If you’re trying to see all of the hearts in the Parade of Hearts, there’s one more to add to your list.
On Thursday the newest — and final — addition to Parade of Hearts goes on display outside the University of Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse. The heart, titled “National Champs,” honors KU’s NCAA Basketball Championship earlier this year.
The heart was unveiled Wednesday at at Dimensional Innovations, in Overland Park. Megh Knappenberger, a KU alumni and local artist who created the artwork, said it was an honor to create it.
“I loved doing this,” she said. “I’m a huge fan and it was not hard to conjure and capture that celebration again.”
Knappenberger said they had to move rather quickly on creating the heart because Parade of Hearts had already began and they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture the excitement surrounding the national championship. The piece came together in about three weeks.
“We all saw that moment after the game when (Coach Bill Self) walked into the locker room and the water bottles started spraying everywhere,” Knappenberger said.
“I wanted to capture that moment and make it feel like the heart was sitting in the locker room at that moment and had just gotten sprayed with, you know, all of that excitement as if those water bottles were full of ink.”
She worked in a lot of big colorful spatters of ink and paint into the piece in the hopes that when people look at it, it feels like a party.
The front of the heart includes a Jayhawk and takes its design from the National Championship mark that the NCAA puts out. The front is what she called a deconstructed version of that. The heart has been signed by members of KU’s championship team and Self.
Because she paints with a palette knife, people who get up close will see it’s textured and a lot of thick paint on there.
“There’s a lot of energy and movement to the way that I paint — I’m just kind of swiping things on,” she said. “My studio has splatters of ink all over the wall now because I was flinging ink at it and just trying to get into the excitement of that moment.”
The back side features the 1941 Jayhawk, a favorite of KU alumni.
Parade of Hearts organizers contacted her to create the piece after the victory. But even if they had contacted her ahead of time, she said she would have waited to start working on designs.
“I am way too superstitious of a fan to have done anything before they won,” Knappenberger said.
She called the Parade of Hearts an amazing fundraiser that is uniting Kansas City around something that’s fun and joyful.
“I think we all needed that after the past few years and what everybody has been through,” said Knapper, who added that she’s honored to be a part of it. “I think it’s also really great for the artist community here in Kansas City. It has really uplifted and given a very public place for people’s work to be seen here.”
On the night of the game, Knappenberger said she and her husband put their 3-year-old and 7-year-old children to bed because it was looking “a little sketchy” for a Jayhawk victory. A few minutes into the second half, her and her husband’s screaming woke the oldest child who wandered downstairs curious to see what was going on.
It was a great moment and something they will remember forever.
“There’s a little Easter egg in there for my kids,” Knappenberger added.
The “National Champs” heart is the 156th and final uniquely decorated heart sculpture that can be found around the Kansas City metropolitan area. The locations of the hearts can be found on the Parade of Hearts website and through a mobile app.
The hearts will be available for public viewing through the end of May. Some pieces will be sold during a live auction on June 17 while the rest will be sold at an online auction.
Tucker Trotter, one of the co-founders of Parade of Hearts and CEO of Dimensional Innovations, said the Kansas City community has really embraced the project and that it is pulling people together around a common experience, something that was desperately needed after the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are people who have indicated on social media that they have found all of them — that is up until now.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of people scrambling to get to Lawrence to make sure that they get this last one,” Trotter said.