A Day at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Updated: Sep 29, 2021


The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is located at 4525 Oak Street in Kansas City, Missouri. The Museum of Art is known worldwide. The Gallery is one of Kansas City’s biggest tourist attractions.


The Nelson-Atkins are well known for their extensive collection of fine art and sculptures from every continent and culture globally. The art is displayed inside and out on the beautiful grounds of the Gallery.


William Rockhill Nelson was the founder of the Kansas City Star and a journalist, plus he was also a passionate real-estate developer and a planner. Mary Atkins was a teacher and married to a wealthy man named James Burris Atkins. When her husband passed, he left Mary a sizeable fortune. Their fortunes were bequeathed to the 20 acres of land where Nelson’s home Oak Hall resided. The house was torn down, and the building of the Nelson Atkins Museum of art began.


On December 11, 1933, the “Nelson-Atkins Gallery of Art, also known as William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, and the Mary Atkins Museum of Fine Arts” opened to the public.


In 2001 the Gallery broke ground to build The Bloch Building also known as The Henry W. and Marion H. Bloch Gallery of Art, was completed on June 7, 2007. The new building is 67 stories high but laid on its side and added 165,000 square feet to the Nelson, increasing 71 percent of space. The Bloch Building was designed by Design Architect Steven Holl and BNIM and is iconic and known worldwide for its architecture. The Bloch building has different levels some that go under the terrain and others that seem to push through the landscape. The building merges with the main building making for a continuous walk for marveling at sculptures and artwork.


The Gallery had closed its doors to the public in March of 2020. The pandemic has caused the closure of all the art galleries in Kansas City during the pandemic restrictions.


The Nelson-Atkins had to get creative to keep things interesting during the Coronavirus outbreak closure. The Museum got together with the Kansas City Zoo and invited the Humboldt Penguins for a visit. These flightless, adorable birds got to spend a morning waddling through the halls refining their pallet for fine art and culture.


On September 12, 2020, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art finally opened their doors back up to the public with stricter guidelines due to COVID19. The Museum is now limiting the number of people that can come by reserving timed tickets or picking them up at the information desk.


Walking through the halls and talking with Richard Day, a local Kansas City Artist, he reminisced on how he spent his days at the gallery sketching and studying the great painters’ style and sculptures displayed in the Nelson. “I used to sit in the Rozzelle Court Restaurant and drink coffee and smoke cigarettes while working on my sketches,” stated Richard Day, a local artist. “I used to draw my one-line drawings and give them to the staff, and they really loved my drawings.”


The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is still a place of magnificent beauty, and even though it feels a little empty walking through the lavish corridors with the beautiful marble columns and high ceilings, it is impressive. The art hanging in the Nelson is historic and stunning. Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies” is just one of the remarkable pieces on display at the Nelson-Atkins. There is so much art to look at that it is hard to single out what to see. The variety of art is vast and wide. The Gallery exhibitions include, African Art, European Paintings and Sculptures, Modern Art, and South and Southeast Asian Art, and so much more. The outside ground is called the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park which is over 20 acres of grounds to walk with 36 different sculptures. You can find the famous Shuttlecocks that are icons for the Nelson-Atkins, Sculptures, beautiful landscape, and a Mini Art (Golf) Course, and a glass labyrinth or triangle shaped maze created by Robert Morris. There are acres to walk and take in the serenity and beauty of the Nelson. The latest feature is the Andy Goldsworthy’s amazing walking wall that has moved several times throughout the last four years.

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