C.J. Janovy

Arts Reporter

C.J. arrived at KCUR in August 2014. She spent many years as an alt-weekly journalist in Kansas City, including a decade as editor of The Pitch, whose writers won local, regional and national awards and were published in several Best American writing anthologies.

She then spent a few years in academia, serving as director of communications at the University of Kansas Medical Center, where reporters frequently gave her a taste of her own medicine.

A native of Nebraska, C.J. majored in English at the University of California, Berkeley and earned a master’s degree in creative writing from Boston University.

Ways To Connect

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Kelly Cannon fell in love with writing in third grade, after she won a poetry competition. This poem, "Chiaroscuro," was inspired by a painting of a man sitting on a bed looking out a window. It reminded her of taking naps when she was a child.

ArtsKC

Asserting that there's a “vital missing ingredient” in Kansas City's current arts renaissance, ArtsKC on Friday rolled out a five-county, two-state plan its leaders hope will fill that gap by providing “a shared vision for coordinated cultural development of the region.”

The sixty-page OneArtsKC Regional Cultural Plan comes after 18 months of town hall meetings, surveys, and other fact-finding efforts to assess arts needs in communities throughout the metro. ArtsKC leaders say more than 1,800 people participated, including private citizens as well as representatives from arts and cultural organizations and local governments.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

There aren’t many places in town where an exceptionally talented high school musician can play a concert next to a professional. But that’s what the Midwest Chamber Ensemble has been doing for three years now.

Many of the ensemble's 35 musicians are students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, but others from all over the community — many quite young.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

In Salina, along the railroad tracks, in the shadow of grain elevators, next to a gravel lot filled with industrial propane tanks, is the headquarters of Acoustic Sounds.

It’s run by Chad Kassem. He’s originally from Louisiana.

“Back in the mid-’70s every teenage boy had a stereo, or most of the boys in my neighborhood had a stereo, and maybe a hundred albums,” Kassem says. “So I wasn’t any more of a collector than most of my friends.”

By the time he was 21, though, Kassem’s drinking and drug abuse was causing him trouble with the law.

“I came to Kansas to get sober in 1984. That’s where the judge picked.”

As we know, Kansas has alcohol, but in general, there were fewer distractions for a man who needed to dry out.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Norma Cantu is a professor of Latina/Latino Studies and English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. One of her projects is a collection she's working on called "Elemental Odes.”

"It's a play on Pablo Neruda's collection of Odas Elementales. I took it more literally," she says. "I'm taking the periodic table of the elements, and writing poems for each element."  Here are three of those.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

Graduating seniors — more than a hundred of them — from the Kansas City Art Institute have crammed every usable floor, wall, hallway and corner of the H&R Block Artspace for the 2015 Annual B.F.A. Exhibition. Their work radiates the exuberance of accomplishment, the energy of youth about to break free into the world beyond school.

C.J. Janovy

Kansas City author Christine Taylor-Butler is an advocate for more diversity in children’s and young adult literature. She has written more than 70 books, most of them for Scholastic, the massive publisher of books and educational materials for kids. Taylor-Butler spoke with me about her newest book,  The Lost Tribes, and how she quit her management job to be a full-time writer.

KU Libraries Exhibits / University of Kansas

As a teenager, Laird Wilcox was fascinated by extremists, radicals and fringe movements, regardless of their views and objectives. He started collecting materials and attending political events, collecting leaflets, fliers, and newsletters from as many causes as he could.

Mid-America's vast prairies have inspired countless artists. But in a place so wide open, there's always the danger of a person's voice getting blown away by the wind. Perhaps that's one reason 'Lost Writers of the Plains,' a new multimedia literary project, captured the imagination of Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin.

Jake Jacobson

Louis Meyers has heard a lot of music.

He's a banjo player. He’s also one of the co-founders of Austin’s South By Southwest music, film and tech festival, and he spent ten years as director of Folk Alliance International – he was the one responsible for moving the organization and its annual conference to Kansas City. But there’s one record he’s heard only in his imagination: a bluegrass version of The Who's classic rock opera "Tommy."

Kelly Magerkurth

Kansas has a new poet laureate. The responsibility has fallen to the widely published and award-winning Eric McHenry, an associate professor of English at Washburn University in Topeka.

Poets laureate earn the honor after a rigorous application process involving a selection panel of their literary peers. When we asked McHenry why he wanted to be poet laureate, he expressed his feelings in the language of the common man:

“It sounds really cool.”

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Denise Low was the second poet laureate of Kansas. She’s published 25 books of poetry and prose. She is co-publisher of Mammoth Publications, an independent small literary press specializing in Indigenous and Mid-Plains poetry and prose.

Her poems are rich with images of the prairie landscape, its people and history.

University of California Press

KU professors wrote a lot of books about arts and culture last year.

They wrote about painters Georgia O'Keeffe and Albert Bloch, about composer Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked), film legends Douglas Fairbanks and Peter Weir. They wrote books of short stories and poetry. They wrote about heavier topics such as aging among minorities, transgender rights, African literature and environmental justice. One wrote a historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet foreign policy.

In all, faculty in the arts, humanities and social sciences wrote 32 books in 2014. On Tuesday afternoon, the Hall Center for the Humanities recognized them at its Annual Celebration of Books.

“We are a research university,” Hall Center Director Victor Bailey emphasized.

Bailey said he wished all of the faculty members whose books were for sale at the back of the room could speak, but instead he introduced three who would give short presentations, as if proxies for their research peers.

Courtesy Paul Richardson

At the Gem Theater on Saturday night, the Louder Than A Bomb competition brought the top four spoken-word poetry teams from metro high schools up against one another for the last time this school year.

On Monday, after a win from the returning champs at Paseo High School, Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann spoke with Paul Richardson, a soon-to-be-former English teacher from Washington High School who is responsible for bringing Louder Than A Bomb to Kansas City. They talked about the culture of spoken-word competitions and explored why Richardson is leaving his position as a high school educator.

Below is a shortened and edited version of their conversation.

But first, here’s Saturday night’s winner: Alton Herron.

Courtesy Johnson County Library

Johnson County might not have a reputation as a hot spot for cultivating young poets. But that’s exactly what’s been happening for more than a decade now, thanks to some librarians.

Earlier this month, the Johnson County Library published the latest edition of Elementia, a gorgeous glossy magazine with original artwork and poetry by nearly 60 middle and high school students.

Courtesy Black House Collective

Five Kansas City artists will receive $10,000 in unrestricted cash as this year's winners of the Charlotte Street Awards. The awards went to three visual artists and two generative performing artists.

The Charlotte Street Foundation has been giving cash to selected artists for more than 15 years — the visual artist awards began in 1997; the foundation added awards for performing artists in 2008. In total, Charlotte Street has now awarded $700,500 to Kansas City artists, recognizing their accomplishments and encouraging their continued development and achievement.

Kathy Disney

Members of Kansas City's arts, LGBT and non-profit organizations are in deep mourning over the death of Stephen Metzler, widely described as "a pillar of the community" who suffered a stroke and died Tuesday at St. Luke's Hospital. He was 66. 

Don Ipock / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Angels in America is Tony Kushner’s two-part epic now playing at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Set in New York in the 1980s, it’s a commentary on AIDS, religion, politics, and love in the Reagan era.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Anne Kniggendorf is a freelance writer from Shawnee, Kan. When she was 24, Kniggendorf was working on her master’s degree in linguistics. With hopes of attending the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Cal., she enlisted in the Navy.

"Enlisting was a strange move for me, one my family and friends were horrified about," she says. "I promised myself that one day I would write the story of boot camp for all those who have never been through it on their own."

There’s a storytelling renaissance going on, and Kansas City’s about to be at the heart of it.

To understand what's happening, the first thing you need to know is this: There is such a thing as an official storyteller. We’re not talking about your average barstool raconteur. We’re talking about people who hone a craft. Who practice an art. Who carefully structure their yarns with slow reveals and escalating tension, all in an effort to convey deep meaning. For many of these people, it's a career.

Catherine Browder is an associate in the Creative Writing program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a member of the Dramatist Guild of America, whose one-act and full-length plays have been produced regionally and in New York City. She is the author of three fiction collections.

Lomax Collection / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

When the Folk Alliance International moved its headquarters to Kansas City and held its annual conference in town last year, quite a few area musicians discovered that they qualified as folk musicians.

Jeff Evrard

As the second Folk Alliance International conference kicks off in Kansas City this week, Central Standard explored the question: “What is folk music today?” Listening to some examples with host Gina Kaufmann were three guests:

C.J. Janovy

Janet Banks has published two books of poetry, Stewed Soul and On the Edge of Urban, and is working on a third. She’s been a featured poet at New York City's Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village, as well as at venues around Kansas City.

For our series WORD, she read two poems. Here's “My Neo Soul Addiction”:

C.J. Janovy

The Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City is like an art museum unto itself, with its famous murals by Thomas Hart Benton and dramatic bronze statues everywhere. But when it comes to public funding for the arts, that’s at the bottom of lawmakers’ priority list.

On Wednesday, more than a hundred arts advocates from all over the state went to Jefferson City to try to change that. Here's a run-down of how it went.

The Day

Courtesy Discovery Life Channel

Kansas City is about to be the setting for a new reality TV show – but it’s not about barbecue, fountains or jazz. The show, called New Girls On the Block, follows a group of transgender women. Shot in 50 locations around town at the end of last year, it debuts on the new Discovery Life Channel on April 2.

Discovery Life says New Girls on the Block is the first reality TV series about a group of friends in the transgender community. It focuses on four couples, all of them from Kansas City.

Courtesy Linda Lighton

Linda Lighton makes ceramic sculptures revealing how closely lipsticks resemble bullets. And her white clay flowers bloom not with pistils but with pistols.

Sonie Joi Thompson-Ruffin’s mixed-media fabric print depicts a man-sized black leaf hanging lifelessly from a tree bereft of other leaves, against a blood-red background of squares evoking urban apartments.

Rain Harris makes flowers, some out of silk – but some out of ominous black clay, lending a sense of doom to the idea of traditional floral arrangements.

On Wednesday, NPR released a "Field Recording" of internationally renowned opera star and Kansas City native Joyce DiDonato at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.

The riots that took place at the bar in 1969 are widely credited with launching the modern gay rights movement in the U.S. 

Here is DiDonato's video, and below is a link to the full NPR story explaining why she made it.

Collection of the Kansas City Art Institute

In the middle of the last century, where Jesse Howard lived in Fulton, Mo., it wasn’t unusual to see hand-painted signs on country roads advertising a traveling fair or a farm sale.

Jesse Howard’s signs offered Bible verses. They proclaimed his anger at his neighbors and the government, his disappointments with the world around him. His canvas was most often a wooden plank or some scrap metal salvaged from dilapidated outbuildings, or any piece of farm equipment with a flat surface big enough to whitewash with house paint and cover with carefully lettered, all-caps screeds.

courtesy of the artist

Gabriela Lemmons is a co-founder and former president of the Latino Writers Collective.

We recorded at Blue Monday, the monthly open-mic poetry night at the Uptown Arts Bar, on a night when Lemmons was the featured reader.

She says her poetry is based on her life. "Whatever I'm reading, I actually experienced," she says.

For our series WORD, we selected Lemmons' poem "Stanley Calls Collect."

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