by Rebecca Tombaugh, reporting artist
Artists, collectively known as “Urban Sketchers Kansas City,” invaded Strawberry Hill last week to do what they do – paint, sketch, hang out and drink coffee.
“I said ‘absolutely!’” said Simeon Bricker, manager of Splitlog Coffee, 548 Central Ave., recalling what he said when he got the call from Cody Wheelock asking if the artists could use the coffee shop as a base of operations.
“I was already a fan of Cody online,” said Bricker.
Wheelock set up a Saturday morning for the Urban Sketchers to paint in July. The Urban Sketchers are an international organization with chapters all over the world. The sketchers just draw what they see in the moment and post it online. Anyone can join. The aim is to “show the world, one drawing at a time.” The Kansas City chapter is just a year old and has 500-plus members.
Wheelock, artist and instructor, says he got the idea for a “paint out” at Splitlog after he stopped one day by Slap’s BBQ across the street.
“I turned and saw that skyline – what a great spot to do a paint out!” he said.
Wheelock says his family was living in Nebraska when they recently decided to go for it – open a studio and teach classical art. They narrowed down the “where” to Denver, Minneapolis, and Kansas City. The cost of living, the laid-back atmosphere, and the way businesses support the art community made them pick this area.
“Kansas City has a phenomenal art community,” says Wheelock. “It’s just awesome.”
Splitlog Coffee is about two years old and from the coffee shop is a full view of the city of Kansas City, Missouri, skyline.
“We really love the location,” he says.
Bricker says they picked this spot because it was on the “hill” and so close to the highway, there’s parking, a drive-through, and also – a person had to drive all the way to Midtown to get a good cup of coffee.
“We tried to make it easy to come and go,” said Bricker.
Splitlog is really coming into its own now, says Bricker with a “wonderful group of regulars.”
Bricker has been a barista for 10 years, and won a couple top national awards for his latte creations. He mentions the one-and-only “Strawberry Hill Latte.” You can drink it hot or iced, he explains. “It’s strawberry and vanilla, a good balance with espresso, and softly sweet, with chocolate-y and coffee notes.”
Inside, actual split logs make up the counter and shelves on the wall. But the name is a way to honor the history of the Wyandot Indians who settled in the area, including Mathias Splitlog (1818-1897). Bricker talks about his man’s legacy of traveling to Washington to represent the Wyandot Indians on his own dime, of being an entrepreneur, and always giving back to his own community.
“We love his story,” says Bricker.
So, of course, says Bricker, Wheelock called to see if the Urban Sketchers could paint at the coffee spot, Bricker loved the idea. That’s what they wanted to do with the shop, create and support communities, a space for people to come be creative or a work space. Bricker says a lot of people who work for the Unified Government pop in as well. He expects even more customers when the new KU Med Center opens.
“It doesn’t cost you anything,” he says.
Splitlog is open 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. They are closed on Sunday.
Bricker says Splitlog is expanding its current location to include more seating and new food items. A second Splitlog location is planned for the Pendleton Heights on the Missouri side. Later this year, they will be roasting their own coffee beans.
For more information go to www.splitlog.coffee.
Cody Wheelock’s studio is “Fount Atelier of Fine Art,” based in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. However, Wheelock is offering “blended” art courses for anyone of any skill level, including beginners, that mixes online teaching and studio. He says he starts with how to sharpen a pencil. For more information, go to his website at www.fountatelier.com.
Rebecca Tombaugh is a former managing editor for The Kansas City Kansan. She is also a founding member of the Kansas City Urban Sketchers. To join the group, go to Urban Sketcher Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/735851173249000/?epa=SEARCH_BOX
Story, photos and artwork copyright 2019 by Rebecca Tombaugh