Kansas City’s Art of Data Exhibit: Humanizing Data Through Art

August 25, 2015 12:00 pm PST | Data as a Service
Art of Data

This post was written by Molly Jay. For more on the artists and artwork showcased at Kansas City’s Art of Data event, read our full series on the exhibit.

The Art of Data exhibit in Kansas City, Missouri, showcased artists who humanized city datasets into works of art. The datasets were based on statistics like life expectancy by zip code and the city’s homicide rate.

Minister of Information (M.O.I.)

The exhibit celebrates five years of data analysis and reporting with a creative convergence of visual art representing the datasets that drive Kansas City’s innovations and civic decisions.

Julie Steenson, Deputy Performance Officer, comments, “This is the citizens’ data. There’s no reason to hide it, there’s no reason to back away from a trend, even if the trend is negative. If the trend is negative, and we interact with the data that’s turned into art, maybe we can change some things and start a policy conversation.”

In this post, we dive into one artist’s work, which used a 311 matrix for inspiration.

Artist: Minister of Information (M.O.I.)

Title: Steel Plate Ahead!

Dataset: Service request timeliness and customer satisfaction by department work group.

When thinking about how to construct Steel Plate Ahead!, M.O.I  imagined two types of viewers:

  1. Someone who uses emoji on their phone to convey ideas
  2. The person sitting at the back of the room who is thinking to themselves, “stop boring me with all of those details and just tell me how I’m doing!”  

He combined those two elements, threw in some jokes that city residents might recognize (such as the steel plate emoji) and went from there. As with most of his work, there are other metaphors embedded. In this case, the steel plate also refers to the how we sometimes can’t look at a problem with fresh eyes. “It’s as if we have a steel plate in our skull. Kansas City once had a mayor who was elected on steel plates in our streets.”

For more on this exhibit, and to see how Kansas City used data to engage new audiences, check out this video featuring elected officials, government staffers, artists, and exhibit attendees.


Watch the video



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