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. 

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For the late dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, dance was a way to celebrate and honor the African-American experience. The company Ailey founded, the world-renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, marks its fiftieth anniversary this year.

The Kansas City Symphony's new assistant conductor, Steven Jarvi, just started in August. At the age of 30, Jarvi's already held a number of positions, including most recently, conducting fellow for the New World Symphony in Miami, and associate conductor for the New York City Opera.

Kansas City, MO – The state of Missouri doesn't allow advance voting, like in Kansas. But election officials in Missouri this year are reporting a 40 percent increase in absentee voting. And hundreds lined up at absentee voting locations on Monday as KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

Audiences at the Kansas City Symphony this weekend might spot a new yet familiar face. Charles Bruffy, artistic director of the Grammy award-winning Kansas City Chorale, debuts at the helm of the Kansas City Symphony Chorus as its new artistic director.

Kansas City, MO – Fri, October 24, 8 pm
Saturday, October 25, 8:00 pm
Lyric Theatre

Sunday, October 26, 2 pm
Yardley Hall

Credit: Michael Regnier

The new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is now slated to open for the 2011-2012 season. Here, Kansas City Symphony Music Director Michael Stern reflects on acoustics and expectations.

Kansas City, MO – The Kansas City Symphony's Music Director Michael Stern says when the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opens "it will change...the way Kansas City experiences art."

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

Gamelan is the orchestral tradition of Indonesia and incorporates bronze gongs, metallophones, cymbals, bamboo flutes, fiddles, and drums. The region's first gamelan orchestra, Gamelan Genta Kasturi got its start five years ago and it's based in Kansas City. The group performs traditional and contemporary Balinese music and dance this weekend.

There's been a lot of progress at the site of the $405 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts since the 2006 groundbreaking. It's scheduled to open in fall 2011.

Kansas City, MO – Isaac Franco, project principal for Moshe Safdie and Associates, says the Center for the Performing Arts is expected to open in 2011. Franco says it's a complicated project. With a 1600 seat symphony hall, and an 1800 seat proscenium theatre, they want to open when the structures and the acoustics are ready.

The word "funny" isn't always the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ballet. The Kansas City Ballet opens its fall season with three works filled with humor and levity.

photo: crookedhouse.typepad.com

Kansas City, MO – Five museums and five libraries, including the Kansas City Public Library, will receive the 2008 National Medal for Museum and Library Service at the White House Tuesday.

Each year, the federal institute of Museum and Library Services, in coordination with the White House, presents the medal to 10 museums and libraries for their "civic, educational, economic, environmental and social contributions."

Kansas City, MO – Kansas City-based H&R Block, Inc. has been recognized as one of the 10 best companies in America supporting the arts in 2008.

The Business Committee for the Arts, or BCA, was founded in 1967 by David Rockefeller as a way to bring business and the arts together. BCA's top 10 list for this year's companies showing significant support for the arts included H&R Block, Inc.

Kansas City, MO – Nearly a dozen arts organizations have signed on to a new online discounted ticket service that launched this month. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

In Chicago, it's Hot Tix. In New York City, it's TKTS. Now, Kansas City has TixKC.com. The ticket service offers half-price, day-of-sale tickets to local performing arts shows, including theater, dance, and music, from the American Heartland Theatre to New Ear.

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

It was 50 years ago this month that the Lyric Opera of Kansas City presented its first production, one of the most popular operas: Puccini's La boh?me. To mark the occasion, the company returns to the bittersweet love story set in 1830s Paris as this season's opener.

photo: courtesy of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City's Artistic Director Ward Holmquist calls La boh?me "one of the great operas of the Western world." Holmquist says when the Lyric discussed presenting the work again, he was "revitalized" by the film Rent to consider casting younger performers.

photo: flickr, Rock Chalk Jayhawk Cartographer

Kansas City, MO – The City of Kansas City Missouri has officially designated Tuesday, September 16 as Bob Rohlf Day, in honor of his nearly 3 decades of leadership at Starlight Theatre. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

During his tenure at Starlight Theatre, outgoing president and executive producer Bob Rohlf oversaw the construction of a new 10-story stage, and more than $32 million worth of facility and program improvements over the last 15 years.

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

A passage from a poem by Walt Whitman sparked the inspiration for a new multi-media work, Ritual of the Body Electric. It incorporates a chamber ensemble, dancers, and video.

Kansas City, MO – The 30-minute work is loosely based on a section of Walt Whitman's "I Sing the Body Electric" and expresses the emotion behind the loss of a parent and celebrates relationships.

Kansas City, MO – It's fairly typical for a museum to be closed to the public on a Monday. On September 2, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art added another day: Tuesday. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's Director and CEO Marc Wilson stresses that the museum will not be closed on Tuesdays. It will be closed to the public, but reserved for school groups, an estimated 1000 visitors a week. Wilson says it's a priority to keep the museum free, and with rising fuel and energy costs, they didn't want to pass along cost increases to visitors.

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

The Kansas City String Quartet Program celebrates its 15th season this year. And for the past two weeks, middle and high school age string players have gathered in classrooms on the campus of Pembroke Hill to learn the fine art of chamber performance. KCUR's Laura Spencer sends us this postcard.

Kansas City, MO – Faculty Concert: August 8, 2008, 6 p.m. Kauffman Foundation Town Center 4801 Rockhill Rd Kansas City, MO

In previous works, New York-based composer Kristin Kuster has drawn inspiration from architecture, weather and mythology. A new work, called "Ribbon Earth", is inspired by Missouri artist Brent Collins's sculpture, Pax Mundi (World Peace), created with a spiraling bronze ribbon. It's on display at the H&R Block headquarters downtown.

Starting in September, more than 70 billboards across Missouri will display artworks by eight artists for a get-out-the vote initiative called Art the Vote.

rendering of Kemper at the Crossroads, courtesy KEM STUDIO

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art has two locations near the Kansas City Art Institute and plans to open a third downtown, in the Crossroads Arts District, in November.

Kemper at the Crossroads will be located at 19th and Baltimore, at the former site of the Dolphin Gallery, which has moved to the West Bottoms.

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

Officials symbolically broke ground Wednesday morning to start the restoration of three fountains along Paseo Boulevard, including one of the city's oldest.

Parks board president John Fierro detailed the history of the 1899 Women's Leadership Fountain at 9th and Paseo, the oldest public fountain in Kansas City. It's fallen into disrepair and hasn't worked in years. The stonework is crumbling, and the lights and railing are gone.

A $17 million Crossroads redevelopment plan received the green light from a City Council committee Wednesday.

The Finance and Audit Committee endorsed philanthropist Shirley Helzberg's proposal for the Vitagraph Film Exchange Building, which would house the Kansas City Symphony offices. The project includes a tax increment financing district to renovate the four-story 1930 building, add a two-story addition and a two-level 40 space parking garage.

The Arts KCFund, like a United Way for the arts, raised nearly $732,000 during its annual spring workplace giving campaign and recently announced its latest round of grant recipients. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

Crossroads Ballet Festival Artistic Director Matthew Powell started dancing at the age of 6, and he's danced professionally for 10 years, including 7 years with the Kansas City Ballet. But, Powell's a relative newcomer as a choreographer.

Kansas City, MO – Here, Matthew Powell talks about how he first started to learn the skills in a Choreographic Workshop at the Kansas City Ballet.

photo: courtesy of Crossroads Ballet Festival

Summer is usually the off-season for dancers. But this weekend, dancers from across the country will be featured in a new showcase for classical and contemporary works called Crossroads Ballet Festival.

Kansas City, MO – KCUR's Laura Spencer spoke to artistic director and founder Matthew Powell about starting the Crossroads Ballet Festival and his decision to leave the Kansas City Ballet after seven years.

On Tuesday, UMKC officials announced selecting Peter Witte as the new Dean of the Conservatory of Music and Dance.

(photo by Laura Spencer, KCUR)

Kansas City, MO – It's the work of three generations of African artists and most are Shona, the majority ethnic group from the country of Zimbabwe.

Listen to the story here.

Chapungu: Nature, Man & Myth continues through November 2, 2008 at Powell Gardens.

 

Jonathan Biss makes his Kansas City Symphony debut. At the age of 27, Biss is considered one of the finest pianists of his generation, working with orchestras, as well as performing solo recitals and chamber music. KCUR's Laura Spencer talked to Biss recently from his home in New York about his love for Beethoven and what it's like to be the third generation in a family of professional musicians.

photo: Mark Hutchinson

This week, the eight-voice a cappella choir, Octarium, presents a program called "Should Have Been Choral" including everything from Renaissance music to ABBA. Artistic director and founder Krista Blackwood is the former choir director at St. Andrew's. Blackwood told KCUR's Laura Spencer that when 8 of her soloists sang together in 2001, it planted the seed for the group.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Two new public art projects in downtown Kansas City sound a bit like the names of emo rock bands: Pedestrian Strands and Celestial Flyways. But they're both a sign of the changing times in the downtown loop and a shifting approach to public space.

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