Take an online tour of the Plaza’s magnificent Art & Architecture HERE.
Those who have traveled overseas might do a double take when they stroll past the statue of Sir Winston Churchill. Just steps away two of Spain’s landmarks–the Giralda Tower and the Seville Light — tower majestically on the horizon. Down the street in a quiet courtyard sits an original bronze of Pomona by Italian sculptor Donatello Gabrielli. Is this England, or maybe Spain, or could it be Italy? What a surprise to the traveler to find these magnificent European works of art in the heart of the Midwest — on Kansas City’s famed Country Club Plaza.
Built in 1922, the Country Club Plaza is one of this country’s architectural and cultural treasures. It was designed as America’s first shopping center. But today it’s much more than that. The Plaza is a virtual outdoor museum with over $1 million in art work found in its monumental fountains and over 30 statues and tile-laced murals. Every street on the 15-square block Plaza is worthy of an attentive stroll. The district’s streets and sidewalks have been transformed over the years into a true outdoor art gallery, with priceless pieces shipped in from around the world.
A delightful way to experience the Plaza is on foot, strolling its shaded sidewalks past countless works of art that one expects to find only in the world’s great museums. You may access the interactive walking art tour online here.
Must see stops on the walking art tour include three outstanding works by Bernhard Zuckerman: the 130 foot tall reproduction of the famous Giralda Tower of Seville, the majestic Seville Light and Diana, one of the largest man-made waterfalls in the United States. Next on the tour are acquisitions from the Bromsgrove Guild in Worcestershire, England: the impressive Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of Bacchus. Several don’t miss pieces from the Romanelli Studios in Florence include the Sleeping Child, a favorite of Plaza shoppers who cast a watchful eye at the statue poised in the median of the street, Michelangelo as Apprentice, the whimsical Boy and Frog Fountain, the Madonna and Child and the beautiful white Carrara marble statue of Ruth.
Only Rome has more fountains than Kansas City, and several of the more spectacular ones are found on the Country Club Plaza. The city-landmark J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain by Henri Gerbert is dedicated to Plaza founder J.C. Nichols; the Allen Memorial Fountain by Gemignani is a gentle reminder of the deceased daughter and son-in-law of Nichols; the Pool of the Four Fauns delights passers-by with the sight of children frolicking in the water; Pomona is a graceful bronze original, a twin to the marble original on display in the King’s palace in Bangkok; and Diane by Norman Brunelli is a life-size bronze which seems to take on life as it reflects upon the Plaza pool and fountain which surround her.
A newer fixture on the walking art tour are the Path of Gold Lights along 47th Street. These reproductions of the original ornamental street lights found in San Francisco were a favorite of Miller Nichols, son of Plaza founder J.C., who first saw them while stationed in the city by the bay during World War II.
A glance skyward leads the eye to the Plaza’s signature structures. Dotting the rooftops stand 14 towers, each echoing the colorful moods of Spain, Italy, Portugal and Morocco.
All through the Plaza are statues and murals depicting many of the world’s great leaders and historical figures. Sir Winston and Lady Churchill are preserved in Married Love by Oscar Nemon; a life-sized Benjamin Franklin poised on a park bench invites visitors to sit down next to him; Massasoit, the friendly chief who greeted the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, now stands at the Plaza’s entrance greeting travelers of today; the allure of the matador is seen in three bullfight murals set in ceramic tile and handcrafted in Seville, Spain specifically for the Plaza; and, Out To Lunch is a life-size bronze of a young boy sitting on a rock eating an all-American hamburger in front of, appropriately, Blanc Burgers + Bottles.
The history of the acquisition of these unmatched works of art began back before the 1920’s when, as a young man, Plaza developer Jesse Clyde (J.C.) Nichols took a summer off to work his way through Europe. What resulted was a lasting impression of the colorful marketplaces of Spain, the warmth and Old World charm of Europe and the timeless character and ambience of the Mediterranean that eventually lead to the construction of Kansas City’s premiere attraction — The Country Club Plaza. Much of the Plaza’s beauty is found in these Spanish and European art objects personally selected and placed by Nichols.