Segal’s Rush Hour sculpture, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)Many cities around the world harbor beautiful and imaginative art museums and art galleries; they are only “unexpected” because the cities are not particularly large or well-known.

Then again, who really knew anything about the Spanish city of Bilbao before Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim swirled across the landscape?

In Kansas City, Missouri, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has several worthy collections (and they blog!) but I was particularly struck by their outdoor Sculpture Park.

The Museum generously hosted the opening reception for the 2008 Travel Media Showcase conference that I attended as a journalist, but I kept leaving the festivities to explore the grounds.

Close-up of Rush Hour sculpture in the rain, Kansas City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Two pieces of art were my favorites….

George Segal’s bronze “Rush Hour” was bathed in droplets from a recent shower, and the preoccupied commuters in the sculpture looked like any soggy businesspeople hurrying home in the rain.

They were modeled directly from the artist’s friends and neighbors, using plaster-dipped gauze molded directly onto their faces and bodies.

I zoomed in for a closeup of the water running off of one statue’s resigned-looking face.

In contrast to the very human-scaled Segal work, the giant Oldenburg and van Bruggen badminton birdie/shuttlecock sculptures scattered across the Museum’s green lawn seemed as though they’d been dropped on the grass only moments before.

Sculptured badminton birdies on the lawn, Nelson-Atkins, Kansas City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Perhaps some sporty racket-swinging giant had passed by….

I don’t think I saw anyone look at the 5,500 pound shuttlecocks without pointing and smiling a little, and what Museum wouldn’t want such a testament to art’s positive impact?

Take a look at the Museum’s blog for updates like the latest on the photography collections in their new Bloch Building, or a behind-the-scenes look at how a special painting is put on display in the gallery.

Giant badminton shuttlecock, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

For more of the unexpected, visit the Arts and Culture section of the Kansas City tourism Web site.

For a slide show and detailed information about the outdoor art that I saw, click here to learn more about the Kansas City Sculpture Park around the Museum.

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