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Insider Profiles

A Surprisingly Good Fit for Art

Marc Shank"There's a great range of cultural and entertainment opportunities here, while maintaining a friendly Midwestern vibe."


Marc Shank started drawing at the age of 3, and he took particular inspiration from his grandmother, who was a painter. The middle of three children, Shank grew up in Liberal, Kansas, where his family has lived since the early 1900s. During high school, he worked for several summers as the photo editor at the local newspaper. Shank also took photographs of western Kansas for USA Today.

After he graduated from the University of Kansas with Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in illustration and graphic design, Shank got his professional start at a Kansas City ad agency. His next stop was Lee Jeans, where he has been a graphic designer and art director for seven years. The city has been a good fit for him, providing a creative livelihood, not to mention inspiration for his own artistic projects.

The humble and self-effacing Shank always carries a small sketchbook, and his creative passion really explodes as he works on his "Welcome to Scurvyville" painting series in the second bedroom of his Midtown apartment. "I was initially filling sketchbooks full of gritty, authentic characters, and then I started 'building a town,'" says Shank, who researches hairstyles and clothing for his characters and gives each one a backstory.

He also considers what kinds of stores and public buildings the small town of Scurvyville would have, inspired by old buildings he has seen in Kansas City's numerous neighborhoods, like the historical West Bottoms industrial district. "I like finding beauty in imperfection," Shank says. This creative guy also appreciates the ongoing arts development occurring downtown and in Kansas City's Crossroads Arts District.

The city has embraced his "Scurvyville" series, which includes 10 three- to four-foot-wide acrylic-and-ink paintings and 11 smaller character sketches created as silk-screens on wood panel or acrylic and ink on paper. His first display took place last fall at Stroke of Red Studio. It won rave reviews from local media, and more than half of the pieces sold on the first night. Shank plans to continue the series with a new storyline and add more female characters "with grit," he says.

When he's not busy at Lee or in his studio, Shank enjoys spending time with his great network of local friends and being a "big culture geek." He constantly reads, and he watches loads of movies. Shank enjoys dining around town as well, saying that he's crazy for Pot Pie's signature dish and the ultra-fresh spring rolls served at Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop.

He's a big music buff, too, savoring burgers and locally produced Boulevard Brewing Company wheat beers while listening to acts at Knuckleheads. "Knuckleheads has a personality unlike any other bar-concert venue in Kansas City," Shank says. "Continually expanding, the outdoor patio includes picnic tables, large overhead catwalks for a birds-eye view of the stage, and an old train caboose for seating. Blues, rockabilly and country acts play there regularly, and the tone of the place is relaxed, worn-in and friendly."

This prolific artist believes that people greatly underestimate the diversity and vibrancy of Kansas City's local creative community. "Once artists get here they'll be surprised by how supportive everyone is," Shank says.

Check out Marc's Kansas City.