The restoration and renovation of Corinthian Hall, which opened to the public in October 2021, was Stage I of a multi-staged, multi-year project to rehabilitate the entire 3.5-acre historic property. Now the museum is working with International Architects Atelier on architectural design for the Carriage House, Conservatory, and the James Turrell Skyspace.
In honor of Women’s History Month in March, the Kansas City Museum has announced that it is working with International Architects Atelier and artist Summer Wheat to transform the Beaux-Arts Conservatory on the property into a light-filled sacred space entitled JewelHouse. The museum is in the early stages of design, with JewelHouse slated to open in 2024.
The Conservatory was completed in 1910 as part of the R.A. Long estate and built to store summer plants during the winter. At one point, the Long family also used the Conservatory as a tearoom. The Conservatory sits directly across from what was the Greenhouse (removed in the 1950s). After becoming a public museum in 1940, the Conservatory was used as a planetarium for more than 40 years.
To create JewelHouse, the building’s exterior limestone will be restored, and the interior will be renovated. The perimeter windows and the original roof made of copper and glass will be recreated, and the Pergola will be restored and redesigned. Artist Summer Wheat will produce artworks of stained glass, metal, and mosaic for the exterior and interior of the building to make a contemplative sanctuary centering the often untold, evolving stories of women and girls—past, present, and future. Visitors will discover the inner jewels (inner light) of their personal stories and the vastness of identity, memory, perspective, and belonging.
JewelHouse will be used for inclusive history- and humanities-based programs, performances, and events. This will be a new type of conservatory where stories and relationships will be collected, grown, shared, fortified, and protected. JewelHouse is presented by the Kansas City Museum in collaboration with the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
Summer Wheat’s exhibition Blood, Sweat, and Tears—including vibrantly colored paintings depicting a community of heroic females doing the “heavy lifting and running things”—was organized in 2019 by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and curated by Erin Dziedzic, Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Kemper Museum. Thereafter, Kemper Museum Board Chair Mary Kemper Wolf and Summer Wheat began to search nationally for locations to create a monumental work of art. They discovered the Kansas City Museum’s Conservatory and fell in love with its history and potential.
Drawing inspiration from Henri Matisse’s The Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, Mark Rothko’s Rothko Chapel, and Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, Summer Wheat’s JewelHouse will breathe new life into the museum’s Conservatory to create an enveloping experience of shape, color, pattern, and sound. The visitor will find a universe of intricate details, symbols, and stories to endlessly explore.
Summer Wheat is known for her vibrant paintings, multifaceted sculptures, and immersive installations that weave together the history of materiality, figuration, and abstraction in both fine art and craft milieus. Wheat’s densely populated “scapes” envision worlds where time seems to have collapsed and every person, regardless of social status, occupies a shared, equal space, in which both labor and leisure are paths to healing humanity.
The Kansas City Museum believes that acknowledging and understanding the whole story of our city’s history is healing if there are opportunities in the learning process to repair harm and reestablish trust between individuals and their communities. JewelHouse is in alignment with the museum’s mission and vision and advances its initiatives in creative placemaking and restorative practices. Kansas City Museum Executive Director Anna Marie Tutera and Kemper Museum Board Chair Mary Kemper Wolf emphasize that JewelHouse is where “we will come together to connect, reflect, restore, and adorn ourselves with new narratives of our collective beauty, strength, and creativity.”
Lauren Saks Merriman and Jane Ehinger, recent supporters of JewelHouse, applaud the collaborative efforts and explain that they are “proud to be involved in a project that bridges different geographic areas of our city to tell a more complete story and foster a shared human experience.”
The Kansas City Museum is actively fundraising for the design and construction of JewelHouse. To contribute to the JewelHouse project, contact Anna Marie Tutera at email@example.com.
As the design stages progress, more information and renderings will be updated on this page.
Summer Wheat Biography
Summer Wheat (b. 1977, Oklahoma City, OK) is known for her vibrant paintings, multifaceted sculptures, and immersive installations that weave together the history of materiality, figuration, and abstraction in both fine art and craft milieus. Each series engages individual and collective human experiences drawn from historical and contemporary sources, mediated through a variety of references ranging from ancient art and medieval tapestries, to etchings from the Renaissance, to modernist abstractions. Wheat’s work examines various manifestations of labor, leisure, commerce, and class through the depiction of numerous figures and archetypes such as farmers, hunters, beekeepers, gardeners, weavers, bankers, and movie stars. The artist’s densely populated “scapes” envision worlds where time seems to have collapsed and every person, regardless of social status, occupies a shared/equal space, in which both labor and leisure are paths to healing humanity. Using a tongue-in-cheek type of humor inspired by comic strips, Wheat subverts conventional hierarchical structures and stereotypes to create more expansive depictions of daily life throughout history.
For Wheat, labor functions as both a conceptual and formal connective thread that runs throughout her oeuvre. This relates to her labor-intensive process of making a painting, the term’s definition, as well as its historic visual representation. Wheat’s work often employs the visualization of labor as a tool to expose gender and class inequality. For example, in Swamp Hunters (2017),two women carry a large net filled with their game from the day—rabbits, turtles, boars, and a large bobcat. The women are bent over with the net thrown over their shoulders, the weight of the load is palpable in their tired expressions. In the background is a dense network of foliage that the women are traversing through, giving the viewer a sense of the difficult environment they must navigate to survive. Inspired by medieval tapestries and historical tableaux in which human figures often contend with the natural world, Wheat depicts the successful aftermath of the hunt rather than the battle. By omitting the violence of the kill, she conflates the traditional hunter and gatherer roles, giving them equal footing.
A signature aspect of Wheat’s work is her expressive use of color and unique method of building a painting, which integrates various tools, from her fingers, to syringes, to plastic scrapers, to cake decorating paraphernalia. Using vibrant, almost fluorescent colors of acrylic paint, she combines multiple physical techniques—pushing paint through wire mesh, painting directly onto a heavily impastoed surface, or applying select embellishments—that require her to move around her canvas, working both vertically and horizontally, on the front and the back of each piece. Wheat’s methods and engagement with the emotive nature of color embrace intuition and felt experience over conventional reason and logic, destabilizing the boundaries between figure and ground, representation and abstraction, portrait and landscape, and fine art and craft. The result is tactile, vivid work that engages process, form, and narrative equally, creating layered, non-linear compositions that offer alternative versions of history, mythology, and folklore.
Wheat received a B.A. from the University of Central Oklahoma and an M.F.A. from Savannah College of Art and Design. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at the Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC (2021); Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO (2020); KMAC Museum, Louisville, KY (2019); Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles, CA (2018); Smack Mellon, New York, NY (2018); Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA (2017); and Oklahoma Contemporary, Oklahoma City, OK (2016). Select group exhibitions featuring her work include,Yaro Pickers, Harper’s Books, New York, NY (2020); Summer Wheat and Hirosuke Yabe, Wasserman Projects, Detroit, MI (2019); America Will Be! Surveying the Contemporary Landscape, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX (2019); The Magnetic Fields, Gio Marconi, Milan, Italy (2019); SEED, Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY (2018); More Material, Salon 94, New York, NY (2014); Expanding the Field of Abstraction, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA (2013-14); beyond the stretcher, deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA (2013); and Paradox Maintenance Technicians: A comprehensive technical manual to contemporary painting from Los Angeles and Beyond, Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA (2013). Wheat’s work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; Peréz Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL; The Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA; The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC; and the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, KY. Wheat has received several awards and prizes including, the Northern Trust Purchase Prize at EXPO Chicago (2019) and the New York NADA Artadia Award (2016).