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

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.

(photo by Laura Spencer, KCUR)

Kansas City, MO – Fifty massive stone sculptures of graceful human forms, animals and plants are now on display amongst the waterfalls and lush vegetation at Powell Gardens.

Listen to the story here.

Check here for a slideshow of images.

On Mother's Day weekend, StoneLion Puppet Theatre unveiled The Spirit of the Wood. It's a giant interactive puppet spectacle that the community helped build: a 20 foot monster of trash, 9 foot giant butterflies, 20 foot walking trees, and lots and lots of frogs.

Kansas City, MO – Artistic director Heather Nisbett-Loewenstein provided this preview before a recent rehearsal on the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Nearly 150 years after his death, abolitionist John Brown remains a controversial figure; some consider him a martyr, others view him as a terrorist. A new opera, written by a native Kansan, aims to explore the complexity of John Brown's character and his legacy. For John Brown photos, check here.

Bach Aria Soloists

Apr 24, 2008
photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

For nearly a decade, the Bach Aria Soloists have highlighted some of the arias by the prolific German composer and organist Johann Sebastian Bach.

Kansas City, MO –

Download recent arts stories or subscribe to the KCUR Arts Podcast

Danish dancer and choreographer Ib Andersen visited Kansas City recently to help stage the Kansas City Ballet's full-length production of Romeo and Juliet.

Traveler, educator and short story writer Xanath Caraza says she first started writing poetry when she was about six years old.

Kansas City, MO – Caraza writes in Spanish, her first language, and then translates her own work into English. Here, she reads a poem she wrote in Mexico to celebrate International Women's Day; it's called "Mujer."

This poem is published in the anthology called Primera Pagina: Poetry from the Latino Heartland.

There's a simple premise to the Love Hangover. Duos of musicians perform love songs celebrating the joy, pain, or humor of love. It's an annual event, now in its ninth year and third city, and travels this year for the first time to Kansas City.

Kansas City, MO (2008-02-27) – Love Hangover is presented as part of "Pairings in the Lounge," a new monthly series of music at bluestem .

Laura Spencer/KCUR

Donald McKayle describes dance as "movement that lights the soul." In a career that's spanned 60 years, the five-time Tony Award nominated choreographer has crafted the steps for modern dance, Broadway musicals, film and television.

Kansas City, MO – Donald McKayle has also been recognized as a Master of African American Choreography at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and named one of America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures by the Dance Heritage Coalition.

Games (1951) is one of Donald McKayle's classic choreographic works. McKayle says it was inspired by his own childhood in New York City.

Kansas City, MO – The Kansas City Ballet presents McKayle's new work called Hey-Hay, Going to Kansas City February 21 - 24 at the Lyric Theatre before the company takes it to New York in March.

Laura Spencer, KCUR

Kansas City, MO – A federal grand jury in Kansas City Wednesday charged members of a former Missouri-based Islamic charity and a former U.S. Congressman with money laundering and financing al-Qaeda terrorists. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art recently acquired a rare daguerreotype of abolitionist John Brown. A daguerreotype is one of the earliest forms of photography and created a one-of-a-kind image. And this portrait is one of only six known daguerreotypes of the anti-slavery militant who's still somewhat of a controversial figure. Some view John Brown as a religious fanatic; others say he was a freedom fighter.

The Kansas City Ballet marks its 50th anniversary with a season full of choreography new to the company. This weekend's fall performance includes the Kansas City premiere of three works. It also provides an opportunity to examine the company's past and its future.

Kansas City, MO – October 11 - 14, Lyric Theatre

Kansas City Ballet's Fall Performance:

Mozartiana
Choreography: George Balanchine
Music: Peter Tchaikovsky

Note: This is an extended version. When more than 200 guests gathered in September for a party celebrating Richard Harriman's 75th birthday, conversation at the event focused as much on the performing arts series Harriman founded in 1965, now called the Harriman-Jewell Series.

Everlasting Universe

Aug 24, 2007
Laura Spencer/KCUR

The Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City presented two new works recently, including a world premiere called Everlasting Universe exploring the relationship between the early Romantic poets Byron and Shelley.

Kansas City, MO – The Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City presented two new works recently, including a world premiere called Everlasting Universe exploring the relationship between the early Romantic poets Byron and Shelley.

photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Kansas City Snapshot is a project created by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects to celebrate the organization's 150th anniversary. As discussions continue about the future of the metropolitan area - from downtown Kansas City to Metcalf Avenue - organizers say this "yearlong experiment" could provide an opportunity to take a look at where we are now...and how we live, work and play.

photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

One of the foremost authorities in Spanish dance is in Kansas City helping stage flamenco choreography for the Kansas City Ballet's world premiere of Carmen, choreographed by artistic director William Whitener.

Kansas City, MO – SPRING PERFORMANCE 2007
May 3-6, Lyric Theatre (11th & Central)

Thursday, May 3, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 4, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 5, 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 6, 2:00 p.m.

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