Laura Spencer


Laura Spencer caught the radio bug more than a decade ago when she was asked to read a newscast on the air on her first day volunteering for KOOP, the community radio station in Austin, Texas. 

After moving home to Kansas City, she learned the fine art of editing reel-to-reel tape as an intern and graduate assistant with the nationally syndicated literary program New Letters on the Air. Since 2001, she's focused her efforts on writing and producing feature stories as KCUR's Arts Reporter. 

In 2011, Laura was one of 21 journalists selected for USC Annenberg’s seventh National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater. She's received awards from the Associated Press, Kansas City Art Institute (Excellence in Visual Art and Education), Kansas City Association of Black Journalists, Missouri Broadcasters Association, Radio-Television News Directors Association (regional Edward R. Murrow Award) and Society for Professional Journalists. 


Arts & Culture
9:42 am
Fri April 25, 2014

'Roads Of Arabia' Exhibition At The Nelson Reveals Layered Past

The first objects visitors will see are three illuminated stelae, including these.
Laura Spencer KCUR

Standing near the entrance of the new exhibition, Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday, Julián Zugazagoitia, director and CEO of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, called the more than 200 recently discovered artifacts a "revelation for humanity."

Two roads are explored: the incense trade routes, caravans transporting frankincense and myrrh from Arabia to Mesopotamia and the Greco-Roman world, as well as the network of roads for travelers on religious pilgrimages to Mecca.

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Arts & Culture
8:07 am
Thu April 24, 2014

New Nelson-Atkins Exhibit Brings Saudi Prince To Kansas City

Prince Sultan bin Salman visited Kansas City, Mo., this week for the opening of an exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Credit Courtesy: Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA)

There are more than 200 works in the traveling exhibition, Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from the fourth millennium B.C. to the 1930s.

The exhibit, now at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., features prehistoric tools and figures sculpted by early inhabitants, as well as ceramic vessels, jewelry, coins, tombstones and sculptures — ranging in size from small to monumental.

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Arts & Culture
7:40 am
Tue April 22, 2014

NEA Provides Funding For New Initiatives In Kansas And Missouri

Mid-America Arts Alliance, founded 40 years ago, is located in the Crossroads Arts District.
Credit Courtesy: M-AAA

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, 40 percent of their grant budget is dedicated to partnership agreements with state arts agencies and regional arts organizations – like the Mid-America Arts Alliance in Kansas City, Mo. The NEA recently announced a second round of grants for 2014.

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1:54 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Prosecutor Names Suspect In Kansas City Highway Shootings

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announces charges Friday against a 27-year-old suspect tied to recent highway shootings in Kansas City. The announcement took place at the Kansas City Emergency Operations Center.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced charges Friday against a man tied to recent highway shootings in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The afternoon announcement revealed Mohammed Whitaker, 27, of Grandview, Mo., faces 18 felony counts, including class A and class B felonies related to shooting into a vehicle.

The charges stem from a series of at least a dozen shootings on Kansas City area highways. Three people have been hurt as a result.

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7:14 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Blue Valley High Lost A 'Star In The Making'

Blue Valley High School was closed on Monday.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Blue Valley High School, at 159th and Nall in Stilwell, Kan., was closed earlier this week for a previously scheduled professional development day. Still, counseling support was available for staff and students in the wake of Sunday's shootings that killed three people, including a Blue Valley student and his grandfather.

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4:02 pm
Sun April 13, 2014

UPDATED: Victims, Suspect Identified In Overland Park Shootings

On Monday, police tape was still wrapped around a parking lot at Village Shalom in Overland Park, Kan. to keep visitors out of the crime scene.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Updated 10:47 a.m.:

Frazier Glenn Cross, the suspect in Sunday's shootings, is being held at the Johnson County Detention Center without bond. Kristi Bergeron, of the District Attorney's Office in Johnson County said he will not be arraigned Monday.

He will face both federal and state charges.

Updated 10:36 a.m.:

The Children's Center for the Visually Impaired released this statement:

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1:11 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

After 30-Year Career With The Kansas City Ballet, James Jordan Moves On

James Jordan (at left), as Van Helsing, in Michael Pink's 'Dracula.'
Julie Denesha KCUR

After nearly three decades with the Kansas City Ballet, Ballet Master James Jordan has accepted the same post with The Sarasota Ballet as of the 2014-2015 season.

Devon Carney, the Ballet's artistic director, said in a news release that Jordan's national reputation as a stager of Anthony Tudor ballets led to the Florida connection.

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Arts & Culture
5:58 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Folk Alliance International Names New Executive Director

Folk Alliance International's new executive director Aengus Finnan.
Credit courtesy: Folk Alliance International

Folk Alliance International announced its pick for a new executive director on Wednesday.

The board of directors selected Aengus Finnan, a musician, community leader and arts administrator. Finnan will replace Louis Meyers, a South by Southwest co-founder who's served as executive director since 2005.

The 3,000-member organization moved its headquarters from Memphis to Kansas City in August.

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Arts & Culture
12:37 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Portraits And Party Scenes From Kansas City's Drag Ball Culture Revealed

Private Birthday Party / Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America, UMKC

In the 1950s and 1960s, gay and lesbian clubs dotted the Kansas City metro area.

Bars, with names like The Ivanhoe Cabaret and The Terrace, "were widely viewed as having some of the finest entertainment around," according to the News-Telegraph in a 1992 article. But these drag balls, also called "tea parties" or "private birthday parties," were mostly underground events.

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Arts & Culture
3:00 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

ArtsKC Announces Move To Crossroads

ArtsKC-Regional Arts Council will be relocating this summer to the Crossroads Arts District, near a cluster of restaurants, shops and galleries, such as Hammerpress, Town Topic, and Kemper at the Crossroads.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

ArtsKC, the arts council for the Kansas City metro area, announced a move Monday from downtown to the Crossroads Arts District in Kansas City, Mo.

The new location, at the corner of Southwest Boulevard and Baltimore, places the 15-year-old organization squarely in the center of a thriving arts and cultural scene.

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Arts & Culture
8:05 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Take A Sneak Peek Of The New King Tut Exhibit At Union Station

"The Discovery of King Tut" displays a replica of Tutankhamun's golden mask. It's a representation of the king as everlasting, and not a portrait.
Laura Spencer KCUR

The Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, or King Tut, has been a subject of fascination ever since his tomb was discovered in 1922. The young king, who died at the age of 19, and his golden treasures have inspired films, fashion, music, travel and exhibitions. The Discovery of King Tut, has toured 20 cities since 2008, and it makes its first stop in North America at Union Station on Friday.

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Arts & Culture
7:38 am
Thu April 3, 2014

Development Of A Regional Cultural Plan Underway

Over the last decade, an estimated $1.57 billion has been invested in arts, cultural and entertainment infrastructure. This includes the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2011.
Credit courtesy: Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

Plans are in the works to create a regional cultural plan to establish a shared vision for the Kansas City metro.

In recent years, Kansas City has gained a national reputation as a "culturally rich metropolis." In the five-county metro area, including Kansas and Missouri, there are over 6,000 artists, writers and performers, 250 arts and cultural non-profits, and 360 for-profits. 

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Arts & Culture
9:38 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Teen Poets Compete In 'Louder Than A Bomb'

A semifinal competition in March at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Mo.
Credit courtesy: Louder Than A Bomb-KC

The spoken word competition called Louder Than A Bomb, named after the Public Enemy song, started in Chicago, Ill. in 2001. It's now considered one of the largest youth poetry festivals.

Cities across the country, including Kansas City, are launching their own Louder Than A Bomb programs.

A program bridging divides in Kansas City

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3:32 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

KU's Andrew Wiggins Goes Pro

KU men's basketball coach Bill Self and Andrew Wiggins at the Monday press conference.
Credit Courtesy: KU Athletics

University of Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins announced Monday he’s declaring for the NBA draft.

The 6' 8'' player was the top high school recruit in 2013 - and this season Wiggins scored 597 points, more than any freshman in KU's history, including a high of 29 points in one game.

The draft takes place in June – and Wiggins is expected to be a first-round draft selection, if not the first. He says that’s where he wants to be.

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8:54 am
Mon March 31, 2014

Tour Of Port Of Kansas City Shows Infrastructure Needs

The Port of Kansas City, at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, has been closed since 2007.
Laura Spencer KCUR

Rusted and weedy rail tracks; boarded up red-brick buildings, with broken windows, from the 1930s; and run-down gray buildings from the '60s and '70s were part of the tour on Friday afternoon of the Port of Kansas City.

The port has essentially been closed since 2007 due to dwindling processing of freight, only about 600,000 tons a year. The city’s Port Authority is leading a charge to re-open it and revive the barge industry.

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Arts & Culture
7:48 am
Fri March 28, 2014

The Kansas City Symphony Tests Out Google Glass

Kansas City Symphony's Elizabeth Gray, trying on Google Glass for the first time.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Google Glass has been in the news lately as more people are trying it out. This wearable technology is still in the beta version, but about 10,000 people are now testing it, including a Kansas City-based mobile development firm. And in January, they partnered with the Kansas City Symphony – to provide four  different views on stage.

Living with devices since the beginning of mobile

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Up to Date
4:26 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

School Boards: Helping Or Hurting Local Districts?

A new survey examines whether school boards are helping or hurting classroom learning.
Credit Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

When you think about schools, you picture classrooms, teachers and students. But where do school boards fit in?

On Thursday's Up to Date, we talk about the elected representatives of school districts, who can be a critical part of educational planning and the new survey that's questioning whether these leaders are helping or hurting the cause.


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Up to Date
11:59 am
Thu March 27, 2014

The Weekend To-Do List, March 28-30, 2014

'Run or Dye' is a version of the popular 'Color Run.'
Credit Neeroc1 / Flickr-CC

Ready to confront the weird weather with a bit of fun? Brian McTavish's Weekend To-Do List for March 28-30, 2014 has you covered.

Keiko Matsui (New age music), 8 p.m. Friday at the Jazz Museum's Gem Theater, 1615 E. 18th, Kansas City, Mo. Tickets: $47 

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Arts & Culture
4:02 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Five Artists Tapped For Charlotte Street Awards

One of Sean Starowitz's community-based projects is called 'FRESH BREAD.'
Matt Kleinmann Photography

On Monday, the Charlotte Street Foundation announced the 2014 visual and performing artist awards. A Charlotte Street award is always a welcome surprise to artists - in part, because it provides $10,000 in unrestricted cash.

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Visual Arts
7:43 am
Thu March 20, 2014

The Nelson-Atkins' Art Conservator On What It's Like To Restore An El Greco

Scott Heffley, senior conservator of paintings at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, furrows his brow between brush strokes.
Julie Denesha KCUR

Imagine spending a year – or more – restoring an artwork, trying to bring back the touch, or the brushstroke, of a master. That’s what Scott Heffley, senior conservator of paintings at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, has been doing with an El Greco painting (ca. 1580-1585) called The Penitent Magdalene

Art and science do mix

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2:19 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Stowers Institute And American Century Investments Founder Jim Stowers Dies At 90

Philanthropist and financial innovator Jim Stowers, Jr.
Credit Courtesy: Stowers Institute for Medical Research

James "Jim" Stowers, Jr., the founder of American Century Investments and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, died Monday of natural causes according to a joint release from both institutions. He was 90.

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Food & Drink
8:25 am
Tue March 18, 2014

Kansas City James Beard Award Candidates Eliminated In Semifinals

Update at 10:47 am: The three Kansas City semifinalists for the James Beard award did not make the final cut. Finalists were announced Tuesday.

The original post appears below:

The James Beard awards have been described as the "Oscars of the food world." Named for the cookbook author and teacher, they're considered the highest honor for chefs, restaurants, and other food professionals in the United States.

Finalists will be announced Tuesday.

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Arts & Culture
5:00 am
Tue March 18, 2014

Maria The Mexican, Influenced By Mariachi Roots

Maria Cuevas (at left) and her sister, Teresa (Tess) Cuevas, started Maria the Mexican in 2011, along with guitarist Garrett Nordstrom.
Credit courtesy Maria the Mexican

The band Maria the Mexican describes its sound as Americana soul and Mexicana groove. Sisters Maria and Tess Cuevas got their start in Mariachi Estrella, an all-female mariachi band founded by their grandmother, the late Teresa Cuevas. In 2011, they branched out to form Maria the Mexican, with guitarist Garrett Nordstrom.

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Up to Date
12:44 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

'The Elders' Bring Celtic Flair Back To Kansas City

Brent Hoad (left) and Steve Phillips of The Elders perform during Thursday's Up to Date.
Credit Beth Lipoff / KCUR

The Kansas City-based band, The Elders, with their blend of American roots rock and Celtic folk, have performed together since 1998. This year marks their 12th annual Hoolie, a celebration of Irish culture through music and dance.

On Thursday's Up to Date, some of the band members talked about the March 15 event with host Steve Kraske.

"Mostly, it’s just the joy of playing. We all love to play. That’s why we’re still doing it in our mid-50s,” said Brent Hoad, who plays keyboards, as well as fiddle, guitar, mandolin.

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Arts & Culture
10:51 am
Thu March 13, 2014

An Engaging Sculpture Taking Shape At The Nelson-Atkins

The site of the sculpture 'Glass Labyrinth,' in 2013. The work will be mounted on a concrete slab.
Josh Ferdinand Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

If you’ve walked or driven by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art recently you’ve probably noticed a flurry of activity on the southeast corner of the grassy lawn. Work is underway to ready the site for the installation of a new sculpture, Glass Labyrinth, a triangular-shaped, glass-walled labyrinth designed by artist Robert Morris, a native of Kansas City, Mo.

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Central Standard
4:01 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Police Training On How To Respond To Mental Health Situations

Police officers often respond to situations that involve people suffering from mental health problems.

Since they are called first for help, there is a growing effort to train the officers in how to handle the situations.

On today's Central Standard, we discuss how police training is changing in order to accommodate mental health crisis response techniques.


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Central Standard
4:00 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

StartupBus: An Innovative Entrepreneur Competition

Credit John Fischer / Creative Commons

Picture this: a group of "buspreneurs" convene on a bus equipped with laptops and just three days to create a startup company. That is what happened when the area's best hackers, hustlers and hipsters got on the Midwest StartupBus. They also made stops in Nashville, Tenn., and Fort Smith, Ark., along the way.

KCPT's Caitlin Cress went along for the ride, which began right here in Kansas City on March 2.


  • Caitlin Cress, reporter at the Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT
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Arts & Culture
7:08 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Remembering Jazz Advocate Ginny Coleman

Ginny Coleman (left) with then business manager at KCUR, D.J. Harris.
Credit Buddy Anderson Collection, LaBudde Special Collections / Miller Nichols Library

Virginia "Ginny" Coleman, the co-host of Just Jazz on KCUR, died on Thursday, March 6. She was 91. 

Just Jazz was a staple of KCUR's lineup for 23 years, most recently on Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m. The final broadcast was in October 2005.

Playing the music they loved

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Arts & Culture
5:32 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Classical Music Superstar Joshua Bell Returns To KC

Joshua Bell at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, Mo.
Beth Buchanan Kansas City Symphony

Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell spends 250 days a year on the road, performing with orchestras around the world. This weekend, Bell returns to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts as a featured soloist for the Kansas City Symphony

A child prodigy who first started taking violin lessons at the age of 4, Bell debuted at Carnegie Hall at the age of 17. Since that time, he's performed with many of the world's major orchestras and conductors with his expressive and physical style.

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Arts & Culture
10:56 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Charlotte Street's Kate Hackman To Explore New Opportunities

Artistic director Kate Hackman is leaving the Charlotte Street Foundation.
Credit Sabrina Staires / Courtesy of Charlotte Street Foundation

After more than a decade with the Charlotte Street Foundation, artistic director Kate Hackman is leaving the organization.

According to a release Wednesday, after her final day on June 30, Hackman will "explore new opportunities after a period of rest and travel."

"I'm proud of the work we've done over the past decade, and the time seems right for me to move on," Hackman said in the release.

Hackman grew up in Virginia and New York, and earned a B.A. in Art History from Williams College.

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