SPACES magazine visits

The March 2009 “Green” issue of the home/shelter magazine, Spaces has hit the newsstands and it was a doubly-good issue.  Not only did they come by my over-crowded home to see the collection as it was being packed up for the Belger show, there is a terrific article and photo spread on Debbie Dusenberry’s house.  I love love love her style, and calm colors.  Ha – how on earth could my collection ever work in the wonderfully soothing house? 

“Inside Out”

The walls of art collector Kelly Ludwig’s Brookside bungalow are covered with one of the country’s finest collections of outsider art.


Kelly Ludwig’s house is a riot of color. Upon entering the Brookside bungalow’s living room, with its dusty-eggplant-colored walls, the eyes can’t quite take it all in at first-there is art everywhere you look, vast and certainly eclectic array of colorful, modern folk and outsider art, giving any gallery a run for its money on collection size and variation.

“I think I was just clamoring for color,’ says Ludwig of how she came to start collecting. An independent graphic designer with her own firm, Ludwig Design Inc.— or “queen of design,” as she terms it —Ludwig says her work steered her toward the vibrant pieces she began to amass at the time.


What she found as a reaction was the sheer joy of those who, quite literally, color outside the lines: outsider art, which is loosely defined as art created by non-artists or those who’ve had little art training or contact with the mainstream art world. Sometimes used interchangeably with the term “folk art” (though this can refer more to non-artists who use techniques and styles of a certain region or culture), outsider art often uses found materials, such as old wood, sea shells, sheet metal, linoleum-basically anything the artist can get his hands on and put to use making it an inherently environmental as well as creative process. There’s the Clarence and Grace Woolsey sculpture of a bunny made entirely of bottle caps that stands at attention in Ludwig’s dining room, for example, or the back of a cabinet door that lames Harold Jennings used as a canvas.

Ludwig’s collection isn’t just rich in color, green or otherwise, though.  First and foremost, it’s about the artists themselves. “Every piece has a story,” Ludwig says, “I know the serious academics like to separate the story from the art. The stuff almost goes hand in hand for me, You can’t help but see the spirit of each of these artists that are here.”


The story of how Ludwig’s collecting adventure began is similarly important to understanding her collection. Working as the designer for Rare Visions, a companion book (and road-trip guide) to the KCPT road show of the same name (which highlights folk and outsider art as well as unique roadside attractions across the country), is what got her into passionate collecting, Ludwig says.

“I was kind of collecting the art [already]; I had some self-taught pieces around,’ she says. “I was working on the book and thought, ‘I need some pictures.’ All this was a lot more regional at the time, so I drove around and took some photos for the book because I needed to illustrate some things. And I just fell madly in love with it:’

Things quickly escalated from there, Ludwig says. She talked “the guys”-Randy Mason, Mike Murphy and Don “the Camera Guy” Mayberger, the show’s hosts-into letting her help them market the show pro bono. Then she asked to tag along on their road trips. shooting photos and assisting with whatever production work they needed. “I just wanted to go and meet [the artists], too, and see the sites and take photographs. And it’s been six years since then,” Ludwig says of her road trips with the crew.

“Some of the art I’ve collected while traveling around with the guys. Some I just started researching the artists and buying at auction. I started getting art from dealers, going and meeting artists on my own,” she recounts of her progression. “I fell so madly in love with the art and the artists and such that I went a little crazy.”


Ludwig wasn’t just bitten by the collecting bug when she went on these trips-she felt a need to catalog it all. “I felt crazily obsessed with this,” she admits. Ludwig offered to organize into a database all the tidbits and tips for future artists to visit that the show picked up along the way. She created a website for it called Detour Art [], and today she has nearly 4,000 outsider and folk art sites, artists, museums, galleries and tips on file there worldwide. Dealers and museums now contact her for information.

‘This whole world opened up just because I like it:’ Ludwig says. “It still is like, ‘Would you like fries with that?’ It’s not really producing much of an income. But I’m crazy about it. This is my hobby. This is my version of golf. It’s my kids’ braces. It’s all of the things that the rest of my friends have invested their time and money into.”

It might not be generating income, but Ludwig’s diligent work at her self-proclaimed obsession certainly is attracting attention. On March 6, an exhibit Ludwig has co-curated with Rare Visions’ Murphy, will open at the Belger Arts Center-an exhibit that Kansas City Star art critic Alice Thorson named as one of her “10 to watch for” this year. Ludwig even has a book about her collection, also called Detour Art, and is currently working on an update to the first the Rare Visions book, the one that got it all started for her.

”I’m all immersed in it again, and I keep thinking ‘Oh, I love this stuff:’ she says.

So while the adage “do what you love and the money will follow” has yet to apply, it’s safe to say that “do what you love and it will be a success” is quite applicable here.•


Kelly Ludwig’s collection has become so vast and varied that it’s getting its own exhibit. “Rare Visions, Detour Art.· which Ludwig co-curated with Mike Murphy of the Rare Visions TV show, will open at the Belger Arts Center March 6.< /p>


What: Portions of Kelly Ludwig’s collection of outside and folk art, as well as other artwork from KCPT’s Rare Visions and Roadside Revelation’s show.

When: March 6·May 1

Where: Belger Arts Center, 2100 Walnut St.. Kansas City, Mo. 64108, 816-474-3250,