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. 

Esther Honig / KCUR 89.3

It’s better to give than to receive, without a doubt. But it takes cooperation. There’s no way for any giving to happen without someone receiving on the other end. So here’s this weekend’s big ask: Take the free or almost free things offered to you. That might be a simple pat on the back or a warm hug, as well as more formal experiences that come with little or no money changing hands. Free advice: If anyone wants cash for a kiss, don't do it! Just give them money, if you can, because they...

Régine Debatty / Flickr -- CC

Even though he was born in the United States, artist Roger Shimomura still gets asked where he’s from. Or he’s told that he speaks English really well. “The presumption is that if you’re Asian, you must be foreign to this country,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard . Shimomura, a Lawrence-based artist, has explored the issues of ethnic identity during his long career. He has paintings and prints in more than 90 museums nationwide, including the Metropolitan...

Courtesy Berwanger

Berwanger
Exorcism Rock
The cover of Berwanger’s new one, Exorcism Rock , brazenly claims brand new territory for the band, and for Josh Berwanger, the songwriter. The title hints at something playfully sinister, shades of The Cramps or Rob Zombie — maybe even a splash of Swedish death metal. But the cover illustration, a gender-switched, contorted (and nude) agonized-Hamlet moment, complete with a contemplated Yorick skull, suggests more subtle ...

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The new Grand Boulevard Bridge over I-670 in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, re-opened on Friday morning. Structural issues, such as falling chunks of concrete and cracks, led to an emergency bridge closure in May. The Missouri Department of Transportation decided the aging bridge should be torn down and replaced. Brian Kidwell, assistant district engineer for MODOT, says projects like this can take years, but a city-state partnership expedited it. "So just in a few months, we went from...

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

When musician Amado Espinoza and theater artist Karen Lisondra moved to Kansas City from Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2014, Espinoza noticed that many people here were disconnected from their own roots, from each other and from the earth. He'd come from a place where indigenous culture is present in everyday life. As they looked to develop a creative network and collaborate with other artists, Espinoza and Lisondra also started thinking of a project that would bring different people with...

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

It’s December and there’s no turning back: The holiday season is upon us – or if you’d prefer a friendlier image, it’s sharing space with us. And there are plenty of related festivities to go around, too, including community friendly tuba carols, the balletic exploits of the Sugar Plum Fairy and heavy metal tidings of comfort and joy. Tis the season for sharing the merry, however you and yours decide to go about it. 1. TubaChristmas 2016 Have yourself a merry little “oompah” at this...

James Hugo Rifenbark

Kyle Powell died in my arms, November 4, 2006. That's the first line of Gerardo "Tony" Mena's poem "So I Was a Coffin," which he set to music, added photographs from other members of the United States Marine Corps' 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, and posted on YouTube. Mena wasn't always a poet. Growing up in Kansas City, he didn't even like writing. He graduated from Parkville High School in 2001 and was at college on 9/11; he finished that year of school and went into the military,...

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Council approved $7 million in funding in July for the historic 18th and Vine jazz district to stabilize historic buildings and acquire properties not under city control. The Council’s finance committee met on Wednesday and approved $44,000 in additional funding.

Courtesy The Show Globes / Facebook

The Snow Globes is a Kansas City trio of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Lindsey Jones, guitarist/vocalist Barclay Martin and bassist Rick Willoughby. They specialize in performing traditional Christmas carols and original songs about the holiday season. 3 reasons we're listening to the Snow Globes this week: 1. The trio’s gentle folk-pop might sound insufferably precious and exasperatingly twee in July, but its approach matches the sentiment of the holiday season. 2. ...

Courtesy Amy Meya

Once again, the traditional art-opening weekend meets the traditional gift-giving season at the following shows and sales, which involve multiple Kansas City artists. Belger Crane Yard Studios Open House & Holiday Sale
2011 Tracy Ave., Kansas City, Missouri
More than 30 artists sell handcrafted pottery, jewelry, sculpture and ornaments as part of the Kansas City Clay Guild’s Annual Pottery Tour. Friday, December 2, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and Saturday, December 3, 10...

Courtesy Erik Voeks

Erik Voeks
So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away (Hanky Panky Records)
Until now, singer-songwriter Erik Voeks had one album to his name: Sandbox , released in 1993 on Rockville Records, the label that released the first three Uncle Tupelo albums. A pervasively melodic collection of power-pop that holds up well today, Sandbox was long treated as a lost masterpiece by music fans in the know. It disappeared a few years after its release (until...

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Winston Churchill sure didn’t make it easy to become a seminal figure in world history. Before becoming Great Britain’s prime minister and leading his empire through World War II, Churchill was an extremely ambitious youngster who saw military glory as a pathway to political power. But this type of thinking almost got him killed in the Second Boer War, a late 1890s military conflict in what’s now South Africa. After writing two successful books on Theodore Roosevelt and James Garfield ,...

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Now that Turkey Day’s out of the way – except for the leftovers – here’s your chance to shake off any lingering tryptophan-induced lethargy and take advantage of the long weekend’s entertainment choices. That could mean being serenaded by a retiring country music legend, having the kids get their faux Victorian picture taken with a treasured toy or just screaming your happy head off at a body-slamming wrestling throw-down. It could also mean that while you’re out there having a great time,...

For two years now, Chris Hazelton’s septet Boogaloo7 has performed every Friday at the Green Lady Lounge. This Friday, they release a record documenting the sound of that residency. 3 reasons we're listening to Chris Hazelton's Boogalo 7 this week: 1. Hazelton, 31, a soul-jazz organist based in Kansas City, was mentored by the elder statesman Everette DeVan. 2. The Boogaloo 7 consists of Chris Hazelton (Hammond B-3 organ), Nick Howell (trumpet), Nick Rowland (alto and tenor...

Courtesy David Muhammad

In room 309 at Shawnee Mission East High School, social studies teacher David Muhammad and his students tackle some of humanity's most difficult subjects — on a recent Tuesday afternoon, for example, his international relations class was studying the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. After class, he's also known for encouraging respectful debates about topics confronting America — a video of one of those debates about the Confederate flag last year has close to 50,000 views on...

Clint Ashlock

Chris Hazelton ’s Boogaloo 7
Soul Jazz Fridays (Sunflower Soul Records)
“Hip Shaker,” the rapturously funky opening salvo of Soul Jazz Fridays , is an alluring welcome to a boisterous party. It’s a sound familiar to anyone who has stepped inside the Green Lady Lounge on a Friday evening in the past two years, one jubilantly captured on the new live album by Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7. While Soul Jazz Fridays is an electrifying jolt of...

courtesy twitter user Colt Snapp ‏@Colt_Snapp

A massive fire was reported Monday morning at the Pioneer Building in downtown St. Joseph, Missouri. Shortly after 10 a.m, large plumes of smoke and flames were sighted outside the historic building at 510 Francis Street. The St. Joseph Post reports that about 60 firefighters and 15 fire trucks were called to the scene. According to the St. Joseph News-Press : "Smoke and flames could be seen coming from the top of the building." Structure fire in downtown St. Joseph was so large it was...

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

Actor and Late Night Theatre director Ron Megee says he isn't out to change the world. His troupe, where men often play women and vice versa, performs campy spoofs on popular television shows and movies. And camp , he says, "is a frame of mind." "We're putting something up on stage and twisting it to the point of humor," Megee says. Take, for example, the time he played Lily Tomlin's character from the 1980 movie Nine to Five , where Tomlin is a disgruntled, world-weary...

Courtesy Tom Poe/Facebook

“If you’re going to sin,” the former Methodist minister Tom Poe once told me, “sin boldly.” He was using the words of theologian Martin Luther to justify some sort of subversiveness (I can't remember what we were up to) but I’ll forever quote Poe on that one. Poe, an intellectual center of Kansas City's film community, a beloved associate professor of Film and Media Arts in the Department of Communications Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a pillar of Trinity United Methodist...

Courtesy 123 Andres

A graduate of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance has won a Latin Grammy. Andrés Salguero , who performs as 123 Andrés, won in the Best Latin Children’s Album Category for his record Arriba Abajo at the award ceremony Thursday in Las Vegas. His 2015 album, ¡Uno, Dos, Tres Andrés en español y en inglés! , was nominated in the same category. Salguero, a native of Bogotá, Colombia, who now lives in Washington, D.C., graduated from the Conservatory in 2011 with a Doctor...

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation.

When Dave Heath died in June at the age of 85, The New York Times described him as a "photographer of isolation." The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has the largest institutional holding of Heath's work in the United States, and the museum's new exhibition Multitude, Solitude:...

Courtesy Ron Anderson

Ron Anderson is a 58-year-old photographer who has just wrapped up his thesis project. And though he’s been a professional photographer or photography instructor for about 35 years, he still feels the weight of this final assignment. “Assuming that my thesis exhibition went well," he says, "I should graduate with a 4.0." It was his position at Lenexa’s Art Institutes International, where he's taught for about seven years, that spurred him to earn a master’s in photography; full-time faculty...

Courtesy of Craig Jones

Where do you get your hard-shell taco? You know, the kind that's filled with seasoned ground beef, shredded lettuce and cheese and a soupy red sauce? Well, for some Kansas Citians, it depends on where you grew up. According to Craig Jones, In-A-Tub is a Northland tradition. "For a lot of people that grew up north of the river, that was their first foray into Mexican food," he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard . Jones, a contributor to The Kansas City Star ...

Andrea Canter

Karrin Allyson is one of the most notable jazz musicians to emerge from Kansas City in recent decades. She returns to her former stomping grounds for a benefit concert at the Folly Theater on Friday. 3 reasons we're listening to Karrin Allyson this week: 1. Allyson was born in Great Bend, Kansas, and honed her chops in Kansas City clubs before moving to New York. 2. Allyson may perform selections from Yuletide Hideaway , her excellent 2013 seasonal album, on Friday...

Paul Andrews

Adam Lee
Sincerely, Me
From the instant Adam Lee’s voice sneaks up through a happy Ben Folds-style piano vamp and sultry, jazzy horns on “Son of a Gun,” it’s clear his move to Chicago made some changes. Lee’s rockabilly hairstyle and unmistakably country voice are definitely still there, but Sincerely, Me is a new type of record. Lee was a fixture in Kansas City for years, and really, he still is — he held his CD release party at Davey’s Uptown,...

flickr user Scott Unrein

The Saint Louis Chamber Chorus , celebrating its 61st season, performs about six concerts a year in St. Louis, Missouri. This Saturday, the choral group sings on the other side of the state at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown Kansas City. Artistic director Philip Barnes, a native of Great Britain, has been at the helm since 1989. "I think that what we have tried to do in the last few decades is move particularly toward the a cappella repertoire, carving that niche for us," Barnes...

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Making plans for what happens to your possessions when you die can be tough for anyone. But for artists – it’s not just about stuff, it’s about a lifetime of artistic creation. And … what happens to it when they die? Colette and Jeff Bangert were early innovators in computer-based art, starting in the 1960s. Their "algorithmic" drawings have an international following, and they're in collections of museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England, and the Spencer Museum of...

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Long before Tracy K. Smith was a poet, she was a young girl fascinated by the stars. That fascination was part of what inspired her book Life on Mars , which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012. Smith is in Kansas City for an event to benefit Writers for Readers , a partnership between LiteracyKC and the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Creative Writing Program . She also paid a visit to Kansas City back in 2012, to read for Rockhurst University’s Midwest Poets Series . New Letters on...

Courtesy Calvin Arsenia

Calvin Arsenia , an arty singer-songwriter and harpist, has been a panelist on Up to Date's " Best Kansas City Music of 2015 " and " Best Kansas City Music of 2016 ... So Far " shows. This week, however, Arsenia releases his own record. 3 reasons we're listening to Calvin Arsenia this week: 1. Arsenia sings and plays harp, banjo, guitar, ukulele and keyboards on Catastrophe , which also features contributions from prominent area musicians including violinist Coleen...

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Mac Lethal
Congratulations
Over the last decade and a half, the Kansas City rapper Mac Lethal has become a personality locally and beyond. He has a huge YouTube presence . He’s published a novel based on his Tumblr . He’s performed on "Ellen." He hosts an MTV show where he asks trivia questions to drunk people (" Binge Thinking ," described in the opening credits as “the best pub crawl game show on TV”).

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