Laura Spencer

Arts Reporter

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. 

Ways to Connect

courtesy of the artists; photo of Daniel Coburn by Bruce Wagman

Applicants are warned, as Inside Philanthropy puts it: "Don't even think about attempting to apply for this fellowship unless you are at the absolute top of your game."

courtesy Todd Rosenberg Photography

If you're not standing after a live performance of classical music, theater, or musical theater in Kansas City, you might be sitting alone. 

Standing ovations are standard practice these days, and that was the topic of discussion on Thursday's Central Standard.

So when it comes to a standing ovation, why do we stand up? And when does a production deserve it?

courtesy of the artist

Poet Nikki Giovanni's career spans five decades. A writer, activist and teacher, she's published more than 30 books of poetry and non-fiction as well as children's literature. 

"As a creative writer, I think, there are things you have to let go," Giovanni told New Letters on the Air host Angela Elam in a 2015 interview.

"I guess it's like anything else you do — you do it and you let it go. You do it and you let it go."

courtesy KCATA

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) describes the Metro Area Express, or MAX, as "light rail on rubber tires." The city's bus rapid transit launched in 2005, and serves residential and commercial corridors along Main Street and Troost Avenue.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

On Thursday, the Kansas City Council approved a $1.59 billion budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The new budget takes effect on May 1. 

Rep. Kevin Yoder Twitter

Updated 2:41 p.m. 

The vote on the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will not take place on Thursday. The AP reports that House GOP leaders have delayed the vote. According to NPR, "it could get a vote Friday, but the path forward is uncertain." 

Congressman Kevin Yoder still appears to be undecided. 

courtesy B Trump Photography

For more than three decades, musician Bob Reeder has played weekly gigs — singing Irish folk songs and bawdy limericks — in an underground pub in Weston, Missouri. O'Malley's is roughly 50 feet underneath the ground in a limestone brewery cellar built in 1842. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The new Bloch Galleries at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art showcase European art from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. This includes masterpieces of Impressionism and post-Impressionism collected by Marion and Henry Bloch — artists such as Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh.

But visitors to the galleries might also be dazzled by some of the technological upgrades from sound to lighting. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

New trash trucks decked out with the downtown skyline or sports team logos, will soon be roaming the streets of Kansas City, Missouri.

The four trash trucks are wrapped in four different themes — Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, and a view of downtown Kansas City landmarks.

courtesy Truck Center of America

Philanthropist, trucking industry magnate, and art collector Jerry Nerman died Tuesday morning at the age of 97 after a bout with pneumonia. As his son Lewis Nerman wrote in an email, his was "a life so well lived." 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

On Sunday, shortly before 11 a.m., British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg declared he was "itching to do a gig." It was day five of the Folk Alliance International Conference, and, as of that morning, Bragg had yet to play. 

UMKC

Peter Witte, dean of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance since 2008, will soon be leaving Kansas City for Stockton, California. The University of the Pacific announced on Wednesday that Witte had accepted the job as dean of their Conservatory of Music. 

This news comes at a critical time for the UMKC downtown arts campus at the corner of 17th and Broadway, just south of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

When Folk Alliance International decided last spring on "a clenched fist of resistance against the struggle," as executive director Aengus Finnan described the poster art for its 2017 conference, organizers couldn't have predicted how relevant the theme Forbidden Folk, "celebrating activism in art," would resonate almost a year later. 

courtesy of Kansas City Art Institute

Many college students experience living in a dorm, especially their freshman year. But residence halls built decades ago aren't always able to meet the needs of today's digital-native students. 

On Thursday, the Kansas City Art Institute announced a $10 million gift from an anonymous donor via the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The donation will allow the four-year college of art and design to build a new residence hall. 

Julie Denesha and Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Updated 3:30 p.m.  

"While the flames were dramatic, the fire damage could have been worse," stated City Manager Troy Schulte in a news release. "The redevelopment plan will move forward on schedule."

City officials said Thursday that despite the damage to two of the buildings in the historic 18th and Vine jazz district "there are no plans to demolish the surviving facades as a result of the fire."

Andrew Birgensmith / Kansas City Symphony

The day before Donald Trump's presidential inauguration, reports surfaced that his administration might cut funding for, or eliminate, federal arts agencies.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Co-working is a growing trend for freelancers, small businesses, and startups. It provides a place to work, interact with others and share expenses. But artists, and makers of all kinds, often have specialized needs, when it comes to light, space, or tools. 

courtesy MLB.com

Updated: 12:21 p.m. 

The Kansas City Star is reporting that Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura has died in a car crash in the Dominican Republic. Ventura was 25. 

The Royals confirmed Ventura's death Sunday morning. 

"Is it with a heavy and broken heart that we confirm the passing of Yordano Ventura," Mike Swanson, vice president of communications and broadcasting, told MLB.com. 

Amy Kligman, executive/artistic director of the Charlotte Street Foundation, says the news StartUp program will provide critical early support for arts startups.
Courtesy Charlotte Street Foundation

When you think of a startup, a technology startup is probably what first comes to mind. But the Charlotte Street Foundation has focused on the arts for 20 years, and just launched a StartUp Residency program. It's designed to help up-and-coming arts startups, such as an artist-run collaborative or a new business.

architetural rendering, courtesy of RMTA architectural firm

Like a handful of other cities in the Kansas City metro area, Roeland Park, Kansas, has a funding mechanism for public art. Roeland Park's one percent for art program was established in 2010 by a city council resolution, and it sets aside one percent of development costs for art. 

But city administrator Keith Moody says the program hasn't been tested a lot. At least not more than once to his knowledge. 

David Bickley

Hungarian composer Béla Bartók was a pianist. But some of the music Bartók wrote for strings, inspired by folk music, is considered among his most expressive and inventive. 

This weekend, Kansas City Symphony concertmaster Noah Geller will be the featured soloist in Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 2. 

Courtesy and copyright of the Mildred Thompson Estate, Atlanta, GA

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, received some welcome news in this first week of the new year: a $50,000 grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Chris Lee

The Kansas City Symphony has been quietly fundraising over the last four years with the goal of adding $55 million to its endowment. On Wednesday, in front of more than 100 donors and arts officials on the stage of Helzberg Hall, the Symphony announced that they'd raised nearly $52 million.

Now, they're seeking public support for the "Masterpiece Campaign."

Christophe Testi

This story was updated with comments from ArtsKC. 

Bruce W. Davis has resigned as the president and chief executive officer of ArtsKC —Regional Arts Council after less than a year on the job. 

In a news release on Tuesday, ArtsKC board chair Brad Douglas announced that Davis's last day was Monday, January 2. 

Douglas told KCUR that Davis notified the board in December about his departure.

Celeste Lindell/Flickr

The board of commissioners of the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority, or PIEA, approved a new plan on Thursday for the Crossroads Arts District in Kansas City, Missouri. The nearly 40 properties in the Crossroads occupied by artists or for arts activities will get a 50 percent tax abatement for 15 years. Taxes will be frozen at the 2016 assessed value.

courtesy of the artist

The film La La Land opens nationwide on Friday, and it's already racking up award nominations including seven Golden Globes. The musical stars Emma Stone as an actress and Ryan Gosling as a jazz musician. Both are struggling to make ends meet in Los Angeles, California. 

Aaron Doughtery

AIA Kansas City, the local chapter of American Institute of Architects, gives awards each year for "outstanding contributions to our profession, the community and the built environment." 

The awards were announced Tuesday night at the annual AIA KC holiday party, with about 200 members in attendance. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

A few weeks before The Nutcracker is scheduled to open, in a rehearsal studio at the Kansas City Ballet’s Bolender Center, dancers Amaya Rodriguez and Liang Fu run through the steps for the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.

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.

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. 

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