Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Kansas City incubator: a love letter

Dearest Kansas City,
I’ve been thinking a great deal about you lately, and trying my best to express my love for you in words. The word that comes to mind is “incubator”.

Raised on the east coast of this land of ours, the Philadelphia area, I consider that place a “hothouse”. New York, up the New Jersey Turnpike, is like that, for sure; fast-paced, competitive, densely concentrated and often not gentle.

My daughter, Jennifer, takes care of premature babies in one of your neo-natal intensive care wards, in a Johnson County hospital. It’s an amazing place with a caring competent staff, lovely tiny new-before-their-time people, and frequently visiting parents, family and friends who often need more care than the new arrival. There’s something about the place that reminds me of you and the love I hold in my heart for you.

I’ve just been here for a bit over two years, so I have a great deal to learn about you. Others, with a life-long history of knowing you, certainly have a stronger and more mature type of love. My love has grown beyond one of infatuation, though. I’m home.

I know you have many sides like a prism that can throw rainbows around a room from your sunlight through my window. One of your facets I’ve fallen in love with is your artistic side. I love that about you. I treasure your art museums, your institute, your galleries, theatres, performance spaces, your music clubs, your libraries. Your new performing arts center grows each day outside my Walnut Street window, the cranes gently rising, lowering, and swinging. But most of all I love your artists; the people you incubate.

Shortly after coming here, I decided to follow my heart and work to be a writer. I write about your artists, their process, and their art. I’ve written a few songs recently and, in fact, I’m taking a short break from the play I’m writing, to write this letter to you. I have no idea what I’m doing, which scares me sometimes.

When I get scared though, when I have doubts, your art makes me feel something, your places of art act like filling stations, your artists show me something that makes me feel and become filled again.

In essence that feeling is love…which begins with their love of a dance, a song, a piece of sculpture, a painting, a design for clothing. All of this fills me up but I don’t know why. No matter. Love is like that.

Your artistic atmosphere, your kindness and gentle nature, allows this art, in undeveloped premature hearts like mine, to grow. It grows amid the company of like-minded friends willing to share and support one another.

I know that many of your artists desire to take their art to the hothouses of New York, Paris, and LA someday. You give us the space to develop here. You kindly remind us, with a smile and a whisper, that even after the hothouse experience, we can come home again. You’re a loving and gentle, experienced incubator.

I know these are tough times for you with many of your other amazing facets feeling a bit tarnished and cloudy. The light has a hard time shining through and your other lovers may feel a bit discouraged and neglected. Love is a complex emotion. But I want you to know that from this lover’s perspective, I treasure your spirit of incubation, nurturing care.

Yours is not a hot, intensely lit, artificial hothouse growing things that cannot withstand the elements of reality. Your love is real. You’re giving life to art and providing patient love for your artists who make it.

We’re going to make it, together, because of you. Thanks.

incubate: from the Latin incubare, "to lie upon"

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