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

Image Courtesy of Starlight Theatre / Copyright Bob Compton Photography

At the end of May, more than 2,000 kids and their friends and parents headed to Starlight Theatre for the Blue Star Awards, Kansas City’s high school version of the Tony Awards. They got decked out in dramatic formal wear, walked down a red carpet and had their pictures taken, then performed bits of their shows and made acceptance speeches.

Courtesy of KC Bass Workshop

That low, rhythmic pulse you’ll hear in the next few days? That's Kansas City enjoying its time as center of the bass-playing universe.

The City of Kansas City, Missouri, has announced a new pilot program that will allow artists to apply for short-term micro-loans to grow their practices.

“Professional individual artists living or working in Kansas City, Missouri, who are actively pursuing work within an artistic discipline, building an artistic portfolio, and creating work with intentions to present to the public are eligible," city spokeswoman Jennifer Rusch said in an email, adding that the city would also survey artists to determine future business needs.

Kelly Magerkurth

The widely published and award-winning Eric McHenry, an associate professor of English at Washburn University in Topeka, was  named Kansas poet laureate this spring.

At the time of the announcement, we asked him for his advice to aspiring poets, and he told us three rules all poets should follow.

We also invited him to our studios to read. Here's one of those poems:

Courtesy Tina Garrett

A painter in Lee's Summit is preparing to ship one of her portraits to Barcelona, Spain, where it is a finalist in an international figure-painting competition. Tina Garrett is sending off the painting with a viewing party at her home on Saturday evening.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

Once a month, thousands of people head to the Crossroads Arts District for First Friday art openings.

But every other month, people who want to engage more deeply with the work of area artists can head to a small storefront gallery in the West Bottoms, just across the street from the Livestock Exchange Building, called Plug Projects.

That’s when the gallery has critique night, involving three artists who volunteer to have their work critiqued by guest moderators, other artists — and the public.

Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

The Missouri River's nickname, which evokes a wide current of mud, misses its aesthetic potential. Its most famous admirer may be the Missouri painter George Caleb Bingham.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

Tina Hacker writes poems based on real events from the Holocaust. Her full-length book of poems, Listening for Night Whistles, was released by Aldrich Press in 2014. Her chapbook, "Cutting It," was published in 2010 by The Lives You Touch Publications.

The Arts & Culture team at KCUR is now reviewing records by musicians and bands in the region. We believe more critical conversations can broaden and deepen our community's understanding of our area's musicians and their work.

Courtesy John Willison

John Willison started writing poetry a couple of years ago, after his cancer metastasized. His wife, Pauline, encouraged him to join a writing group at Turning Point, a center with programs for people with chronic and serious illness.

Kate Reeder

A song recorded in a hotel room at the Westin during this year’s Folk Alliance International Conference is now raising money for a cause, and the musicians who championed the project are back in Kansas City for a show this week.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

Topeka poet Annette Hope Billings has described herself as a shy child who found her voice through theater productions at Topeka High School – but she didn’t fully devote herself to expressing that voice until after a long career as a nurse. After nearly forty years in that field, Billings retired earlier this year to concentrate on writing full-time. In March, the Topeka Capital-Journal wrote a profile of Billings.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

Musicians in the Kansas City Symphony play a lot of places out in the community, but earlier this week they found themselves in one place they’d never been: Lansing Correctional Facility. For the first time, they played a concert for inmates.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Betse Ellis  has played the fiddle in Kansas City for a long time, with her old band the Wilders, as a solo act, now in her duo Betse & Clarke. She’s been on national TV. She’s toured the country.

“I’ve been a professional performing artist for 15-plus years, muddling through the best way I knew how from one year to the next,” Ellis says. “There are many things I get about the business of being an artist but there are so many things I really don’t know. I need help.”

Melinda Robinson

On Wednesday, Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann discussed a recent photography exhibit, I, Too, Am America. The photographers are part of the Langston Hughes Club, about 20 fast-food workers who, along with an organization called Stand Up KC, have been on strike for the last two years, pushing for an hourly wage of $15 and a union. Working with photojournalist Steve Herbert, they documented the world through their own eyes.

The guests were:

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.

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