CJ 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.

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."

Earlier this month, KCUR launched WORD, a new series of on-air readings by area poets, essayists and short-story writers.

Phil Peterson

A couple of years ago, an organization called Folk Alliance International moved its headquarters from Memphis to Kansas City. Then, last February, 3,000 musicians from around the world came to town for the Folk Alliance’s annual music conference.

Kansas City has good musicians. It’s a solid music community. But when all of those other musicians took over the Westin Crown Center, it was a shock to the system.

Courtesy David Wayne Reed

Theatergoers anticipating Help Yourself, the new show by Kansas City playwright and actor David Wayne Reed, got some insights into Reed’s inspiration on Wednesday’s Central Standard.

Courtesy / Lacey Schwartz, Truth Aid Media

“White people will think anything,” says a guy named Matt in Lacey Schwartz’s documentary, Little White Lie.

Courtesy of Phil 'Sike Style' Shafer

In a departure from the predictable journalistic exercise of looking back on the year that’s about to end, we decided to ask various people in Kansas City’s turbocharged arts community what they’d like to see happen, artistically or otherwise, in the metro in 2015. In their responses, themes emerged – as did random cool ideas.

Here, in no particular order, are 15 things local culture makers wish Kansas City would do in 2015:

Wikimedia Commons

Freedom has prevailed, according to Kansas City movie theaters that said they’ll be screening The Interview starting on Christmas Day.

Missouri Valley Special Collections / Kansas City Public Library

“Certain challenges arise when doing burlesque history research on a work computer,” says Eli Paul, the special collections manager at the Kansas City Public Library.

Courtesy Jim Mair

This week, the musicians in the Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz Ensemble travel to Cuba, where they’ve been invited to perform at the Havana International Jazz Festival. It’s a point of pride for a little-known, but stellar music program.

Ayah Abdul-Rauf / Kansas City Art Institute

Film and animation students at the Kansas City Art Institute get some big-screen time – and a chance to see how their work goes over with a live audience – at their end-of-semester show on Wednesday at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in downtown Kansas City, Mo.

Eric Williams / Kansas City Symphony

It’s not often that tuba players get to be the ones on melody.

That changes once a year, though, when the Kansas City Symphony puts on Tuba Christmas, where hundreds of tuba players from all around the metro gather to play traditional holiday songs. Because of popular demand, there are now two Tuba Christmases.

The KCUR Arts team asked for submissions on December 5, 2014. Since then we’ve received more than 200 poems, essays, and short stories to consider. From those, we’ve already selected the first few months of Word episodes.

But we still have a lot of submissions to read, and because we want to give all of them a thoughtful review, we’re hitting “Pause” and closing submissions for now. More information is here.

Thank you for your interest in WORD.

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