The Folly Theater received a commissioned visual art installation from internationally renowned artist, Rita Blitt.
The Folly Theater recently received a commissioned visual art installation from internationally renowned artist, Rita Blitt. The new metal wall sculpture, titled “Remembering Judith Jamison Dancing ‘Wade in the Water’”, is a gift from the artist. It is the ninth work donated by Blitt to the recently renovated historic theater. A former Kansas Citian, Blitt has a passion for the Folly and has been a supporter for many years. The sculpture, hung in the Joan Hubbard Lobby, and eight original paintings have added warmth and movement throughout the 123-year-old performing arts venue. ABOUT THE NEW PIECE Rita Blitt sketched the concept for this sculpture in 1993 while aboard a cruise ship enduring 17-foot waves during a storm off the coast of Ireland. “Everyone aboard the ship was sick, except for me. I was standing and holding onto a little dresser with my left hand. With my right hand, I collaborated with nature and let my hand move back and forth, up and down on the typing paper that I happened to have had from the cruise ship office.” Blitt created over one hundred drawings that evening, leading to many original sculptures, such as “Silent Energy” and “Joyous Moment”, now featured in the Mulvane Museum collection. “Remembering Judith Jamison Dancing ‘Wade in the Water’” is named after Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater principal dancer, and later Artistic Director, Judith Jamison. The sculpture’s lines and movement remind Blitt of Jamison performing “Wade in the Water”, a movement in Ailey’s masterwork Revelations, at the Folly Theater shortly after its reopening in 1981. ABOUT THE FOLLY THEATER Since its grand opening in 1900 as the "largest and most comfortable" vaudeville house in the Great West, the Folly Theater has remained at the forefront of Kansas City's performing arts scene. Designed by Kansas City architect Louis Curtiss, the magnificent hall garnered widespread acclaim for its exceptional acoustics, stylish design, and an atmosphere that exuded intimacy. Over its initial four decades, the Folly stage graciously hosted celebrated performers, including the Marx Brothers, Humphrey Bogart, Shirley Booth, world renowned boxers Jack Dempsey and Jack Johnson, and the iconic Gypsy Rose Lee. In the face of impending demolition due to years of neglect, civic leaders Joan Kent Dillon and William Deramus III joined forces in 1973 to rescue this splendid theater. The turning point came in June 1974 when the Folly earned its place on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1975, the dedicated restoration work took flight, with fundraising initiatives, the mending of roof leaks, fortification of the building's structure, and an extensive cleaning operation that involved the removal of a staggering nine metric tons of pigeon droppings. The doors reopened for good in November 1981 under the stewardship of the Performing Arts Foundation of Kansas City, a nonprofit organization. Since then, the theater has hosted a diverse array of notable performers and dignitaries, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Gregory Hines, Barack Obama, Patti Lupone, Yo-Yo Ma, Oleta Adams, and many more. The esteemed flutist Sir James Galway bestowed upon the Folly the title of "Kansas City's Carnegie Hall." However, it was perhaps Oleta Adams who expressed it most eloquently: "Performers truly believe that the Folly Theater's walls still contain the spirits of all the artists who have graced its stage." Today, the Folly Theater is committed to making the arts accessible and inclusive through a wide-ranging program of events. The theater is home to Kansas City's longest-running Jazz Series, which traces its roots back to 1982, in addition to offering an Americana Series and an educational Kids’ Series. A favored venue for rental clients, the Folly caters to diverse tastes, offering classical music, dance performances, choral music, drag shows, comedians, social media influencer appearances, and podcasts. In July 2023 the theater was also named Outstanding Historic Theatre by League of Historic American Theatres. At the Folly, there is something to captivate every audience member. ABOUT RITA BLITT Rita Blitt is an international award-winning painter, sculptor, and filmmaker. Her works have been featured in over 70 solo exhibitions. In 2019, she was awarded an Honorary Doctoral degree in Fine Arts by Washburn University. Rita Blitt: The Passionate Gesture was published in 2000 by RAM and Brandeis University. Rita Blitt: Around and Round was released by the Mulvane Museum in 2020. Her words “Kindness is contagious. Catch it!” have inspired people all over the world. Blitt’s works are included in many museums and private collections, including: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, John F. Kennedy Library, National Museum of Singapore, Spencer Museum of Art, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Nevada Museum of Art, Spertus Institute, Skirball Cultural Center, Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, Kennedy Museum of American Art, and the Mulvane Art Museum. Her monumental sculptures can be found in Australia, Israel, Japan, Singapore, and the United States. The Rita Blitt Gallery and Sculpture Garden, Mulvane Museum, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas, is the home of the Rita Blitt Legacy Collection. Blitt’s work celebrates love of life, nature, music, and dance. In 1977, she wrote, “I feel like I’m dancing on paper.” Caught in Paint, a 6-minute film collaboration by Rita Blitt; David Parsons, choreographer; Parsons Dance Company; and Lois Greenfield, dance photographer, has won 16 awards and been invited to be shown in over 130 film festivals.