(Kansas City, Missouri) - Matt Rahner has great empathy for the families and individuals uprooted from roughly a four-block section of Kansas City's Wendell Phillips neighborhood, recently cleared by eminent domain to make room for a new police station and crime lab.
Rahner's grandfather was a successful Kansas City, Kansas, dentist who lost his offices on Ann Avenue in the 1960s through eminent domain. The practice was crippled and, in 1968, he died of a heart attack at age 52.
Rahner, an assistant professor of art at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri, documented the dismantling of the predominantly African American area of Wendell Phillips through photographs and the collection of objects and ephemera featured in his installation Eminent Domain, now on display at the Library. He discusses his efforts to illuminate what he calls "a power construct that allows one entity to forcefully and legally relocate others against their will" on Thursday, May 28, 2015, at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
The event, Eminent Domain: An Illustrated Presentation, begins at 6:30 p.m.
Rahner began his work in Wendell Phillips in the fall of 2012, photographing residents and their homes from the time the houses still stood until they were rubble. The property - bordered by Prospect Avenue on the east, Brooklyn on the West, and 26th and 27th streets on the north and south - was chosen by the city for a new East Patrol police station and crime lab.
The $74 million project was billed as major boost for a distressed area, bringing construction and other jobs. But it tore at neighborhood history. Of the 43 occupied homes that were leveled in Wendell Phillips, all but one was built between 1892 and 1917. Families had lived there through as many as four generations.
"I have an interest in powerlessness. One day, you get a knock on your door and you can't live in your house anymore," Rahner says.
Demolition began in the area in January 2013, and groundbreaking on the new police station and crime lab was held that November. Work is targeted for completion in the winter of 2015-16.
Rahner, who holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Missouri, teaches beginning photography, digital photography, and drawing at Missouri Valley College. His work has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally.
His installation, Eminent Domain, is on display at the Central Library through May 31, 2015.
Admission to the event is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th and Baltimore.