Kemper welcomes all visitors and strives to be accessible to everyone.

#WESPEAKFORDARIUS @KemperMuseum 



The Museum Shop at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

Questions: Please contact Raina Heinrich, retail operations manager, at shop@kemperart.org or call 816-457-6147.

communications@kemper.org

Tel 816.753.5784

Fax 816.753.5806


Najee Dorsey, Artist, Collector, CEO / Founder of Black Art In America™ (BAIA) Najee Dorsey's work has been exhibited in eight museum shows between 2014 and 2015, including his first major solo exhibition at the Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA, entitled: Leaving Mississippi -- Reflections on Heroes and Folklore: Works by Najee Dorsey thats currently at the Houston Museum of African American Culture.

Update as of June 3, 2015

We received a call last week from the executive director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art sharing the news that they have welcomed Darius into their summer arts program, it was closed at the time however thanks to the out pouring of interest in this youngman a door of opportunity was opened. We congratulate Darius and wish him all the best and we will continue to follow his progress through life and the arts. 

We also learned that some staff issues have been addressed. The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is located at 4420 Warwick Blvd. Kansas City, Missouri 64111

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Comment by Will Saunders on June 19, 2015 at 8:31am

Oh Wow, that's great.  Thanks for the update. It just proves that talking about and publicizing things really can make a difference.  Kudos!!

Comment by Lola Cooper on June 18, 2015 at 8:22pm

Rock On, Darius.  Good News!  Thanks for the update.

Comment by Black Art In America on June 11, 2015 at 9:36am

Update: We received a call last week from the executive director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art sharing the news that they have welcomed Darius into their summer arts program, it was closed at the time however thanks to the out pouring of interest in this youngman a door of opportunity was opened. We congratulate Darius and wish him all the best and we will continue to follow his progress through life and the arts. 

We also learned that some staff issues have been addressed. The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is located at 4420 Warwick Blvd. Kansas City, Missouri 64111

Comment by Lola Cooper on May 30, 2015 at 3:50pm

Is there a big bros. art mentor program for Darius?  That's what would be helpful at the museum.  Something to welcome, encourage and guide.  That's using our space for good, and doing good for our youth.

Comment by Shicagolyn Hams Scroggins on May 28, 2015 at 4:40pm
Najee, thank you for speaking out for Darius and other very young aspiring artists in the Kansas City area. There's so many youngsters who have encountered injustices while visiting cultural events in the Kansas City area. Their voices have not been heard and this article was indeed very timely. What's troubling is, a Kemper Museum representative engaged in negative labeling and slandering of a child, who also happened to be one of their visitors. The elitist attitude is still very dominant throughtout the cultural scene in Kansas City. Thank you standing up for Darius and calling out the Kemper.
Comment by Jasmine Jones on May 28, 2015 at 1:59pm

That was a great article. I've always felt that art museums are perceived and sometimes rightfully so...to be for the elite class...all it takes is openness and patience from all of the museum's employees (top to bottom) to change this as well as creative programming...

Comment by Will Saunders on May 28, 2015 at 1:46pm

Great article.  There were occasions when I was a kid that I would go to museums alone. Perhaps times have changed. But at age 10 or 12 or 15, I would hop on the bus/subway and go to a museum without any parents. I'd go alone. No one ever stopped me or turned me away. It's unfortunate that a museum would dismiss a child. Museums are so rich and full of knowledge and history. Better a kid hangs out in a museum than on a street corner. He's less likely to get into trouble in a museum. In Darius' case, he obviously didn't need babysitting. He was managing just fine on his own. A museum is akin to a library. Kids shouldn't need any adult accompaniment. It's sad that shopkeeps hold those negative viewpoints about kids. 

Comment by Ernestine Brittingham on May 28, 2015 at 12:51pm

Sad, but believable. Thank you so much for caring. He sounds like my grandson who has been painting since he was 7. You should see my Christmas gifts. I hope to see the art of Darius in a Black Art in America exhibit one day. Thanks for sharing.

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