KC artist has a banner year with holiday plaza decor

Posted on Dec 14, 2017 in Alumni News and News

John Keeling holiday art | watercolor depiction of the KCP&L Plaza Lighting Ceremony in Kansas City

The streets of Kansas City’s most popular shopping district, the Country Club Plaza, are buzzing with holiday cheer.

The city commissioned local artist and University of Kansas alumnus John Keeling, f’83, to create artwork depicting a winter night at the Plaza. Keeling’s watercolor banners now line the streets in front of the storefronts. His work also appeared on a billboard to promote the KCP&L Plaza Lighting Ceremony, a Kansas City tradition with 88 years of history that seems to grow in spectacle each year.

“(I wanted to invoke) the feelings of joy and wonder that the Plaza Lights experience gives Kansas City and its visitors each year,” Keeling said. “As a watercolorist, I wanted to bring something more emotional to the banner artwork. Of course it has to be about the lights first, but my depiction of them in watercolor hopefully captures the feeling more than a graphic design would.”

Reinventing himself

After a 25-year career with Hallmark, Keeling is now self-employed and offers commissioned works from his website. Transitioning to being his own boss has allowed Keeling to learn more about the Kansas City art culture— and himself.

“I’ve been reinventing myself as a painter for the past four years,” Keeling said. “As an art director and creative director at Hallmark, I wasn’t painting for work. I also didn’t get to know the art community outside of the workplace. There are multiple arts organizations, including ArtsKC and the InterUrban ArtHouse, that I’m now involved with and meeting more and more of the community.”

As Kansas City shoppers hurry to buy their last-minute gifts, the lights will shine on the Plaza and Keeling’s artwork until January 14.

-Ryan Camenzind

John Keeling holiday art | watercolor depiction of the plaza lights in Kansas City

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