Arts & Culture

KCUR’s Arts & Culture Desk covers arts news from music to visual art to dance and theater, with a focus on Kansas and Missouri.

Our reporters explore the behind-the-scene stories about newsmakers and emerging artists. We also take a look at the intersections of arts and technology, science and creativity, and present profiles of creative people. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The Vietnam War divided the country – and families – including that of Kansas City writer Alan Robert Proctor. His brother, Bruce Proctor, worked in the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency before fleeing the country to avoid being sent to Vietnam.

overlandpark.com

To celebrate or not to celebrate is not the question this weekend. Only how.

Answers include a Memorial Day weekend party hosted by the Kansas City Symphony, a sprawling American roots music jamboree and a sentimental arena rock concert that might have fans “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” anyone who’s handy – which is always one way to make a new friend.

Let the celebrations begin!  

1. Celebration at the Station

Courtesy of Arionne Yvette Williams

 When Arionne Yvette Williams first heard “Formation,” the lead single of Beyoncé’s album, Lemonade, one of the lyrics inspired her to start a Bible study group for women.

“I just love the song; it just resonated with me as soon as I heard it,” Williams told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Folk Alliance International reaffirmed its commitment to Kansas City on Tuesday and announced that British folk musician Billy Bragg will be the keynote speaker for its conference in February 2017.

Greg Anderson

Golden Groves
Ideas

Debut EPs are tricky. By definition they are first impressions, but they only capture a band’s earliest efforts, which makes them fragile. They’re also small-serving packages, just the barest of tastes, and often unsatisfying, even at their best. The members of Kansas City’s Golden Groves obviously understand those pitfalls, and they’ve artfully stacked their debut, Ideas, with a little bit of everything they can do.

Brittany Tutt / Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune

The Missouri Arts Council, which funnels money to arts organizations around the state, will see an increase of $1.2 million for fiscal year 2017. That will put MAC’s state funding at $6 million, up from $4.8 million. It’s the first increase in several years, says the organization’s executive director, Michael Donovan.

americanjazzmuseum.com

Kansas City jazz fans take note: The executive director of the American Jazz Museum says we will have a world-class jazz festival and it will debut in just one year.

A City Council committee this week approved a renewal for the museum to continue to manage the 18th and Vine project. Jazz Museum Executive Director Cheptoo Kositani-Buckner used the occasion to tout the accomplishments of the district she has managed since January.

Courtesy Dawayne Gilley

The Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival has had a hard life. In fact, fans of the scrappy two-day concert featuring all-local musicians probably thought it was dead, since it hasn't graced the corner of 13th and State with baleful riffs and barbecue smoke since 2009.

But like the characters in its performers' songs, it's found a way to survive. After seven years of silence, festival founder Dawayne Gilley says he's bringing it back this summer.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Juan Felipe Herrera's official duty is to be the "lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans."

That's how the Library of Congress begins its job description for the United States poet laureate. In other words, the poet-in-chief "seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry."

courtesy: E.G. Schempf

Letting go of things can be tough, from old letters to baby clothes to extra weight. That’s why two artists are trying to live by example and encourage others to lighten their load.

You could say the Freeing Throwers art project — started by Mo Dickens, a gallery assistant at the Belger Arts Center, and artist Adriane Herman — was sparked by a string of losses, including the death of a beloved pet. 

Barbara Haze

When things don’t necessarily go together, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t put them together.

Like a weekend mix tape. What do all those songs have in common? Maybe nothing, except they’re all on the same weekend mix tape.

See how this works? With or without a pre-selected soundtrack this weekend, try mixing up a combo of asymmetrical activities, a potpourri of divergent diversions – you know, a bunch of stuff. It’s your weekend. You should do what you want.

1. Planet Comicon

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

For two decades, The Billie Mahoney Dance Troupe has riffed, shuffled and flapped to jazzy, syncopated rhythms year round.

Chris Dennis

Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds
It’s 4 A.M.
Somewhere

The power of Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds’ debut comes from several places at once, but is exerted with a devastating focus.

First, there’s the precision of its fine power trio. Calandra Ysquierdo’s prowling, menacing bass and agile backing vocals explode off Michelle Bacon’s relentlessly pounding drums and splashing cymbals. They bolster lead singer Chris Meck’s more fragile bravado and provide ample space for his sharp, clean, ever-reaching guitar.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City street corner is immortalized in words known worldwide:

I'm gonna be standing on the corner
12th Street and Vine
With my Kansas City baby
And a bottle of Kansas City wine.

But why 12th Street? Why doesn’t the song refer to 18th Street and Vine, the corner at the heart of the city’s historic jazz district, which also purports to be internationally famous?

Infrogmation of New Orleans / Wikimedia Commons

It’s the sweet spot of the year. The weather is generally perfect (not too hot; not too cold) and it's not too buggy or humid just yet.

It’s time to eat outside.

From restaurant patios to parks and summer festivals, we explore the world of alfresco dining. Our food critics search out the best spots in and around Kansas City — plus, their picks for the best KC food to bring on a picnic.

Here are their recommendations:

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

Courtesy Ida McBeth

The American Jazz Museum celebrates two Kansas City musical acts this weekend with Lifetime Achievement Awards for the McFadden Brothers and Ida McBeth.

McBeth's musical memories go all the way back to when she was five years old at church, singing the solo on a song called “It’s In My Heart.”

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

An electronic soundscape greets visitors to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art on a recent Sunday afternoon. Some carry yoga mats as they walk into the main gallery, and settle in on the floor. Musician and composer Paul Rudy stands in front of a large-scale collage of rice paper, and wooden shelves lined with ceramics.

Rudy is tall, and dressed all in white, with a golden scarf. He chooses an instrument — and the musical meditation experience begins.

Courtesy of Tim Harte (photo by Ruby Sue Hanson)

When some people think about a conservatory of music, they might conjure up images of students playing the violin or piano and studying the works of Mozart and Beethoven.

That's about to change.

For the first time, the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance has admitted a student whose instrument is a computer. Tim Harte will be starting in the Conservatory’s composition program this fall.

ceedub13 / Wikimedia Commons

As the post-World War II Baby Boom generation inexorably relaxes its grip on the workplace, many who once rocked the night away still want to hold onto all of the youthful diversions they can. Translation: It’s hard to let go of the fun stuff.

Even if it doesn’t make wrinkles disappear, a virtual industry exists to appease the entertainment desires of those whose cherished memories of yesteryear might still be able to put a spring in their step. Translation: Fountain of Youth for sale.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Paul Tyler will retire later this month after 14 years of working as the grants director of ArtsKC-Regional Arts Council. Tyler has served the Kansas City arts community by working to form links between individual artists and the organizations supporting them.

For a man who is more comfortable working hard behind the scenes, Tyler says he's been a bit overwhelmed by the flurry of attention he's received after announcing his retirement.

Alex Smith / KCUR

On Sunday mornings at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, prayers that are quietly murmured in most churches seem to almost rumble like thunder.

Thousands of congregants crowd the huge suburban auditorium for weekly services, which feature huge video monitors, an orchestra and a full choir. With 20,000 members, it’s the largest Methodist church in the United States.  

Amy Mogharbel, 30, says attending services here took some getting used to.

Courtesy Dom Chronicles

Dom Chronicles
Reality Makers (IndyGround)

The cover of rapper Dom Chronicles’ latest album is like a 1980s neon dream in which he's driving through a fantasy vision of the Kansas City skyline.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

A small Westside neighborhood crowd gathered at 16th Street and Jefferson Sunday morning to watch a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane remove the largest of the four "Sky Station" sculptures atop Bartle Hall in Kansas City.

The 40-foot tall, 35-foot-wide, 24,000-pound aluminum sculpture was damaged by a lightning strike earlier this year. Kansas City-based A. Zahner Company will complete the estimated $1.3 million repair, and it is expected to be back in place by September.

Paul Andrews Photography

For the past six years, Victor & Penny — aka Jeff Freling and Erin McGrane — have traveled the country performing original music, as well as jazz and pop standards. Starting as a duo, playing tight harmonies on guitar and ukulele, they’re now backed by their Loose Change Orchestra.

Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix talked to Victor & Penny about their latest album, Electricity, and the creative process:

karendesuyo / Flickr-CC

An irony of the Internet Age is that it can seem tougher than ever to get at the whole truth. Everyone seems to have their version and the ability to share it with the world in a nanosecond.

courtesy: National World War I Museum and Memorial

Weeks after the end of World War I in 1918, Kansas Citians started fundraising for a memorial. A community fund drive raised more than $2.5 million, and Liberty Memorial opened on Nov. 11, 1926. In 2006, the National World War I Museum, a $102 million project "dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War" opened to the public

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Kansas Citians' First Friday entertainment options get wider this week with the debut of festivities along 18th and Vine.

Starting on May 6, arts organizations in the historic Jazz District will host live music and storytelling performances, food trucks, art and fashion displays, shopping and even "instructions on the latest dance trends" including "heels, hip hop, break dancing, vogue and pop, and dip and spin" courtesy of the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey.

Courtesy: Helix Architecture + Design

Kansas City Young Audiences will soon move to its first permanent home in the organization's 55-year history. On Tuesday, the arts education non-profit announced the purchase of a former Office Max building at 3732 Main Street in Kansas City, Missouri. 

"It's in the heart of Midtown, centrally located in the city," says executive director Martin English. "We believe it will give us an opportunity to reach out and to serve a broader community of students from that location."  

Courtesy City of Liberty, Missouri

This story was updated at 12:30 p.m.

A building in downtown Liberty, Missouri, partially collapsed Tuesday morning, and officials were concerned that other buildings might be at risk. 

Firefighters and police crews were called to the scene at 1 N. Water Street in the historic square in Liberty, shortly after 9 a.m.  The Bedinger Building, which once housed an Ethan Allen furniture store, had been vacant for about four years, but was undergoing renovations.  

Creative Commons-Flickr

Universal UClick, the Kansas City-based syndicator, says it has confirmed some of the allegations of plagiarism against the editor of its Universal Crossword feature following an internal investigation.

In a statement last month, it said the editor, Timothy Parker, will take a three-month leave of absence during which he “will confirm that his process for constructing puzzles uses the best available technology to ensure that everything he edits is original.”

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