Twenty-five years ago, Alexander Austin received a helping hand from the City Union Mission. He is now a well-known area muralist whose large-scale images of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and jazz greats have appeared on buildings around town. But Austin has not forgotten how the mission helped him get through a stint of homelessness.
He credits a chance meeting at the mission with providing his first opportunity to paint signs, which led to his mural career.
On Friday, Austin will repay the kindness by auctioning a specially created artwork at Missouri Bank Crossroads and giving the proceeds to the mission.
“I just try to look back and see where I came from and show appreciation,” Austin said in an interview at his home in Lee’s Summit, where he had begun to sketch in the color portrait of Royals icon Frank White that will be auctioned.
The painting depicts White catching a ball in a gold glove and will include White’s signature.
“He’s a big supporter of City Union Mission,” Austin said.
The auction will be during a reception from 5 to 9 p.m. for the exhibit “Alexander Austin: Street Painter’s Jeans — Journey of Hope.” The title comes from a quilt sewn from paint-splattered jeans Austin has worn throughout his career. A silent auction for the quilt will continue at the bank through July 31; those funds and 50 percent of sales from a series of celebrity portraits by Austin will also benefit the mission.
The reception at Missouri Bank will top off a busy day for Austin, who was named 2012 Hometown Heroes Artist of the Year by Major League Baseball. Friday morning, he will appear at FanFest, where he will finish a portable mural of Buck O’Neil. That piece also will be auctioned, with the proceeds going to the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center, an offshoot of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Many of Austin’s outdoor works, including a Martin Luther King mural at 47th and Prospect streets, have disappeared over time. But his largest project to date, a graphic array celebrating Kansas City history on the south-facing walls of the Power & Light District, still survives, and his paint on canvas portraits of White and O’Neil can probably look forward to long lives in the homes or offices of the winning bidders.
Exploring the Iraqi refugee experience
Lincoln, Neb., is home to a large population of Iraqi refugees, and it’s where Late Show gallery owner Tom Deatherage met photographer Wesaam Al-Badry. Al-Badry was born in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, but he has lived in Lincoln since 1994.
Al-Badry was a child when his family fled to a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. They lived there for 4 1/2 years before being relocated to Lincoln.
“He saw some horrendous things,” Deatherage said. “(Now) he’s trying to portray the stuff refugees go through.”
On Friday, the Late Show will open “Iraqi War Refugees Part 1,” an exhibit of Al-Badry’s photographs of women refugees living in Lincoln.
Al-Badry says he wants “to give a voice to the women of the war.”
As he explains on his website, “Many of them lost so many of their families, husbands, and everything they were used to.”
The title of each portrait — “Saudi Arabia 1991,” “Syria 1999” — records the place of the camp and the year the subject entered it. For some portraits, Al-Badry asked the woman to bring one item that they fled their homes with, but he discovered that all they cared about was saving their children.
“At the time of evacuation, the women grabbed a bedsheet, dumped some clothing in the middle and tied it up to make an impromptu bag that they carried on top of their heads for miles on end. Many had multiple children and recall quickly gathering up their things and running with their entire lives balanced on their heads and making sure their children kept up as the world exploded around them.”
Al-Badry’s exhibit at the Late Show will include an installation, “The Iraqi Project,” re-creating the refugee living quarters he remembers from childhood. Al-Badry wants viewers to “share the feeling of despair that so many refugees experience” and to “project themselves into the physical and psychological spaces created.”
The dwelling will be 6 feet high by 7 feet long.
In a recent phone interview, Al-Badry spoke of his plans to return to Iraq, to photograph refugees there.
“They always want to rebuild the infrastructure,” he said of post-war governments, “but forget the women, children, orphans and tent cities. I want to expose it, to bring awareness and to force people in the right positions to help.”
Missouri Bank Crossroads
Alexander Austin: Street Painter’s Jeans — Journey of Hope
When: Reception 5-9 p.m. First Friday. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-noon Saturday (through July 31).
Where: 125 Southwest Blvd.
Kansas City Artists Coalition
Crossover — Patricia Villalobos Echeverria, Cara Jaye, Miguel Rivera, Michael Schonhoff & Melanie Yazzie
When: Reception 6:30-8:30 p.m. First Friday with artists talks at 6 p.m. Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday (through July 27).
Where: 201 Wyandotte St.
Cabinet of Curiosities: Freaks, Geeks, and Human Oddities
When: Second reception 6-11 p.m. First Friday. Open noon-4 p.m. Saturday.
Where: 504 E. 18th St.
Blue Djinn Gallery
When: Reception 6-9 p.m. First Friday. Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (through July 28).
Where: 1400 Union Ave.
** My Dress Hangs There
When: Second reception 6-9 p.m. First Friday. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (through Aug. 10).
Where: 915 W. 17th St.
The Late Show
** Iraqi War Refugees Part 1:
** Portraits by Wesaam Al-Badry
When: Reception 6-10 p.m. First Friday. Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and by appointment (through Aug. 3).
Where: 1600 Cherry St.
** Stephen Dinsmore:
** Ballpark Alchemy
When: Reception 6-9 p.m. First Friday. Open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and by
appointment (through July 31).
Where: 118 Southwest Blvd.
Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art
Bob Shay: Rift
Vincent Falsetta: Indexing
Larry Thomas: Crypsis
Damon Freed: Cadence
When: Through Aug. 18
Summer Invitational Show
When: Reception 7-9 p.m. First Friday. Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment (through Aug. 13).
Where: 2004 Baltimore Ave.
City Arts Project
These Proxies Are for You
and They Are True:
Julian Chams, Chris Daharsh, Alli Litwicki and Mason Sexton
When: Closing reception 7-11 p.m. First Friday, including a performance by artist and composer Brad Van Wick. Open noon-5 p.m. Saturday.
Where: 2015 Campbell St.
A Narrative Eye — Works by Dean Kube and Matt Kube
The Space Between Our Selves: Charles and Carolyn Fairbanks
July 6-Aug. 25
Evan Ashby: The Organic Definition
July 6-June 28
Terra: Shannon Sullivan, Victoria Reed, and Ellen W. Wolf
Acts of Selfishness and Devotion: Jane Almirall
Through July 28
When: Reception: 6-9 p.m.
First Friday. Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
Where: 2012 Baltimore Ave.
When: Reception 6-9 p.m. July 6
Where: 1800 Locust St.