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

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. 

courtesy twitter user Colt Snapp ‏@Colt_Snapp

A massive fire was reported Monday morning at the Pioneer Building in downtown St. Joseph, Missouri. Shortly after 10 a.m, large plumes of smoke and flames were sighted outside the historic building at 510 Francis Street. 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation.

When Dave Heath died in June at the age of 85, The New York Times described him as a "photographer of isolation."   

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has the largest institutional holding of Heath's work in the United States, and the museum's new exhibition Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath — with nearly 200 photographs from the late 1940s to 2007, from black and white to color — explores themes of loneliness and the desire for connection. 

flickr user Scott Unrein

The Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, celebrating its 61st season, performs about six concerts a year in St. Louis, Missouri. This Saturday, the choral group sings on the other side of the state at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown Kansas City. 

Artistic director Philip Barnes, a native of Great Britain, has been at the helm since 1989.

From the InterUrban ArtHouse web site

When it comes to re-use of buildings, 2017 marks a big year for arts organizations. 

The Johnson County Museum will move into a former bowling alley and ice skating rink in Overland Park, Kansas. Kansas City Young Audiences plans to relocate to a former office supply store in midtown Kansas City, Missouri. And last week, InterUrban ArtHouse closed on the purchase of a U.S. Postal Service building at 8010 Conser St. in downtown Overland Park. 

USGS

Updated: 10:40 p.m. 

Kansas City metro area residents on Sunday night experienced rattling windows and shifting furniture due to another Oklahoma earthquake. 

According to the Associated Press, "The U.S. Geological Survey reported the earthquake struck at 7:44 p.m., with an epicenter located one mile west of Cushing, about 50 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. The USGS initially stated it was a magnitude 5.3 earthquake but lowered that rating to 5.0."

courtesy Kansas City Symphony and Community of Christ.

Updated: 2:15 p.m.

A tradition comes to an end after this holiday season, with the Independence Messiah Choir's final performance of Handel's oratorio Messiah with the Kansas City Symphony Chorus.

Beginning in September, the Independence Messiah Choir meets each Tuesday at the Community of Christ Auditorium in Independence, Missouri, for Messiah rehearsals. This week, members of the choir were told this year would be their final performance with the Symphony. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3 / File

What do artists, arts organizations, and cultural businesses want when it comes to creative space? Affordability? A sense of community?

A new regional arts market study is trying to find out.

Dario Acosta

Tenor Ben Bliss is considered a rising star in the world of opera. And, like opera diva Joyce DiDonato, he grew up in Prairie Village, Kansas. Bliss credits "the support of arts and education and public education" for leading to his musical career. It's something, he says, he "got a really good dose of growing up."

Bliss's father is a freelance cartoonist and his mother sings with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City chorus.

J. Robert Schraeder / Courtesy of the Coterie Theatre

The Coterie Theatre, in its nearly 40-year history, has often challenged audiences with difficult subjects, such as bullying or the Salem witch trials. The theater continues the tradition with its current production, The Nine Who Dared: Courage in Little Rock.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Shakespeare’s romantic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream revolves around the mishaps of two mortal couples, as well as the king and queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania. An oft-quoted line provides a summary of the plot: "The course of true love never did run smooth."

The Kansas City Ballet's production, choreographed by Bruce Wells, tells the story of magic and mistaken identities — through movement and music. 

Here are five things to know about the production: 

1. There's a 30-year connection

Tim Samoff / Flickr--CC

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has filed documents with the city of Kansas City, Missouri, to officially establish a new Master Plan District. The museum submitted an application on Friday to request rezoning some museum-owned properties from residential to non-residential. This would allow for additional uses, such as office space. 

Eric Williams/Kansas City Symphony

This season, Kansas City Symphony audiences will discover a new assistant conductor leading the pops, family, and Screenland at the Symphony concerts: Jason Seber.

Seber relocated to Kansas City just a few months ago from Louisville, Kentucky, after three seasons as education and outreach director of the Louisville Orchestra and 11 years as music director of the Louisville Youth Orchestra. 

I recently talked with Seber about his background and expectations in Kansas City.

The 19th-century English novelist George Eliot was reportedly no great beauty. One contemporary called the author of Middlemarch "exceedingly plain, with her aggressive jaw and her evasive blue eyes." Writer Henry James, who was an admirer, characterized her as "magnificently ugly, deliciously hideous."

courtesy: Steven Holl Architects

Attendance is up at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art — 534,000 people visited in this fiscal year. The collection has grown by more than 20 percent in recent years. And more of the museum's artwork now travels on loan, to places such as Australia, China, Europe, Japan, and Taiwan: The museum loaned 379 pieces of art in this fiscal year, up from 32 in 2011.

But the Nelson-Atkins wants to be bigger and better.

Mid-America Arts Alliance

Mid-America Arts Alliance CEO Mary Kennedy has made arts accessibility a focus of her career, sparked by childhood experiences with dance classes.

"As a kid, I grew up in a really tough neighborhood, and the arts were really my way out," said Kennedy, a native of Topeka, Kansas. 

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