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Mural at Harvest Studios

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The Artist Gallery

Allen Halsey Takes a Bite out of KC’s Art Scene  

Picture a pair of bright red lips with big white teeth biting down onto the letters “KC,” all of which stand suspended in the shape of a giant heart. Those familiar with the Parade of Hearts campaign in 2022 might recognize this description as one of the heart sculptures placed around town, this particularly bright and colorful display was created by artist Allen Halsey and aptly named “Take a Bite Out of KC/Say What You Love.”

Allen, a visual artist and lead designer and painter with Illusions Unlimited Productions, approaches all of his work with the creative intensity and bold messaging needed to imagine the concept of giant teeth figuratively embracing a city. As part of the creative team at Illusions Unlimited Productions, Allen helps bring clients’ visions to life through colorful installations, custom signs, murals and set displays that transform any space, including many you may have seen at Crown Center, the Kansas City Zoo, Bar K and the Kansas City Convention Center. 

Born and raised in the Kansas City area, Allen considers it to be a “hidden gem” among other big cities. Although his giant heart might be gone from the public – auctioned off with the rest of the hearts at the end of the campaign to share their positive vibes with new lucky owners – his artwork says a lot about his approach to life.

“It’s really about taking a bite out of the city and exploring,” Allen says. “Go somewhere you haven’t been before. There are so many nooks around town that you might know about. Restaurants, galleries, and there’s so much to explore in our own city. People can find their own little treasures.”

Although now based in Independence, Allen’s creative space was once located in the Northland and he has fond memories of the small-town feel that the stores, shops and gathering spots have to offer North of the river.

“I used to go to Cinder Block Brewery once or twice a week,” he says. “It was like a Cheers type of feeling.”

No matter where it’s created, art has a way of reaching people far and wide, which is what Allen has enjoyed about the often large-scale work he has worked on with Illusions Unlimited Productions. Known for colorful and innovative designs, Allen loves being part of events and experiences that bring joy to many in Kansas City, especially interactive projects that children can take part in. 

Although he enjoys the diverse and creative opportunities on his team, Allen’s constantly challenging himself to explore new techniques and stretch the limits as an independent artist.

“I do some traditional paint on canvas, and now I’ve been doing things with wood, collage-type things,” he explains. “It’s challenging, but it’s fun to try to expand your horizons by what you’re capable of doing.”

His website showcases some of his work, portraits full of color and depth that can make you see something different based on your mood or perspective.

It’s the subjectivity and fluid impact of art that Allen loves when both creating and appreciating the art of others. That’s why you’ll find him in front of Caravaggio’s oil painting, “Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness,” when he visits the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, or visiting the work of Thomas Hart Benton, an artist credited with being an integral part of the Regionalist movement whose Kansas City residence has been designated a historic site and museum.  

“As I progress, I like different art at different stages of my life,” Allen says. Regardless of style, technique or time period, he appreciates the subjectiveness that comes from a particular artist’s process and road to their final piece. Like life itself, sometimes it’s best not to think too hard about where you’re going and just trust that you’ll end up in the right place. “Most artists start somewhere and follow where the art takes you,” he says. “Starting and seeing where it finishes is my favorite part.”

"Most artists start somewhere and follow where the art takes you. Starting and seeing where it finishes is my favorite part.” - Allen Halsey

  • Allen Halsey
  • Parade of Hearts submission
  • Christmas train at Crown Center
  • Allen Halsey with Parade of Hearts submission
  • Installation at The Rino in North Kansas City
  • Train at the Kansas City Zoo
  • Mural at Harvest Studios