By David Markham
The June 2 opening night of “Freaky Friday” not only kicks off the Theatre in the Park’s 2023 outdoor summer season of Broadway-style musicals, it also marks the unveiling of a new temporary art installation on the TIP grounds.
The new installation is titled “Cloud Cover,” and is by Kansas City-based Visual Artist Chris Dahlquist. It will remain on display throughout the summer and into the fourth quarter of 2023 with an end date yet to be determined.
“The overall installation is made up of five separate components installed in close proximity to create one piece,” Dahlquist explained. “Each of those five consists of cloud images printed on different colors of transparent acrylic, suspended eight feet overhead on a wood and steel frame. Each framework is bolted to a weighted concrete base for stability. The installation can be viewed quickly, passing by on the way into a performance in the theatre or walking the nearby path, or it can be enjoyed slowly, taking time to appreciate the sky that is always above us. People should feel free to view the pieces in whatever fashion speaks to them, and that may range from driving by to lying underneath them.”
Each of the “Cloud Cover” structures will be lit for a few hours each evening so that they may be enjoyed no matter the time of day. At night, the installation is meant as a bridge between the bright stage lights and the moonlit sky. (See related story for more about TIP’s summer season.)
“The piece at this site is designed to create an interactive sense of magic for patrons of Theatre in the Park and trail users that traverse through this part of the park,” added JCPRD Superintendent of Culture Susan Mong.“ ““Cloud Cover” does that beautifully using the art of photography to create interactive cloud images printed on colorful panels. The goal is to invite visitors into this art piece, take a moment, look up, and gain a new perspective. This piece will offer a unique experience at night as well, lit up to mimic the stage lights of Theatre in the Park.”
In addition to the art itself, Dahlquist has devised an accompanying “Cloud Cover Bingo” game.
““Cloud Cover Bingo” is another fun, participatory reminder to look up,” she said. “It is a bingo card that I created to prompt finding both cloud types and shapes of things in the clouds. Attendees of the opening night of Theater in the Park will receive a printed bingo card, but anyone can access a digital version at https://chrisdahlquist.com/index.php/cloud-cover-bingo/. Extra credit if you already knew the word nephelococcygia!”
Dahlquist’s art installation proposal was selected from seven the Theatre in the Park Art Selection Committee received earlier this year from artists living within a 500-mile radius of Kansas City.
“Part of the goals of the JCPRD Public Art program are to support local artists and the beauty they bring to our community,” Mong said. “We are proud to work with Chris this year who specializes in photographic art. We hope visitors of this site will take time to appreciate the changing nature of the sky and the clouds. Simply put, we hope everyone experiences a bit of joy because of this art installation.”
“Ultimately what I want people to get out of this installation is the same thing I want them to get out of my other bodies of artwork,” Dahlquist added. “That is to take a breath, lower your shoulders, and give yourself the quiet time to let your mind wander. There are too many bright flashy things in this modern fast-paced world, and it’s far too easy to get swept along, focusing on the destination without appreciating the journey. I’d love for people to spend a little time with “Cloud Cover,” and move beyond the initial first-level reaction. Consider how the light outside their homes can shift color from bright white to pink to golden to green and can be appreciated as easily as it can go unnoticed. Remember to pay attention, and as Aristotle said, “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous."