Art and Football in Kansas City
Arrowhead Stadium. Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs
Last July, the Kansas City Chiefs made an unusual announcement for a football team: it issued a call for artists. The Kansas City Chiefs Art Program, which closed its submission window on September 8, will commission regional artists to create work to fill the Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium, which completed a $374 million renovation in 2010. The program will be directed by Sharron Hunt Munson, the only daughter of the Chiefs' founder Lamar Hunt, and sister to the team's current Chairman and CEO, Clark Hunt. Hunt Munson estimates that the first pieces could be installed in Arrowhead as early as January, and plans are in the works for collection tours and an art education program. We spoke with Hunt Munson about the program and the relationship between art and athletics.
NEA: What was the inspiration behind the program?
SHARRON HUNT MUNSON: We renovated Arrowhead Stadium a couple years ago, and that was completed in 2010. So with the beautiful renovations we did with the stadium we created many enclosed public spaces that didn't exist before. Before, Arrowhead Stadium was a bowl, the traditional old-fashioned bowl kind of stadium. When it was conceived and built, it was a marvel of the time and an architectural wonder because it was the first of its kind. The stadium itself is known for its visionary design and friendly confines and iconic curvature. We ended up enclosing a lot of the concourse areas and in so doing, created the public spaces. Well, the spaces created an opportunity to host a lot more events year-round, and it also creates a wonderful temperature-controlled space that is crying out to have some art installed.
NEA: Does the Hunt family have an interest in the arts in its background?
HUNT MUNSON: Yes. My father and step-mom exposed us to art my whole life. I was fortunate enough to have an art-rich upbringing. I'm currently involved in the arts in Dallas where I live. So, yes, the arts have always been a very important focus for our family. Any trip we went on, dad was very adamant about visiting any museum he could possibly find. So, yes, the arts have always been a focus and an area of interest...[especially] the sculptural element of art.
NEA: I was wondering whether this was going to be a static collection, or whether it was going to evolve with new pieces added over time?
HUNT MUNSON: We envision [this collection] as being something that is dynamic that can grow over time...You can continue to add to things, or move pieces on, and replace them with something else.... When you say "static" in an art collection, that can be a really long horizon. It's not like we envision rolling pieces out every two years, and changing the whole thing out. One of the goals with our program is to have an arts enrichment education component, and something that we feel is important is that patrons who come to see this---and we certainly hope that we have repeat visitors---can see a piece of art and maybe come see it again in ten years and it will mean something different to them the next time they see it.
The Hunt family. From l-r: Daniel Hunt, Sharron Hunt Munson, Norma Hunt (wife of the late Lamar Hunt), Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, Lamar Hunt, Jr. Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs
NEA: I think for many people, art and athletics occupy very different spheres. How do you think this program might change that perception?
HUNT MUNSON: That's a great question. How we hope it will change that perception is that we’re bringing art to an entirely new audience. We're bringing art to people that may never step foot in a museum---or have never had the opportunity to step foot in a museum. I think also today's consumer is very sophisticated and they always expect a more kind of robust event experience. So this art program kind of enriches this vibrant Arrowhead Stadium atmosphere.
It's really bringing art to a new audience. The Chiefs have always tried to be a really committed corporate citizen and invest in the community. We've had community outreach programs for years and years in the Kansas City area, from our staff to our football players to the players’ wives. We've had lots and lots of initiative to help us engage with the community. This is another way to engage with the community because we plan to have school enrichment field trips come on a year-round basis to see the art as well. They can have a dialogue with art that they may not notice somewhere else.
Another way that this is really engaging to the community is in the process of collecting the artists that will be included. We actually put out a call to artists from the six-state region [Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas]. So a regional, Midwestern art collection is the focus. We're trying to celebrate the people that live, or lived, and work [here] and hold this area dear. We're sort of the heart of America's team, and we want to pull in the best of the heart of America. One of the first exercises that the advisory council undertook was a brainstorming exercise on what are the first things that come to their minds when they hear the words “Midwest” and “regional.” And that's been interesting to see what kind of thematic elements we might be seeing and thinking about. What kind of thematic elements resonate with people across time and make it relevant, make it something you can have a dialogue with across time?
NEA: In general, how do you view the relationship between art and athletics?
HUNT MUNSON: Well, in a sense, art and athletics are not mutually exclusive. They are kind of part of a broad spectrum of life's experiences. And some people have a talent for athletics, and some people have a talent for art. But they can complement each other and they can inhabit the same world.
NEA: What else is important for us to know?
HUNT MUNSON: How we're developing our field trip and educational outreach component of this is something that I'm pretty proud of. When we renovated the stadium, we added a Chiefs Sports Lab. It's a one-of-a-kind, hands-on learning environment in Arrowhead Stadium. We're the only football team who has this. The sports lab was developed to develop health and wellness among children and it hosts hundreds of field trips every single year. The content of our Sports Lab was developed with significant involvement among local and state education officials to align with state teaching standards. We are going to take that same approach as we develop our art program. [We're] trying to make the curriculum items adhere to state teaching standards so that any field trips or enrichment activities the children take are very logical and an outreach of what children are learning in school.