Arthur Kraft mural that was commissioned by Westport Bank in the 1960’s.
The mural has been preserved and is still on display at the current bank that is located at 331 Westport Rd, Kansas City, Missouri.
I knew and saw Arthur a few times a year when I was a child and occasionally, but less, as I was growing. My father and Arthur shared many a beer together. Arthur would show up during the fall and winter holidays. I recall sitting beside him on the piano bench at the home of another mutual friend one winter. Arthur was playing an exquisite piece of music. I asked him if he took lessons when he was my age. (I was about 8 or 9 at the time) He responded that he had never had any lessons. I was awestruck! His music was nothing less than beautiful!
One winter while Arthur was at our house (and while visiting the homes of many others) he plucked one of the aluminum branches from our Christmas tree for his chandelier. We later visited Arthur at his own apartment on the Plaza. We found all the various pieces he had collected throughout his travels to the homes of many friends all fashioned into his own sort of upside-down Christmas tree hanging from his chandelier. His creativity just abounded.
Yes, he and my father both drank more than anyone should. But as a child I was drawn by his gentleness and kindness. On more than one occasion he related that his mother had twice had him committed to what he called “The Funny Farm”. And then with a huge smile he said, “The important thing is not whether you get in there or not, it is IF you can get out!” As I grew and remembered his statement I began to understand it more clearly.
Arthur only spoke well of people, with the exception of all and any that had a love for abstract art. He was quite candid (at least to us and in our home) about his feeling that it was nonsense. There was a time he told of being asked over and over again to create a piece of art for an abstract art competition. He stated that he had repeatedly declined. When the request just kept coming at him he agreed. However, as he told the story, he would prove the folly of it. This is how it was explained to my family and myself. Arthur bought a very long piece of canvas and laid it stretched to its length on a barn floor. (I do not know whose barn) He then related how he took his artist brushes and dipped heavily and individually in each color of paint and flung it at the canvas, as he would walk by. Then he would do this again and again each day as he walked by or around the canvas. On the floor he said he set several sheet cake pans each with a different color of paint in it. He would let his dog Duncan, a short dog with long hair, walk through the pans and wherever he wanted to roam across the canvas. Between the two of them they filled the canvas with color, shapes, and textures. After all this “foolishness” as Arthur called it, he won first place! He said that surely proved his point.
When I got married my father told Arthur that he wanted him to paint something for me as a wedding gift. He did. I have it in my home. Arthur said it is “A Bride Looking For Her Star.”
– Kathleen Johnson
Newspaper clipping from the Lawrence Daily Journal-World – October 8, 1959:
Well-Known K.C. Artist Is Beaten and Robbed
Arthur Kraft, 38, well known Kansas City artist, was beaten and robbed in a parking lot Wednesday night.
Kraft was named by the Junior Chamber of Commerce as one of the 10 outstanding young men in the nation in 1954.
Police said he apparently was struck repeatedly on the head and face with a pistol butt as he started to enter his car at 5050 Main. His billfold, containing $20, and a watch were taken.
He was taken to a hospital, where attendants said his condition was satisfactory.
Kraft is working on several sculptures for a new shopping center in Indianapolis and on murals for Kansas City’s new public library.
Upon its completion in 1962, Randhurst was billed as the “largest shopping center under one roof in the world” and was the first fully enclosed shopping center in Chicagoland.
Commissioned by Victor Gruen, architect of the Randhurst Shopping Center in Mount Prospect, Illinois. The Arthur Kraft sculptures were installed in 1962 and dedicated on August 16, 1962.
Kraft was commissioned to create two sets of sculptures. A trio of penguins and a trio of walruses. The sculptures portray three stylized penguins with their flippers spread standing around facing inwards. The three stylized walruses were created in a fun circular pattern.
In the 1980’s the shopping center was remodeled, a huge food court installed, and many of the Gruen-era features removed.
In 2011, after a long period of decline, Randhurst underwent a $190 million overhaul that involved demolishing most of the original center and replacing it with an open-air street of shops and additional anchor tenants.
The penguin sculptures are very similar to Arthur Kraft’s other penguin sculptures that was originally created in 1960 for the Glendale Shopping Center in Indianapolis, Indiana and is still on display at the Glendale Town Center Library entrance. And they are also similar to Kansas City’s “Court of the Penguins” Fountain at the Country Club Plaza that were cast posthumously in 1979 and dedicated on October 10, 1979.
Today, two out of the three of Arthur Kraft’s Randhurst Shopping Center bronze penguins have been located in Skokie, Illinois. The sculptures are being used as lawn ornaments for a condominium.
cordially wishes to invite you
to a pre-New York showing
of painting and sculpture by
Arthur Kraft and Gene Hoppe
at 3921 Wyandotte Street,
Kansas City, Missouri,
from four to eight,
please present card.
Date: Sunday October 3, 1971
Want you to see painting
“The Two Randall’s”
Title: “The Two Randalls”
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 40″ x 30″