Laura Spencer

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. 

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Visual Arts
3:02 pm
Mon June 27, 2011

Artist Leo Villareal: Microcosm [VIDEO]

photo: courtesy of Zahner

Leo Villareal's Microcosm (2007) is a permanent site-specific light sculpture at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, Kan.

Kansas City, Mo. – In 2006, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned a major site-specific installation from artist Leo Villareal for the cantilever of the museum's entrance. Executive director Bruce Hartman calls Villareal's Microcosm "one of the museum's most iconic works."

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Visual Arts
10:29 am
Thu June 9, 2011

"Point of Interest" Explores Significance Closer to Home

POINT OF INTEREST (POI), 14 W. 66th Street, KCMO.
photo: courtesy of A. Bitterman

Hitting the road for vacations this summer, many families are heading out to national parks, to enjoy scenes of natural beauty or historical importance. When they get there, the more dutiful will stand and read big wooden signs that explain just how significant these places really are.

Kansas City, Mo. – Well, as KCUR'S Laura Spencer reports one Kansas City artist is looking for significance closer to home, a lot closer.

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Performance
1:53 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Kauffman Center's Opening Approaches; Checking in with Architect Moshe Safdie

Architect Moshe Safdie in the offices at JE Dunn, Kansas City, Mo.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

It's three months until the $413 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City, Missouri opens to the public. When architect Moshe Safdie revealed his designs about a decade ago, it was the largest project of his career. But, Safdie now has offices in Toronto, Boston, and Singapore, and the Safdie-designed $5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands project in Singapore opened earlier this year.

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Theater/Performance
1:13 pm
Fri May 20, 2011

Kansas City Symphony Takes the Stage in Helzberg Hall

Music Director Michael Stern conducts Beethoven during the first rehearsal in Helzberg Hall.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

This week, the Kansas City Symphony took the stage for the first time at Helzberg Hall, one of two performance venues at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. It marks the beginning of a series of tuning rehearsals before the mid-September opening weekend.

Kansas City, Mo. – KCUR's Laura Spencer was there for the first rehearsal and has this audio postcard. Note: KCUR's Stephen Steigman also contributed to this report.

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Theater/Performance
2:37 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Kansas City Ballet Bids Farewell to the Lyric

Kansas City Ballet company dancers Gabriel Davidsson and Aisling Hill-Connor during a rehearsal of "Mercy of the Elements."
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

This weekend marks the final productions in the Lyric Theatre for the Kansas City Ballet. The company moves performances to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in the fall.

Kansas City, Mo. – This weekend marks the final productions in the Lyric Theatre for the Kansas City Ballet. The company moves performances to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in the fall.

KCUR's Laura Spencer talked to Artistic Director William Whitener about beginnings and endings.

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Music Stories
2:56 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

New Composition called 'Canopy' inspired by Sculpture

Composer Dr. Mara Gibson of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance and Chicago-based violist Michael Hall in the KCUR studios.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Have you seen the gleaming silver "tree" that's twisting up from a rise in front of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art? The new sculpture called Ferment is almost 60 feet tall, the work of artist Roxy Paine. And it's inspired a new composition.

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Theater/Performance
9:00 am
Thu April 28, 2011

Performing the Music and Dance of Our Time

Rehearsal of "Shadowing," Owen/Cox Dance Group and newEar.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Two local arts organizations that embrace the "new" - newEar, the contemporary chamber ensemble, and the Owen/Cox Dance Group, have teamed up for a concert they've titled "Chromatic Collaboration."

Kansas City, Mo. – Two local arts organizations that embrace the "new" - newEar, the contemporary chamber ensemble, and the Owen/Cox Dance Group, have teamed up for a concert they've titled "Chromatic Collaboration."

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Visual Arts
3:13 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

Wendell Castle in the 21st Century at Belger Arts Center

Lacquer walnut
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Wendell Castle, "Reaper", 2010
Lacquer walnut
Courtesy of Barry Friedman Ltd. NY, NY
Photographed by: A. Spencer Tsai

Renowned furniture artist and Kansas native Wendell Castle is considered a pioneer in helping to blur the boundaries between craft and fine art.

Kansas City, Mo. – Renowned furniture artist and Kansas native Wendell Castle is considered a pioneer in helping to blur the boundaries between craft and fine art.

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Performance
9:29 am
Tue April 26, 2011

Heart of America Shakespeare Festival Faces Shortfall

Actor John Rensenhouse (cast as Macbeth), producing artistic director Sidonie Garrett, board member Crosby Kemper III, and founder Marilyn Strauss.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Due to a budget shortfall, as its 19th season approaches, Heart of America Shakespeare Festival organizers are asking: "Is this a dagger which I see before me?" when it comes to this year's scheduled production of Macbeth.

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Theater/Performance
8:30 am
Wed April 13, 2011

Lyric Opera Says Goodbye to Lyric Theatre

The Lyric Theatre has been a fixture of downtown Kansas City for 85 years. It was built as the Ararat Shrine Temple, used as a blood collection center during World War II, and for KMBC radio (and KMBC-TV) broadcasts. Since 1970, it's been the home of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.

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Visual Arts
1:32 pm
Mon April 11, 2011

Metal Tree Sculpture Takes Shape at Nelson-Atkins Museum

Siting Ferment, March 14, 2010. From left: Martin Friedman, James Cohan, Roxy Paine. Courtesy of Shirley Harryman.
photos: courtesy of Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Installation continues this week on a nearly 60-foot tall stainless steel tree in the sculpture park at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Artist Roxy Paine's work entitled Ferment, was commissioned in honor of Martin Friedman.

Kansas City, Mo. – Installation continues this week on a nearly 60-foot tall stainless steel tree in the sculpture park at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

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Visual Arts
1:36 pm
Thu April 7, 2011

Monet's Water Lilies

Nicole Myers, associate curator of European Painting and Sculpture, stands in front of the three panels of Claude Monet's Water Lilies triptych. photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Artist Claude Monet is considered the father of Impressionism, a style defined by loose brush strokes to capture the reflection of light. Monet created more than 200 oil paintings for his Water Lilies series inspired by his gardens at Giverny.

Kansas City, Mo. – A new exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art re-unites three of the artist's large-scale works for the first time in more than 30 years. But it also uncovers layers of the artistic process.

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Music
10:10 am
Wed April 6, 2011

Animated Works Dance to Mussorgsky's Music

"Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks"

Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky created a suite of 10 musical portraits for piano, inspired by an 1874 exhibition of a friend's paintings and architectural projects. But most of those works were lost.

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Theater/Performance
12:02 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

Kansas City Ballet Tops Out, Gears Up for August Opening of Bolender Center

Balletmaster James Jordan
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

The Kansas City Ballet on Monday held a "topping out" ceremony at its new home, the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity. Construction work continues on the former Power House building at Union Station but the August completion date is drawing near.

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Performance
3:14 pm
Wed March 30, 2011

"WE!" Shakes Up Relationship Between Audience and Performer

"WE!" photo: courtesy of Jane Gotch

On the sixth floor of the Town Pavilion in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, an empty office space, once occupied by AT&T, is the site of a new installation dance performance called "WE!" The audience moves in small groups through an environment created by dancers, musicians, composers, visual artists, lighting and fashion designers.

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Performance
9:07 am
Thu March 24, 2011

The Rep's Production of "Cabaret" Transforms Audience Experience

Of all the musicals written by Kansas City native John Kander and his late partner, Fred Ebb, perhaps none were more innovative than "Cabaret." Though it contained many hummable songs in the Broadway tradition, it was set in Berlin in 1931 on the cusp of the rise of the Nazi party, making the Broadway musical a safe place for risky material.

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Visual Arts
11:06 am
Wed March 23, 2011

Ray Metzker: A Life Devoted to the Adventure of Seeing

Ray K. Metzker, American (b. 1931). Philadelphia, 1983. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.1963. ? Ray K. Metzker, Courtesy of the Laurence Miller Gallery.

Ray Metzker has been described as a photographer's photographer, an artist's artist. Metzker's 55-year career has been one of seeing the world and translating it through the medium of photography.

Kansas City, Mo. – Ray Metzker has been described as a photographer's photographer, an artist's artist. Metzker's 55-year career has been one of seeing the world and translating it through the medium of photography.

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Opera/Performance
1:43 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Lyric Opera's General Director Evan Luskin to Retire

After a quarter century with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Evan Luskin, the Lyric's general director, and previously, managing director, plans to retire in 2012.

Kansas City, Mo. – After a quarter century with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Evan Luskin, the Lyric's general director, and previously, managing director, plans to retire in 2012.

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Government
8:08 am
Wed March 16, 2011

Senate Votes on Kansas Arts Commission

The Kansas Senate on Wednesday afternoon takes up a resolution that could determine the fate of the state arts agency. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

Kansas City, Mo – The Kansas Senate on Wednesday afternoon takes up a resolution that could determine the fate of the Kansas Arts Commission. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

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Theater/Performance
8:37 am
Wed March 9, 2011

The Kansas City Ballet presents "Giselle"

This weekend, the Kansas City Ballet presents "Giselle," an evening-length ballet about a peasant girl who falls in love with a nobleman in disguise.

KCUR's Laura Spencer talked to Artistic Director William Whitener, and dancers Kimberly Cowen and Geoffrey Kropp about the story of love, betrayal, death and forgiveness.

The Kansas City Ballet presents "Giselle"
March 10 - 13, 2011
Lyric Theatre
1029 Central (11th and Central)
Kansas City, Mo.

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Government
8:56 am
Mon March 7, 2011

Kansas Arts Commission Update

Lots of states are facing huge budget deficits this year, and many are considering drastic steps to address them. Kansas could be the only state, or at least the first, to completely eliminate the state agency that supports the arts.

Kansas City, Mo – Kansas could be the only state, or at least the first, to completely eliminate the state agency that supports the arts. KCUR's Laura Spencer gives us this update.

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Performance
8:11 am
Tue March 1, 2011

Remembering Karen Errington

An actress many Kansas City area theatergoers know from musical theater performances has died. Karen Errington died early Tuesday, March 1, 2011, after her second bout with breast cancer.

Kansas City, Mo. – Karen Errington was a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan where her father was a school superintendent. And, in a 2008 interview with KCUR, Errington said it was her father who cast her in her first role.

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KCUR News
1:41 pm
Fri February 25, 2011

Union Station Announces Funding Boost for Science City

Kansas City, Mo. – Union Station today will announce a more than $1 million dollar grant from the Burns & McDonnell Foundation for long-awaited improvements at Science City.

This marks the largest investment in Science City since its opening in 1999. Burns & McDonnell Chairman, President and CEO Greg Graves says it's also the largest grant to date by the Kansas City-based engineering and architectural company's foundation.

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Music
11:01 am
Thu February 24, 2011

"Angels & Demons at Play" Inspired by Sun Ra

Shadow puppet designed by artist Allan Winkler

A multimedia performance this weekend called "Angels & Demons at Play" takes its name from a song by Sun Ra, the avant-garde pianist and band leader - and combines live music with Balinese and masked dance, and electronic visual media.

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Visual Arts
10:53 am
Wed February 23, 2011

"Pattern ID" Explores Identity in Age of Globalization

James Gobel, "I'll Be Your Friend, I'll Be Your Love, I'll Be Everything You Need," 2009; felt, yarn, acrylic and rhinestones on canvas.
Collection of the Akron Art Museum

At the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, in a traveling exhibition called "Pattern ID," fifteen artists from around the world express their cultural identities through pattern and dress.

Kansas City, Mo. – "Pattern ID" encourages viewers to consider their own "Pattern ID," that the clothes we wear, the things we surround ourselves with, are informed by our cultural heritage, and life experiences.

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Visual Arts
9:30 am
Thu February 17, 2011

Kansas City Art Institute Names New President

The Kansas City Art Institute recently appointed Jacqueline Chanda, Ph.D., as the college's first African-American president in its 125-year history. Chanda's currently the academic dean of the Institute for American Universities and director of the Aix Center in Aix-en-Provence in France.

Kansas City, Mo. – A native of Detroit, Chanda talked to KCUR's Laura Spencer about returning to the United States and some of her early experiences with art.

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Government
1:57 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

House Committee Recommends Restoring Funds to Kansas Arts Commission

Update: The House Appropriation Committee voted against the recommendation. Kansas is facing a nearly $500 million shortfall in the next fiscal year. Last week, Governor Sam Brownback announced his decision to abolish the Kansas Arts Commission, with an expected savings of about $600,000. A House budget committee this week has rejected Brownback's plan. And the recommendation is expected to go before the House Appropriations committee this morning.

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KCUR News
12:17 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

KC Mayoral Candidate Charles Wheeler

Dr. Charles Wheeler at the Charles Wheeler table at the Westport Flea Market, Kansas City, Mo.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Kansas City, Mo. – In a series of conversations with the seven candidates in the race for mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, KCUR is asking about crime and the city budget.

KCUR's Laura Spencer stopped by the Charles Wheeler table at the Westport Flea Market Bar & Grill to talk to former two-term mayor and state senator Dr. Charles Wheeler. He's running for the office he last held more than 30 years ago.

Music
12:44 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Composer Maury Yeston on the Collaborative Process

Composer Maury Yeston with the score for "Tom Sawyer-A Ballet in Three Acts"
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Maury Yeston, the Tony-award winning composer for Broadway hits like "Nine" and "Titanic," is writing the music for the first production the Kansas City Ballet is staging at the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. It's a ballet called "Tom Sawyer" and was inspired, as you might guess, by Mark Twain's coming-of age story.

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Opera/Performance
10:16 am
Tue January 25, 2011

Lyric Opera Announces Season in Kauffman Center

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City, one of the three resident companies at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, has announced its 2011-2012 season, its first in the new venue. As KCUR's Laura Spencer reports, the announcement began with a twist.

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