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. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Each year in the fall, nearly 1,700 people enjoy Ailey II modern dance performances presented by the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey. But besides being the official second home of the famed New York-based Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the local organization has another year-round mission: to create social change by encouraging diversity.

Courtesy Facebook

Kansas, the most successful rock band to originate from its namesake state, marks the 40th anniversary of Leftoverture by playing the hit 1976 album in its entirety on its current tour, which stops at in Kansas City on Saturday.

Three reasons we're listening to Kansas this week:

1. Kansas has always incorporated classical elements into its rock, making its appearance at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts less incongruous than it might seem.

The Gay & Lesbian Archive of Mid-America/Labudde Special Collections, University of Missouri-Kansas City

A common misconception about the history of American gay activism is that it began on June 28, 1969.

That date was the beginning of a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by the gay and lesbian community in New York City after a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. Those much-publicized riots are considered a catalyst in the fight for LGBT rights.

But an equally potent gathering took place three years earlier — in downtown Kansas City.

Dario Acosta

Tenor Ben Bliss is considered a rising star in the world of opera. And, like opera diva Joyce DiDonato, he grew up in Prairie Village, Kansas. Bliss credits "the support of arts and education and public education" for leading to his musical career. It's something, he says, he "got a really good dose of growing up."

Bliss's father is a freelance cartoonist and his mother sings with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City chorus.

Courtesy The Conquerors

The Conquerors
Wyld Time (High Dive Records)

A remastered version of the Beatles’ Live at the Hollywood Bowl was recently released in conjunction with Ron Howard’s new documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week. While the reissue of will satisfy avid fans of the Fab Four, Wyld Time, by Kansas City’s The Conquerors, is a more arresting demonstration of the Beatles’ enduring legacy.

This week, Kansas Citians have an opportunity to see an extraordinary film that’s been publicly screened fewer than a dozen times since its original release in 1920. For decades, film historians figured it was lost.

The film's journey to Kansas City started back in 2004, when Brian Hearn was the film curator of the Oklahoma City Museum and received a strange call from a private investigator in North Carolina.

There’s a pizza for everyone, from the picky toddler to the late-night reveler and the sophisticated gourmand.

From wood-fired to deep-dish, you can go traditional or dress it up with fancy toppings like fig jam. Get enough for a crowd or order individual pies that are made from scratch and baked in front of you.

On Central Standard’s annual pizza show, our Food Critics searched out the best pizza in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

A local chef recommends the best fall harvest toppings, then KCUR's Food Critics search out the best pizza of 2016 in and around KC. Plus, is there anything that makes KC pizza unique?


Courtesy the University of Kansas

Visitors to the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence will soon see it in a new light – specifically, light pouring into a brand new, glass-encased entryway that is part of an $8 million renovation. 

After 18 months, the museum celebrates a grand re-opening on Saturday, but because they are the museum’s primary patrons, students at the University of Kansas got a special preview party on October 6. Even if they just came for the free food — always a draw for students — the museum’s transformation didn’t disappoint.

J. Robert Schraeder / Courtesy of the Coterie Theatre

The Coterie Theatre, in its nearly 40-year history, has often challenged audiences with difficult subjects, such as bullying or the Salem witch trials. The theater continues the tradition with its current production, The Nine Who Dared: Courage in Little Rock.

When Donald Trump explained his remarks on grabbing women as "locker room talk," some women responded by sharing their own stories of survival. Has the conversation on sexual assault and the casual objectification of women reached a tipping point?

Plus, Question Quest finds out what's in the center of the United States.


Jordan Green / Flickr - CC

It can be intriguing when performers may not show everything they have, yet still impress. 

Well, that will have to wait! Because no lights will be hidden under any bushels this weekend, with a diversity of shows divulging a harvest of talents and captivations – from oh-so-sultry singing to over-the-top stage gore.

Do you see? Oh, you will.

​1. MattyB

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

This story first appeared on KCUR's Question Quest. You can find the episode here or wherever you download podcasts.

Rowland Scherman / National Archives and Records Administration

Bob Dylan, who won the Nobel Prize for literature this morning — "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition" —has written a lot of words, about a lot of places. In honor of his accomplishments, however, we can't help being proud that a few of those words indicate he's been thinking about us.

1. "High Water (For Charley Patton)," from 2001's Love and Theft

First verse:

Nina Subin

Ayad Akhtar won the Pulitzer Prize back in 2013 for his play Disgraced, about a successful corporate lawyer who has hidden his Pakistani Muslim heritage.

Is the gas station central to the Midwestern experience? A look at the proposal that called for removing a street to expand a fuel stop in Westport, plus two bloggers who love QuikTrip so much that they've reviewed the food there.


Courtesy Various Blonde

Led by guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Joshua Allen, Various Blonde is one of Kansas City’s most daring indie-rock bands, incorporating funk and electronic dance music elements into the startling new sound showcased on its new record.

3 reasons we're listening to Various Blonde this week:

1. The band's new All Bases Covered was released last month by the The Record Machine, a Kansas City label.

Courtesy The Sexy Accident

The Sexy Accident
Champagne Babycakes

Jesse Kates is a coordinated guy. The front-man and creator of The Sexy Accident has been at it for a decade, dutifully churning out catchy, creative pop records every two years with an ever-changing cast of characters.

The 2006 film Idiocracy has become shorthand for the dumbing down of American culture. What are we really saying when we reference the movie?


Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Shakespeare’s romantic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream revolves around the mishaps of two mortal couples, as well as the king and queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania. An oft-quoted line provides a summary of the plot: "The course of true love never did run smooth."

The Kansas City Ballet's production, choreographed by Bruce Wells, tells the story of magic and mistaken identities — through movement and music. 

Here are five things to know about the production: 

1. There's a 30-year connection

An interview with the political correspondent at NPR. How did her conservative Christian background and growing up in KC help her connect with people on the campaign trail?

Plus, Question Quest looks into a mysterious octagon in Belton.


Kevin King

Can a play – even a short, ten-minute one-act – change the world we live in?

That question is part of the mission of Alphabet Soup: Stories From Queer Voices, a collection of new short plays assembled by playwright and producer Kevin King.

Each of the plays, by six different local authors, confronts different themes within the LGBTQ community, although King feels the production, playing for this weekend only, has a more universal appeal.

Courtesy Mudstomp Records

As a child prodigy on harmonica back in the 1990s, Brody Buster was once one of Kansas City’s most notable musical exports. He appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and on an episode of the sitcom “Full House.”

But Buster's fame was as fleeting as his youth. The disturbing 90-minute documentary "How Did This Happen" documents Buster’s decline from child star to relatively obscure bar band musician.

3 reasons we're listening to Brody Buster this week:

In the U.S., tensions between communities and police seem to be at an all-time high. As we witness trust deteriorating and fear escalating on a national level, what is being done locally — or not being done — to make that relationship between police officers and communities work?


Courtesy Lyal Strickland

Lyal Strickland

Lyal Strickland’s day job, raising grass-fed beef cattle on 900 acres or so just north of Springfield in Buffalo, Missouri, says as much about his authenticity as his rocky, heart-wrenching songs.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Update, October 6, 2016: This post has been updated to include a statement from the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City, whose spokeswoman was originally unavailable due to the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

Kansas City Public Library Executive Director R. Crosby Kemper III said off-duty police officers "over-reacted" when they arrested Steve Woolfolk, the library's director of public programming, along with community member Jeremy Rothe-Kushel during an event at the Plaza branch in May.

Tim Samoff / Flickr--CC

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has filed documents with the city of Kansas City, Missouri, to officially establish a new Master Plan District. The museum submitted an application on Friday to request rezoning some museum-owned properties from residential to non-residential. This would allow for additional uses, such as office space. 

A quest to find the pumpkin in pumpkin spice lattes, then KCUR's Food Critics search out the best hot beverages in and around KC.


scottgunn / Flickr - CC

You don’t have to spend any money to have a good time. OK, maybe a few bucks, because it’s a jungle out there and even the squirrels might want to charge you breadcrumbs to chase them. And they say the recession is over.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, patting the old wallet, which you can keep fatter than you might think while investigating free or frugal stuff this weekend, including yummy apples, cool comic books or an afternoon of family friendly team competitions for a good cause.

Eric Williams/Kansas City Symphony

This season, Kansas City Symphony audiences will discover a new assistant conductor leading the pops, family, and Screenland at the Symphony concerts: Jason Seber.

Seber relocated to Kansas City just a few months ago from Louisville, Kentucky, after three seasons as education and outreach director of the Louisville Orchestra and 11 years as music director of the Louisville Youth Orchestra. 

I recently talked with Seber about his background and expectations in Kansas City.