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Museum’s first artist-in-residence explores human/animal interaction

By Bethany Knipp

The Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art will have its first-ever artist-in-residence this week.

Calder Kamin of Kansas City, Mo., will be at the museum today through Thursday for the Beach’s Open AIR (Artist-in-Residence) program at which people can interact with her artwork.

Kamin’s work, she said, focuses on the contradictory aspects of human-animal interaction.

“We brought many of them to extinction, and now how do we bring them back? And how does that affect the ecosystem?” she said.

Kamin, an alumna of the Kansas City Art Institute where she works as an academic and career adviser, said she likes to focus her work on urban-dwelling animals, part of a group called synanthropes, which have adapted to live with humans.

For Open AIR, Kamin will include her art based on her research of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem and The Meadow, a landscape of native prairie plants outside the museum building.

“Ecology was incredibly important as much as art has always been important in my life,” Kamin said.

She said her interest in ecology stems from growing up in the 1990s and learning about what human development was doing to the environment.

“We’ve always meddled in dealing with animals, but sometimes there are beneficial adaptations through that,” she said.

As part of her artwork and as a way to help animals adapt to living with people, Kamin created window decals of a birds to prevent live birds from flying into the windows and dying. The birds interpret the decals as another bird’s flying space and change course, she said.

She also redistributes plastic materials for birds to use as nests.

Kamin and her art will be in the Beach’s Vanier Gallery where the public can look at, listen to and feel her work, some of which will be projected as Kamin makes presentations.

Kamin will interview the university’s biology faculty and local ecologists about climate change and de-extinction, or bringing animals back extinct species during her stay as well.

“I think people are used to coming to museums and just seeing work on the wall without really understanding how it got there or where it came from,” Theresa Bembnister, the museum’s associate curator, said. “But now they can come to the museum and actually see and talk, have a conversation with an artist.”

Kamin also will have a talk at 6 p.m. on Thursday in the UMB Theater about her general practice followed by a gallery walk-through.

“We’ve always participated in changing nature. We’ve taken away, now we’re bringing back. What are the responsibilities that we have?” Kamin said. “I’m always looking at changing people’s perspectives about nature. It isn’t this, ‘We’re bad, it’s good.’ It’s that we’re all in this together, and here are some realities that we didn’t expect.”

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