The 3-Trails Transit Station Panels project as it has evolved form its inception to completion.
The 3-Trails Transit Station at 9449 Blue Ridge Blvd. will provide a location for six KCATA routes serving the 3-Trails area of South Kansas City to come together to better make transfer connections. The route connections now available at Bannister Road and Drury will be able to be made at the new Transit Station.
Area residents will have more direct connections to popular destinations. Most locations will be accessible directly or with one transfer.
The Transit Station is situated a short walking distance from the 3-Trails Corridor, the traveled way of the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California National Historic Trails. The National Park Service has designated 3-Trails Transit Station as a trail head on the National Historic Trails and as a prototype for other KCATA transit facilities.
In October of 2015 I was commissioned by 3-Trails West, Inc. to develop an orientation exhibit for the 3-Trails Transit Station to be constructed in Kansas City, Missouri. This approximately $2 million dollar facility was a three way collaboration between the National Park Service, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and 3-Trails West Inc. The concept for the art, text, and finished works all had to be approved by the National Park Service (Santa Fe Office of the NPS Long Distance Trails group) and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.
The purpose of the exhibit is to tell the story and the significance of the historic 3-Trails Corridor that encompasses the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California Trails interwoven in this community. A key element in the decision process of who and what to depict as regards the location of this new transit station is the demographic of the community in which it is placed. It was important to us to speak to the people who this facility will serve. With this community being predominantly African American it was decided to feature African Americans with compelling life stories interwoven with the fabric of the 3-Trails. Henceforth it was decided that both 4ft by 15ft panels would be best utilized by breaking them in to three sections.
On the South elevation we would feature three amazing and inspiring African American women who forged their American dream along these historic trails. Below is the concept sketch that forged a path to the finished product.
The inspiring stories of (L to R) Clara Brown, Biddy Mason, and Emily Fisher are highlighted in brief on their respective panels. My hope is that this gives people a taste for more and that they dig deeper in to their stories of trial and triumph.
Each of the panels shown is 4ft x 5ft.
On the North Elevation of the 3-Trails Transit Station it was decided to showcase an overall map of the historic Santa Fe, Oregon, and California Trails. The middle panel is an illustration tying in the stories of the characters depicted in their context with the historic 3-Trails. The panel to the right of that is an orientation map of the historic 3-Trails Corridor with important historical sites highlighted.
Orientation Exhibit for 3-Trails Transit Center Kansas City, MO. Each elevation is 4ft x 15ft.
The panel Westward To A New Life was also utilized for the splash page of the 3-Trails Corridor website.
After it was agreed on to divide up the panels, three on each side, we went to work on deciding upon 3 women of African American decent; each one specifically associated to one of the three trails. This would make up the South facing elevation. The North elevation would be two orientation maps on either side of a grand illustration tying all six panels together.
Being the rose of Independence Missouri, Emily Fisher was at the top of the list at the onset of the project. The singular image that we have was a challenge to work from. In addition to that I wanted to portray her at the time of her life when she was in charge of the hotel her father gave her. I envisioned a proud successful woman in her 40s. I also wanted to bring out her mulatto features. I chose purple with black trim lace because it is regal, and brings to mind the themes from the movie “The Color Purple”. The brooch she is wearing is depicted with three stylized hawthorn roses; the Missouri state flower, one for each trail and woman depicted in this group. One of the last final touches was to add the wallpaper texture as it completes the setting of Emily in her hotel.
The next personality we decided on was Clara Brown. Working from the original and again the only photo I could find I chose to stay fairly close to what people are accustomed to. However I did shave a few years off in my rendition. So much in the original photo reminded me of my grandmother; specifically that twinkle in her eyes and her Sunday best attire, which incidentally is very similar to what my grandmother who was Pentecostal Holiness wore to church. It was also important to me to bring out her Native and African American features. I chose green for Clara’s attire for two reasons: first I could see my grandmother in her green church dress and I felt that green was fitting to symbolize the successful businesswoman, midwife etc. that she was. Green means life, prosperity, and generosity.
Biddy Mason was the last one to fill out the trio. I felt that it was important to portray her accurately, based on the photo we have of her, bringing out her pure and beautiful African features. This portrait ended up being my personal favorite. I found her story of freedom full of tenacity and perseverance and so I felt it fitting to use artistic license to incorporate a bit of symbolism in her bow pin. It is a Native American symbol for Freedom and Emancipation. Her eyes and expression is determined, proud, and confident. I felt that royal blue attire with a pink bow was not only accurate but also fitting and compliments her expression and features quit well.
It became quite obvious as the characters entered the stage that I was telling a multi-layered story. On the surface these panels tell the story of three African American women and their interaction with the 3-Trails. However there is much more. Each one is intermixed with the people around them in a variety of complex ways. Each one sought freedom from the horrid shackles of slavery. Each one has a story of struggle, triumph, freedom, forgiveness, love, and fruitfulness. As I researched and illustrated I could not help but be impressed with their inspiring and uplifting stories. It was the culmination of these stories that spawned the concept for panel 2, “Westward To A New Life.” In fact the accounts of Biddy Mason’s trek to California played a large part in this illustration. Here we not only see a family unit on the move but we see a Black woman holding her masters child while her own child, a little girl, makes the journey on foot just like her mother. The rest is open for individual interpretation as we all know the circumstances, trials, and triumphs of each traveling party varied.