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
1:41 pm
Mon August 1, 2011

Debate over Controversial Statue Resumes

This statue, located in front of the police communications building, has sparked years of controversy in Kansas City about art and interpretation.
Brenna Daldorph/KCUR

Renovations of the police communications building mean that a well-known statue will have to find a new home. Will it be sent to storage or be moved to another public spot in Kansas City? The debate is on!

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Theater/Performance
11:58 am
Fri July 22, 2011

Kansas City Ballet's "Tom Sawyer" Moves Into Kauffman Center [VIDEO]

photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

The Kansas City Ballet's first season in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opens in October with "Tom Sawyer: A Ballet in 3 Acts" (choreography: William Whitener, music: Maury Yeston).

Kansas City, Mo. – The sets for "Tom Sawyer," built by the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, were recently loaded into the Kauffman Center's Muriel Kauffman Theatre. KCUR's Laura Spencer stopped by to take a look.

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Theater/Performance
12:23 pm
Fri July 15, 2011

Installation Underway for Kauffman Center Pipe Organ

July 11, 2011: Containers backstage at Helzberg Hall during the installation of the pipe organ.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opens in two months. And it will also take the next two months for a crew from Montreal to install a new Casavant Fr?res pipe organ.

Kansas City, Mo. – Installation work began last week, and boxes and crates filled with pipes and other components are stacked on stage - and behind stage - at Helzberg Hall.

KCUR's Laura Spencer talked to project manager Fabien Tremblay about the progress.

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People
11:34 am
Fri July 15, 2011

Plans Continue for Skywalk Memorial

This Sunday (July 17, 2011) marks the 30th anniversary of the collapse at the Hyatt Regency hotel where 114 people lost their lives. No plaque commemorates the tragedy.

Kansas City, Mo. – This Sunday (July 17, 2011) marks the 30th anniversary of the collapse at the Hyatt Regency hotel where 114 people lost their lives. No plaque commemorates the tragedy.

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18th and Vine
9:59 am
Wed July 13, 2011

NEA Awards Funding to Renovate Historic 18th and Vine Theater

Boone Theater at 18th and Highland, Kansas City, Mo.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Kansas City, Mo. – The National Endowment for the Arts announced its first round of "Our Town" grants on Tuesday. Projects in 34 states, including restoring an historic theater in Kansas City, Missouri, were awarded more than $6.5 million. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports. -------------------------------

NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman says he uses a framework called creative placemaking: "Which simply put, are the ways that towns and cities shape their social, physical and economic characters."

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Jazz/Blues
8:01 am
Tue July 12, 2011

Theater in Kansas City's Jazz District Selected as "Our Town" Recipient

Downtown Council of Kansas City's Bill Dietrich and Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City's Harlan Brownlee outside the Boone Theater at 18th and Highland, Kansas City, Mo.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

The National Endowment for the Arts on Tuesday announced its first round of "Our Town" funding - $6.5 million in grants to strengthen the arts through public-private partnerships. In Missouri, one initiative was selected: the restoration of the historic Boone Theater in the 18th and Vine Jazz District.

Kansas City, Mo. – The National Endowment for the Arts will pay $200,000 towards the restoration of an old venue in Kansas City's 18th and Vine Jazz District.

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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

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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