Civilian Stories


Civilian Stories is a magazine, newsroom, and research center for civic literacy and art in the public interest. Working collaboratively with artists, writers, and community organizers, Civilian Stories features projects that both illustrate and narrate specific human geographies of urban culture. Through this approach, Civilian Stories crosses into an expanded field of publication, drawing from urban history, digital archiving, and print culture while building a locus for exploration and representation of public spaces and their populations.

Leandra Burnett and Sarah Murphy, and Kent Szlauderbach will work as editors and producers of a series of journals that document relationships between artist and community organization and reflects a story.

 The following is from their definition of the Artist as Civilian: “Mired in austerity and the devolution of economy and architecture in the urban core, artists and organizations currently address an increasingly divergent and ignored public interest. No longer can the flâneur roam the arcades to invisibly reflect the city to its civilians, and no longer can all community organizations navigate a fragmented, popularity-driven media landscape.

As we see the City’s capital investment return to the urban core, we see artists and community organizers converging with a unique historical perspective—that of the Civilian.”

The editors will select artists seeking to understand the larger context of the city they inhabit, and pair them up with community organizations from each of Kansas City’s six districts, representing the range of issues, strategies, and scales of impact occurring within their areas. The artists will preferably live in the same district as their respective organization, and have developed a body of work that represents an abiding service to public interest.

The community organization will meet with the artist to debrief special needs, history, and resources of the area. The artist will then compose a series of works to be installed at the artist-run Front/Space as a living document. It will then be reproduced digitally, and published. Burnett, Murphy and Szlauderbach will custom-build a website for Civilian Stories progress updates and ephemera (images, maps, research methodology, field notes, profiles, etc.) throughout the year of funding.


Following the physical exhibition and web-based publication of work-in-progress stories and ephemera, they will establish contact with a selected local press to publish and sell Civilian Stories I-VI as print journals. Upon release of each, Front/Space will promote and host a reading and release party. In the event of acquiring a publishing deal with a commercial press, the artists would plan a larger book release and seek distribution to local, regional, and possibly national booksellers.

The goal of this project is twofold: To narrate the neighborhoods’ unnoticed impact on their community, and in turn to help artists understand their resources and audience within and outside the city. They are resolved to provide new perspectives on the dominant narrative of public dysfunction by redefining The Civilian.



Leandra Burnett, Sarah Murphy, and Kent Szlauderbach have collaborated on a number of projects mediating between art, architecture, and community. In 2010, Leandra and Sarah founded Front/Space, a storefront gallery and space for living, working, and sharing in the Crossroads. A year later, Kent Szlauderbach joined as a co-director and copy editor. With a rotating group of collaborators, the three organize month-long exhibitions opening every First Friday, challenging artists and audiences to interact with a storefront property defined by culturally critical, yet accessible, programming.


In 2012 they expanded on programming by organizing Zine Dream, a zine exchange and reading room installed in the Front/Space for the fall. They designed and constructed a reading room and workspace in the Front/Space and held bookbinding and critical zine-making workshops.

From 2010-2011, Burnett and Murphy were members of the Kansas City Design Center Urban Studio, conducting a year-long study engaging with the local community, culminating in Reframing the City: An Urban Vision of the West Bottoms, a published compilation of research, photography, and proposed design interventions. This project was an introduction to Community Organizations in Kansas City, and the immeasurable impact of engaging stakeholders in the design process. Since that time, they have acted as liaisons for the West Bottoms, presenting their findings to the public for the Urban Land Institute Daniel Rose Fellows, guiding a tour for Plug Projects’ UnPlugged events series, and speaking on the Futures of Infrastructure at an America Now and Here panel discussion.

In 2013, they were a part of a design team commissioned to design and construct a reading room and workspace for Composite Structures, a guest-curated exhibition by Jamilee Polson-Lacey. In conjunction with the event, they participated in a panel discussion called Making With Architecture.


Leandra Burnett is an artist and community organizer living and working in Kansas City, Missouri.  She received her Masters of Architecture from KU in 2011 and now advocates for the renewal and vitality of Midtown as Program Manager for the Main Street Development Corporation and the Main Street Community Improvement District.






 SarahSarah Murphy is a designer and architect living and working in Kansas City, Missouri. She received a Masters of Architecture from KU in 2011. She currently pursues her interests in bicycle advocacy and community infrastructure in part through her volunteer work with Eco Abet, Kansas City and works at BNIM Architects.









Kent Szlauderbach is a writer in Kansas City. He is a former copy editor and web-producer at Kill Screen. His critical writing has also appeared in The Pitch and Eleven Magazine, and his fiction in Everyday Genius and Kawsmouth, among others. He holds a B.A. in English, Creative Writing, and German.



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