The Rabbit Hole Explorastorium Brings Children’s Books to Life

The Rabbit Hole hails itself as a visionary center for the children’s book chartered to create new and extraordinary experiences around literature. After my first visit I have to say it is all that and more! The hope of revitalizing a love of reading in Kansas City’s children is at the heart of the world’s first immersive children’s literary art gallery.


Indeed, while exploring the gallery, Lily wandered off by herself, which resulted in a mini search party to find her. So if the goal is to get kids excited about reading, mission accomplished. As my daughter literally got lost in the pages of a book…art gallery.


The Rabbit Hole celebrated its grand opening with Jon Agee’s beloved classic, The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau. The story is set in 19th century Paris where an unknown artist enters the Palace’s Grand Contest of Art and sets off a chain of bizarre and mysterious events. Volunteers guided visitors through the beautifully illustrated art installation while reading the book.

Jon Agee made a special appearance for the grand opening where he held talks about the process of creating Felix Clousseau. The second phase of the gallery displayed his art from the story and a mock-up of the gallery installation. He also shared how he became connected to The Rabbit Hole.


“The exhibit was a unique experience – a first. It’s not everyday an author gets to wander through a 3D version of his story.

Felix Clousseau was my fourth book, published in 1988. The idea came from a pretty generic doodle of a painter, out in nature, painting a landscape. I didn’t see where I could take it, as a story, so I drew him painting a goofy-looking duck, and imagined what the reaction would be.  People would laugh, or make fun of it.  And then, I asked myself one of the important questions in storytelling: “What if…?” What if the duck quacked? I drew the “quack!” and imagined the crowds reaction: amazement! respect! – and the eventual result: fame for the painter. This was a good start, but I had to take it a little further. The conceit of Felix Clousseau is that his lifelike paintings don’t only make noises.  They come to life – and cause mayhem! – but people don’t realize this, until it’s too late.
The book took almost three years to complete. The pictures were originally more cartoony and animated.  Eventually I arrived at an approach that was more faithful to what 19th century Paris looked like. This involved research at the library, looking at the clothes people wore, the architecture, patterns, colors, and other details.
Pete [Cowdin] and Deb [Pettid] – the force behind The Rabbit Hole – have been friends ever since I met them, almost twenty-five years ago, when I visited their store, The Reading Reptile, to sign books. Over the years I’ve been part of many wonderful events there. Anybody who has visited The Reading Reptile knows that it was always much more than a bookstore. There were performances, puppet shows, art classes, musical events, movies, book festivals, and many beloved children’s authors came to visit. But eventually – and this was no surprise – Pete and Deb’s aspirations simply outgrew the bookstore.
Walking through a three-dimensional installation of Felix Clousseau was fantastic.  I can only imagine what it must be like for a child – to feel the story from the inside out.  And this is just one example of what will be going on at The Rabbit Hole.  No wonder everybody is excited about it.”
Located in the temporary space of 400 East 17th Street in Downtown Kansas City, this prototype serves as a demonstration of the larger vision to create a national literary center for the children here in Kansas City.

The Rabbit Hole is committed to creating an experience where children and adults can crawl, walk, and climb through an evolving array of immersive storybook worlds and ever-changing galleries dedicated to the very best of children’s literature. On top of the interactive art, the Rabbit Hole will feature visiting authors and illustrators who discuss their works, and displays of classic and contemporary original book art. In the future guests can enjoy a show in the theater, visit the printing press and bindery, and create their own stories in a writing lab. A library and bookstore will house literature for children to buy or checkout. There will also be opportunities to work on special projects with resident authors and illustrators.

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The Rabbit Hole in Kansas City is a children's wonderland of books that come go life in a beautifully designed art gallery.

The Rabbit Hole promises an immersive laboratory of creativity, education, discovery, and play — dedicated to literacy and the literary arts through the advancement, preservation and celebration of the children’s book.

Thrive Market Delivers 25-50% Off Organic Groceries

Attention all Kiara Loves KC readers! I have some exciting news for you. I would like to introduce the newest Kiara Loves KC affiliate, Thrive Market! Read on to learn all about Thrive Market’s all-natural and organic online food market and health store, plus get a free 30 day trial membership!

Thrive Market is the first socially conscious online store offering the world’s best-selling natural and organic products at wholesale prices. They carry over 2,500 of the highest quality food, supplements, home, personal care, and beauty products from over 400 of the best brands on the market, all delivered straight to your door at 25-50% off retail prices. Thrive is a membership community that uses the power of direct buying to deliver the world’s best healthy food and natural products to their members at wholesale prices and to sponsor free Thrive memberships for low-income American families. Their mission is to make health living easy, affordable, and accessible for every American family.

Thrive Market is the first socially conscious online store offering the world's best-selling natural and organic products at wholesale prices.

Shop the world’s best natural, organic products always 25%-50% below retail. Never pay full retail for healthy groceries again.

The people behind Thrive Market believe that the ability to live a healthy lifestyle shouldn’t depend on income level, geography, or any other arbitrary barrier. Whether you’re a corporate executive or an elementary school teacher, whether you live on the upper west-side of Manhattan or in a small town with no local health food store, they think you and your family should have access to healthy, wholesome, and non-toxic products at or below the price of their processed, artificial, and often toxic alternatives. That hasn’t been the case for a long time in this country and they wanted to do something about it.

Shop the best PALEO brands for up to 50% below retail price.

The Thrive Market catalog is curated to include the top products from hundreds of the leading natural products brands across categories like cooking ingredients, healthy snacks, nutritional supplements, natural home goods, and bath & beauty. What you won’t find: 115 different varieties of almond butter stretching down an aisle as far as the eye can see. What you will find: over 2,500 of the most popular natural products from the very best brands – brands that exude the values of health, sustainability, and premium quality.

Shop GLUTEN-FREE brands always 25%-50% below retail price.

They’ve meticulously merchandised the catalog to enure exceptional coverage across dozens of key dietary preferences and values. From Paleo and gluten-free to vegan and raw to non-GMO and certified organic, they’ve got you covered. Just as importantly, they’ve painstakingly tagged every product in their catalog along 90+ such filters so that you can easily customize your shopping experience to your preferences and values with a click of the mouse.

Shop the best VEGAN brands for up to 50% below retail price.

Like Costco, Netflix, and NPR, Thrive Market is a membership community. By paying the equivalent of just $5/month ($59.95 annually), your membership fee makes it possible for Thrive Market’s curators to search high and low for the best healthy products, buy them directly from suppliers, and combine their buying power to bring them to the Thrive community at 25-50% below retail prices. This allows them to sustain the mission to make healthy living universally accessible.

Shop the best RAW food brands for up to 50% below retail price.

Thrive Market offers a free 30-day trial for every new member. The idea is to give you a chance to experience Thrive savings first-hand before you commit to an annual membership. Your free trial starts with your first Thrive purchase and will last a full month with full membership benefits. If at any point during that time, you decide you don’t want to be a Thrive member, you can cancel and they’ll never charge your card for a membership.

Thrive Market is a membership community that uses the power of direct buying to deliver the world’s best healthy food and natural products to their members at wholesale prices and to sponsor free Thrive memberships for low-income American families.

Join Thrive Market for just $59.95 and you’ll directly sponsor a free membership for a low-income family. Valid through 12/31/16. No coupon code needed.

Thrive Market wants their community to enjoy shopping and saving with for years to come. That’s why your annual membership is guaranteed to pay for itself in savings. All you have to do is shop and save. If you don’t make your membership fee back in savings by the end of the year, they’ll automatically give you the difference in Thrive Market credit after you renew. For example, if your membership fee was $60, and you only saved $40 in the year, they will automatically add a $20 Thrive credit to your account after you renew.

Bonus savings alert! Receive an extra 15% off your first Thrive Market order plus a complimentary thank you gift!

“Our target is everyday American families,” says Nick Green, Thrive’s co-founder and co-CEO, a duty he shares with serial entrepreneur Gunnar Lovelace. By “everyday”, he means middle-class Americans—mostly moms—who are shopping for the entire family, and “want to buy healthy choices on a budget.” (From Civil Eats article, “Can Thrive Market be a Kinder, Gentler Amazon for Organic Food?

The team behind Thrive Market is a group of serial social entrepreneurs, technologists, and natural products industry veterans brought together by two shared realizations: (1) that living healthy in America is too hard for too many people, and (2) that it shouldn’t be that way. Before Thrive ever launched, they spent more than a year developing the right business model, enrolling hundreds of brand and charity partners, and bringing an incredible group of health experts, entrepreneurs, and advisers together to tackle the ambitious goal of making healthy living truly accessible to every American. The result is

The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival

The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art created an instant travel adventure with the Passport to India Festival. Events for the day long celebration of India included Indian art, culture, music, dance, fashion and food.

India, officially the Republic of India, is the seventh largest country in the world. The country is also the second most populous with over 1.2 billion people. India is a vast South Asian country with diverse terrain – from Himalayan peaks to the Indian Ocean coastline. In the north, Mughal Empire landmarks include Delhi’s Red Fort complex, massive Jama Masjid mosque and Agra’s iconic Taj Mahal mausoleum. Pilgrims bathe in the Ganges in Varanasi, and Rishikesh is a yoga center and base for Himalayan trekking.

Passport to India Festival Travel Itinerary

Henna tattoo drawings from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City

10:00 am to 4:00 pm – Local artists showcased traditional henna designs using markers.

Volunteers from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City teach travellers how to tie a fashionable sari

10:00 am to 4:00 pm – Travellers learned how to tie a sari from community volunteers then tried on Indian fashions for photo opportunities.

Museum staff discuss the Jain Shrine from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City

10:00 am to 4:00 pm – Museum staff and members of the Jain community held conversations about the Jain Shrine in South & Southeast Asian Art Gallery 203.

Artwork from India. from the South and Southeast Asian Galleries of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City

10:00 am to 4:00 pm – Professor Alison Miller from the Kansas City Art Institute hosted talks on the study of selected South Asian Buddhist Art objects in South & Southeast Asian Art Gallery 227.

Hindi word for hope. From the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City

10:00 am to 4:00 pm – Travellers learned to write their names in Hindi, one of the 18 recognized languages of India and the country’s official language.

Sculpture from India at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City

10:00 am to 4:00 pm – Indian art activities were available for travellers of all ages.

Indian folk art tradition. Rangoli flower bud design from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City

10:00 am to 4:00 pm – Volunteers demonstrated the Indian folk art form of Rangoli. Traditionally, elaborate designs decorated floors were often used as entrance ways for Hindu deities.

Indian performance art dance from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City

11:00 to 11:40 am, 2:00 to 2:40 pm, and 3:30 to 4:10 pm – Local studios interpreted Ramayana, the ancient Sanskrit epic with classical dances.

Bhelpuri, traditional Indian food, from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City

11:00 am to 4:00 pm – Rozelle Court Restaurant featured delicious meals inspired by the flavors of India.

Children dance to favorite Indian music from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City

11:00 am to 12:00 pm and 12:30 to 1:30 pm – Small groups of young dancers performed Indian favorites in the Noguchi Court.

Hyderbadi Chicken Biryani from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City

11:00 to 4:00 pm – Travellers were able to buy Indian specialties such as samosas, Hyderbadi Chicken Biryani, lentil cutlets, chai tea, and coconut-cardamom cookies.

Sculpture from India at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City

11:00 am to 4:00 pm – The special Mughal album facsimile and a selection of resources from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art collection was on display.

Performing artists danced to music from India at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City

11:30 am to 12:30 pm and 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm – Community dancers performed dances of India in Kirkwood Hall.

Dancers performed to Indian music from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City

11:30 am to 12:30 pm, 1:00 to 2:00 pm, and 3:00 to 4:00 pm – The India Association of Kansas City presented an eclectic mix of live music.

Indian deity sculpture from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City

12:00 to 12:15 pm, 1:00 to 1:15 pm, and 2:00 to 2:15 pm – Local musicians performed live with the backdrop of the Hindu temple in South & Southeast Asian Art Gallery 228.

Jain Shrine from South & Southeast Asia Art Galleries at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art

12:30 to 1:10 pm – Kathleen Garland, Kimberly Masteller, and Jeanne McCray Beals discussed the conservation process of the Jain Shrine.

Models shows off traditional and contemporary Indian fashions from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City

1:00 pm to 1:30 pm & 3:30 pm to 4:00 pm – Museum and community volunteers modeled traditional and contemporary Indian fashions.

Travellers learned yoga positions from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City

2:00 to 2:30 pm – Yoga demonstrations gave children a chance to practice a few standing and seated poses.

Indian dance performance from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival in Kansas City

2:30 to 4:00 pm – Artist Cherie Sampson presented a film on the symbolism in traditional Indian dance.

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The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art serves as a vital partner in the educational, social and cultural life of Kansas City. The use of their collections and programs, such as the Passport to India Festival, builds an environment where people can gather, share and contemplate the greatest creations of humankind.

Annie Get Your Gun at Musical Theater Heritage

Annie Get Your Gun is a musical with lyrics and music by Irving Berlin and a book by Dorothy Fields and her brother Herbert Fields. The story is a fictionalized version of the life of Annie Oakley (1860–1926). The Musical Theater Heritage production was directed by Sarah Crawford and conducted by Jeremy Watson. George Harter hosted a pre-show talk on the history behind the musical.

Annie Oakley (born Phoebe Ann Mosey) was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter. Her talent first came to light when the then 15-year-old won a shooting match with traveling show marksman Frank E. Butler (whom she married). The couple joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show a few years later. Oakley became a renowned international star, performing before royalty and heads of state.

If Shelby Floyd’s Annie Oakley had a slogan, it would be, Annie Oakley, the best, most sugary candy-coated, sharpshooter in the West. Indeed, Floyd played Oakley with such a huge amount of sweetness I can feel the cavities starting to form. At different points, her over the top happy-go-lucky portrayal was downright annoying. Especially because Oakley is supposed to be this female rock star of a gun slinger. Sweet? Not so much. But before the line of being too much was crossed came her voice and comedic timing. Indeed Floyd reminded me of what I love about musicals. (I feel sorry for you if you just think they are merely weird movies where people randomly start singing.) The choreographed art of acting, song, and dance blended so well together is what caused me to began seriously considering a career in the arts when I was in high school. To be exact, I wanted to be a cinematographer.

The most memorable moments came from the easily recognizable “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly”, “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun”, and “Anything You Can Do.” It’s been days since I saw Annie Get Your Gun and “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly” is still stuck in my head. Floyd sang that tune with just the right good old Southern twang accent. Her vocal range and acting talent really shined through for the performances of “They Say It’s Wonderful” and “Anything You Can Do”.

Where Floyd was über cutesy, Sam Wright was Mr. Cool. His take on Frank Butler made me think of the handsome man sitting at the bar (or in this case saloon) you meet during a girls night out. You and your friends spend the whole night wondering if he’s single and trying to casually glance at him without being noticed. Except, in Peter Stone’s version of Annie Get Your Gun, Frank Butler is extremely likable. Hard to carry out with some of today’s feminist “I don’t need a man to take care of me” ideals. Although, when the rough and tumble Annie Oakley went all soft and pink after seeing Frank Butler for the first time I did roll my eyes. However, what Wright brought to the character was a sense of belief. A belief that the sophisticated, well-traveled Frank Butler actually did fall in love with the backwards country girl Annie Oakley. Honest, pure, sweet love.

The entire cast made the musical well worth seeing two or three times at least. Andrea Boswell-Burns as Dolly Tate, Philip Hooser as Chief Sitting Bull, and Delilah Pellow all had a few scenes where they stole the show.

Annie Get Your Gun at Musical Theater Heritage is based on the revised book by Peter Stone. The 1999 show revival featured new orchestrations and was structured as a “show-within-a-show”, set as a Big Top traveling circus.

“Frank Butler” is alone on stage and introduces the main characters, singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, which is reprised when “Annie” agrees to join the traveling Wild West show. The production dropped several songs (including “Colonel Buffalo Bill”, “I’m A Bad, Bad Man”, and “I’m an Indian Too”), but included “An Old-Fashioned Wedding”. There were several major dance numbers added, including a ballroom scene.

A sub-plot which had been dropped from the 1966 revival, the romance between Winnie and Tommy, her part-Native-American boyfriend, was also included. In the 1946 production, Winnie was Dolly’s daughter, but the 1966 and 1999 productions she is Dolly’s younger sister. In this version, the last shooting match between Annie and Frank ends in a tie.

Annie Get Your Gun plays at Musical Theater Heritage through April 24, 2016. This play will be an enjoyable experience for the whole family! Whether you’re a history buff, performing arts lover, or just plain enjoy a good show, Annie Get Your Gun has plenty to appeal to a wide range of people. Tickets start at $17. Children 16 and younger can attend for free. Visit Musical Theater Heritage online for more theater and ticket information.

Thanks for reading and share this with your family and friends who appreciate the theater arts or the Wild Wild West!

If you have an upcoming production in the Kansas City area and would like a review or promotion from me, please get in touch via the contact page above.

Mayor James’ 2016 State of the City Address

The 2016 State of the City Address for Kansas City was presented by Mayor Sly James on March 29, 2016 at the Uptown Theater.

Mayor James discussed several key topics that are currently affecting Kansas City during the State of the City Address. Kansas City’s tech boom, the KC Earnings tax, city growth and development, education, the city budget, and crime reduction and prevention were all major themes in the speech. Highlights included organizers and programs in the city that are working to create jobs, reach out to the youth, and doing their part to make positive impacts in their communities. Attendees of the State of the City Address were also treated to a special mini concert at the end of the speech.

Calvin Arsenia set the tone of showing recognition to a new generation of creatives in Kansas City with a moving performance. His whimsically soulful artistic style features the folk harp, guitar, and piano as his main instruments. Arsenia says his musical influences range from Lauryn Hill to Andrea Bocelli.

Tech Boom
  • In 2011, Google Fiber chose both Kansas Cities as the first cities for its new gigabit Fiber.
  • KC Streetcar construction began in 2013 and, along with it, replacement of 2.2 miles of antiquated water and sewer lines.
  • A new infrastructure called Smart + Connected City will start with the grand opening of the Streetcar operations on May 6, 2016.  This partnership between Cisco, Sprint, and others has qualified Kansas City for a $50 million Department of Transportation Smart City grant.
  • In 2015, LaunchKC granted half a million dollars to 10 applicants in a business competition. During Techweek, in September, 10 more grants will be awarded.
  • HUD initiatives like ConnectHome and ConnectEd are bringing high-speed broadband to families in public housing.
KC Earnings Tax
  • Since 1963, the tax has generated revenue which the city primarily uses for public safety – police, fire, and ambulance services.
  • City residents and people who work in the city contribute $230 million in taxes to the general fund.
  • Without funds from the KC Earnings Tax, Mayor James estimates a doubling of sales taxes or tripling of property taxes would be required to compensate for the loss of $230 million. Another speculated possibility would be to lay off more than 200 employees each year for the next 10 years.
City Budget
  • $1.53 billion approved for 2016-2017 budget.
  • The budget will support neighborhoods, demolition of dangerous buildings, and investment in summer youth employment.
  • Public safety departments make up 75% of the $543 million general fund. 40% of which comes from the KC Earnings Tax.
  • The remaining 25% covers roads, snow removal, trash pickup, codes enforcement, and municipal court.
Employment and Redevelopment Projects
  • The city will receive recommendations for the modernization of Kansas City International Airport in the next few weeks. Modernization includes ending long restroom lines inside security, improving baggage handling, de-icing equipment, and fixing the crumbling infrastructure underneath.
  • The 800 room downtown convention center will bring hundreds of new jobs and increased revenue from visitors.
  • VisitKC estimates the passing of SJR 39 will put Kansas City at risk of losing billions of dollars in tourism, conventions, and sporting events.
  • Over $2 billion has been invested in housing, infrastructure, and capital improvements for the east of Troost, south of the river, and north of 63rd Street areas since 2011.
  • The Paseo Gateway northeast neighborhood received the $30 million Choice Neighborhood Grant.
  • The Twin Creeks sewer expansion opened up 13,000 acres of land for future development in Kansas City’s Northland.
  • The $14 million Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy will help thousands of kids develop character and skills in leadership and athletics.
  • The city is also making a direct, million dollar plus investment in the Linwood Shopping Center.
  • Through Women’s Empowerment, City employees will be eligible for paid parental leave. The program will join with the Women’s Foundation and the Society of Human Resource Management to conduct When Work Works, aimed at improving work life balance throughout the city.
  • Through City Year, Americorps works closely with students in Central Middle School and Kauffman School, keeping them on track to graduate.
  • Literacy Lab has trained literacy tutors in elementary schools and Head Start centers focused solely on growing children’s literacy, confidence, and ability.
  • Turn the Page KC was recognized by the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading as a Pacesetter program.
  • The city is also in support of making sure every child in Kansas City lives near a quality schools. (Show Me KC Schools recently hosted an elementary school fair featuring representatives from more than 20 elementary schools in Kansas City.)
  • Kansas City Teacher Residency trains teachers much like doctors are trained – through a residency model. Residency graduates outperform their peers in student achievement and overall teacher performance.
  • Kansas City is a new pilot community for LRNG, which connects youth to in school, out of school, employer based, and online learning experiences that align with their interests.
Public Safety
  • Domestic violence and child abuse were at the root of the increase of homicides in 2015.
  • KC NoVA, the KCPD, and the city’s prosecution office are working together to support better and more coordinated intelligence to focus on those who cause the majority of violent crimes in Kansas City.
  • Teens in Transition is a 10 seek summer program at ArtsTech, where at risk youth are given opportunities to work on community art projects. As a result, teens are ready for high school graduation and college.
  • A push for State level legislation that can coexist with the Second Amendment will continue, starting with an armed offender docket pilot program in the courts.

Mayor James concluded the 2016 State of the City Address by stating the framework of efficiency, employment, education, and enforcement is the platform the city uses to bring people together and sustain the momentum of growth we see today.