Noticing Neighbors with Danielle Bausinger Fu
If you are ever driving around downtown on a Sunday, with a little bit of luck you might just see Danielle Bausinger Fu. There would be a mural nearby, and a team of dancers leaping into dynamic poses. Pointe shoes and all. The streets became empty last year, but Danielle saw a unique moment to pay tribute to Kansas City’s only performance art that was allowed at the time: the colorful walls that display street murals.
This is the coolest initiative. How did the whole idea start? Where did it come from? I just want to know the whole thing!
It all came from a mental block. I am a dancer with Kansas City Ballet, and for the first month or two of the pandemic performances were in limbo. Like everyone, there were so many questions: When are we going to be back? Is this just a short break? Is this a long break? There were so many unknowns. Hayley: Performing Arts with crowds were just gone.
Danielle: We were doing what we could. We were taking modified ballet classes in our homes because we didn't know if we needed to stay in shape to perform or what was going to happen.
But once we got official word that we were not doing any live theater the rest of 2020, my mind shut down. It was hard to take.
What lit you back up, then? What gave you a spark? Danielle:
It was the fact that I didn't want to stop dancing and I didn't want to stop creating art. I've always been a person that loves to go to museums and see different types of art, whether it's abstract or classics like Degas and Monet. I've always been attracted to art.
Artist Evan Jackson, located in the alley at Oak & 17th in KCMO There was a particular mural that spoke to me and started everything. It’s a mural by Evan Jackson, and he painted these beautifully colored hot air balloons. It takes me back to a very personal memory I have in my relationship with my grandmother.
I want to go see this in person. Was it the first mural? Danielle: It was! And once I’d seen it, I remember thinking: wow, it's so nice to have this beautiful public art. Because once I saw that one, I started to see them everywhere. This city is very colorful.
Oh, it’s definitely all over. Kansas City is an artist city. Danielle: If you drive around the Crossroads, there is a piece of art almost every other wall. I started taking notice of the work that goes into the craft, and also relating to it from my point of view. As a dancer, you're always trying to reach out and connect to other people through your work. These murals were just kind of speaking to me.
Artist Kris Kanaly, located 446 E. 17th St. in KCMO This art is displayed in areas that have tons of restaurants, bars, hype and energy. Normally, we're just passing by. We’re driving, talking, and walking from restaurant to restaurant—not even recognizing what’s surrounding us. My inspiration was to get out on the streets safely, still be a dancer, and uplift this art the community artists bring to everyone.
You’ve been doing this for a while, now.
Danielle: It’s really changed over time. I wrote down a list of all the 200+ murals in my notebook to keep track. It’s essentially this master list with artist’s names, mural descriptions, and addresses. Then each week I create a mapped out route for me and my husband to drive and take the photos. Hayley: So you two work on this together?
Danielle: It started out with just me. It was a way for me to release some of that artist's energy and be creative through a difficult time, but then my husband was inspired and really got into it! So he bought a better camera, and has been learning how to take photos using multiple lenses.
Hayley: I saw that you are both dancers with the Ballet. What does it look like when you take these photos? Danielle: We do about 5 to 8 sites when we go out, and I bring extra outfits for changing in the back of the car. I coordinate the outfits with complimenting the mural, because I don't want to be distracting. I try to blend in so that it's a collaboration.
Going downtown every Sunday, especially in the beginning months of covid, the streets were empty. So it was very easy for the two of us to wear a mask and find a location. No one was around, so we felt comfortable and safe in that regard. However, I didn't feel comfortable including any other dancers in the beginning because we were still learning from the guidelines as they came out. I didn't know how to navigate with covid at the time.
We were all watching for information, I remember that. No one knew. Danielle: No one did. And we didn't want to take any risks that put anybody in danger, either. So at the beginning, it was just us. Then for work, we started doing these New Moves performance videos. Kansas City Ballet has been putting on short films that are free to the public in special locations all across Kansas City: the Nelson Atkins Museum, Nerman Museum, the Gem Theater. Once small group performances started, I knew it was safe to be around my coworkers again. That’s when I asked for volunteers. Hayley:
What does the setup look like when you take the photos? Danielle: I wear a mask when directing, and my husband wears a mask while taking the photos. They show up on site with an outfit and an idea of what they want to portray with the mural. Usually, it's just a bing bang boom—everybody is super prepared and ready to go. It’s inspired. It's quick. It's fun.
It’s also great exposure for the dancers, and I'm very grateful to get the word out about these murals and how beautiful they are. They're literally right outside our door. We just need to take the time to enjoy them.
This affects so many people, if you think about it. You’re inspired by expressing yourself, and I’m sure the dancers feel the same way. There’s people like me who see your photos online. Since I’ve reached out to talk to you, I do look for murals more.
I also wonder about the side of the mural artist, because it must be nice to see someone admiring your work. Have you heard from any street artists? Danielle:
Yeah, it's been really cool. Some have reached out and shared that they love seeing a project where everyone is getting equal exposure.
And with the dancers, what's so cool is that everybody finds a different piece of art that speaks to them. And that makes me happy, too, because I want everybody to feel represented and feel like they're taking a photo with a mural that means something to them.
I saw you recently collaborated with Made In Kansas City. How did that happen?
Artist Grace Cantril, located at 26th & Summit in KCMO Danielle: I saw a mural as I was driving down I-35 South. I recognized one of the brands on it as Charlie Hustle, but that was it. So I looked into it more and found out it was a collage of the Made in Kansas City brands that they sell in their store. Flint and Field, Ampersand Design Studio, and other small businesses.
I decided we could make a collage of them for a #MadeInKCWeek, and reached out to the company to see if they wanted to somehow collaborate. I didn’t have any idea how, but I reached out!
They were 100% on board and donated t-shirts to us! Each dancer got to match the t-shirt with the mural and represent the brand. It was very cool to have support for the project!
That’s amazing. I am so glad you saw the hot air balloon mural that day.
This project was originally started to help me along in a sad time, and it did more than that. It brought light. It brought color, it brought inspiration. It brought joy.
There's some sort of story that comes alive in each artist’s mural. I hope that people can be inspired to find all the same things: light, color, joy, happiness.
Maybe one of these murals popping up online inspires someone to get up out of bed in the morning, or makes them want to go take a photo with the mural and use it as a holiday card— or just send it to their mom! I hope these posts can bring people joy.
Artist Dustin Spagnola, located in the alley behind Delphinium Salon at 529 Southwest Blvd. in KCMO
Then that joy can spread elsewhere and keep passing along with everyone, like a tree. We're just trying to branch it out so that everybody has a little joy in life.
Artist JT Daniels, located at 2740 Troost Avenue in KCMO
“It is inspiring to work with someone who is passionate about a project, it draws you in, and it’s even better when that person is one of your good friends. There is also something special about being involved in a project that not only promotes multiple art forms but also openly invites others to collaborate and create with them. My kids have done a shoot with us as well and they can’t wait to do it again!” -Taryn Mejia
Artist Octavio Logo, located at Country Club Plaza Parking Building on W. 46th Terrace in KCMO
“The mural projects have been a way for the arts to reach across disciplines during the pandemic. They have made this otherwise difficult moment in time full of creativity, much like the murals themselves, turning ordinary walls into beautiful pieces of art.” -Cameron Thomas
“I am a huge supporter of my friend Danielle and when she invited me to be part of her mural project, I said yes immediately with no hesitation.
The mural project is so inspiring because it has created such beautiful moments between artists. Connecting the arts community in Kansas City bringing together dancers, photographers and muralists. Giving a new voice to the arts, that has been silenced due to the pandemic.” -Josh Bodden