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Creating a connection, promoting the arts

By Mike Genet

A slew of red decorations will be going up along some Independence streets soon, and they actually won’t be for the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

For eight years now, some residents and business owners around the Englewood Station Arts District have attached customized wooden hearts, about 2 feet wide, to the light poles in Englewood, eventually stretching to the Square, as the Independence Square Association later joined in the effort. They’ll stay up through February.

Darlene Carpenter, back, and Thad McCullough work on new hearts in B-Vogue Salon for this year’s HeART to HeART Connection fundraiser.

They call the collective artwork the HeART to HeART Connection. Tammy Parsons, owner of B-Vogue Salon and co-founder of the non-profit WestiND Connection, said this is the first time the hearts will stretch from the Square west to the intersection of Truman and Winner roads, the west end of the Englewood neighborhood where Van Horn High School is. 

That means at least 250 hearts, purchased for a $25 donation apiece, will go up starting this weekend, and Parsons said that with repurchased ones from years past that number could ultimately be as high as 300.

“The community’s just been awesome; we’re celebrating the connection that we have in western Independence,” Parsons said. “We made the goal that we’ve had from the very beginning.”

“We had made it to the Square, but we’d never made it Truman and Winner.”

The hearts have a short personal message, as requested by those who buy one. Parsons, co-worker Thad McCullough, local artist Julie Bliss and others design and paint the hearts, and Parsons especially credited Darlene Carpenter for her work cutting and sanding the hearts. While the completed hearts have been laid out on the floor of the Englewood Arts Center building that’s being remodeled (the former Comprehensive Mental Health Services structure on Winner Road), much of the artwork happened in the salon. Organizers stopped taking new orders earlier this week.

Completed wooden hearts, ready to be hung up on light poles, have been laid out in the Englewood Arts Center building since late December.

“We’re sitting here with about 30 orders left to fill,” Parsons said. “We cut a little hair, we have five minutes and we draw a heart.” 

For the re-purchased ones going up, she said, “We give them a little love and touch them up.”

Proceeds this year go toward the Englewood Arts Center, which local advocates say  can be a catalyst for neighborhood revival. Michael Baxley, director of the non-profit Englewood Arts, has said the goal is to have the first floor of the center open in the spring, with the upper floors to follow later this year.

“We’re excited about being part of making that vision happen,” Parsons said.