Laura Spencer | KCUR

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

Kansas City, MO – In November, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art opens its new American Indian art galleries featuring about 200 works, including loans and new acquisitions. Today, the museum announced a significant gift from longtime collectors and patrons Estelle and Morton Sosland. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Each week, for the last five Sundays, ten musicians have gathered for an afternoon rehearsal session on a vacant floor of a downtown office building. It's a new year-long initiative sponsored by the Charlotte Street Foundation called the Black House Improvisors' Collective.

photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Contemporary choreographer Jessica Lang's works have been described as passionate with almost tangible emotions in performance. Lang's pas de deux, or dance for two, called "Splendid Isolation III" is included in the Kansas City Ballet's fall program.

Kansas City, MO – Some might argue there's a third character: a long white skirt. KCUR's Laura Spencer visited a rehearsal at the Ballet studios recently and provides this preview.

Kansas City, MO – Two Kansas City nonprofits have been recognized for their efforts to address critical social issues. They'll receive $400,000 from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation's Neighborhood Excellence Initiative.

Communities Creating Opportunity provides tools and training to tackle issues like health care, housing, and economics. And the Charlotte Street Foundation supports the local arts community with annual cash awards, free studio spaces, and other opportunities.

According to Carol Sauvion, the creator and co-executive producer of the award-winning PBS series, "Craft in America," the crafting climate - from pottery to beadworking to blacksmithing - is stronger than ever.

Kansas City, MO – Kansas City's Charlotte Street Foundation and the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence are collaborating on a new program called Rocket Grants. With help from a two-year grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, $40,000 in direct support will be provided each year for innovative and experimental arts projects.

photo: courtesy of the Kansas City Ballet

Renovations are underway for something the Kansas City Ballet, in its 52-year history, has never had: a permanent home.

Kansas City, MO – The Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, slated to open in 2011, will be located in the Union Station Power House building. The historic power plant will house the Ballet's school and seven studios.

photo: courtesy of the Kansas City Ballet

Kansas City, MO – Kansas City Ballet officials announced Wednesday that renovations are underway at the new permanent home for the company.

The Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, slated to open in 2011, will be located in the Union Station Power House building. The historic 1914 power plant will house the Ballet's school and seven studios, including one that doubles as a 180-seat theater.

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

Much has been written about tumultuous relationships between artists - think Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera or Van Gogh and Gauguin. But often relationships between artists are much more amiable.

Lewis Copt and Jim Brothers

Sales of Chinese-made clothes, electronics and toys have fallen off a cliff in the last couple of years. But the global recession has only cooled the red-hot Chinese art market. Last year, 11 of the world's top 20 best-selling artists were Chinese.

The essence of a supernova. Galaxies, goddesses, and art nouveau. The light and pressure of the Big Bang. These are just a few of the inspirations from the 18 collections, by established and emerging designers, that will be featured in the 9th annual West 18th Street Fashion show. This year's theme: Summer in Space.

Kansas City, MO – West 18th Street Fashion Show
Summer in Space
Saturday, June 6, 8:00pm
Crossroads Arts District
West 18th Street, between Wyandotte and Baltimore

photos: Charles Stonewall

Baroque music has been described as expressing order, but always lively and tuneful. The musical period, roughly from 1600 to 1750, includes notable composers like Bach and Vivaldi.

photo courtesy of Gamelan Genta Kasturi

Gamelan, the orchestral music of Indonesia, is praised for its color, rhythmic structure and lyrical melodies. And it's an important part of parades, festivals, and ceremonies.

Kansas City, MO – The largest Balinese ensemble in North America, Gamelan Genta Kasturi, is based in Kansas City, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Kansas City, MO – A panel of arts professionals chose two Kansas City artists, out of a pool of nearly 30 nominees, as this year's Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artists: poet Glenn North and choreographer and dancer Tiffany Sisemore. Each will receive unrestricted cash grants of $5000.

A panel of arts professionals chose two Kansas City artists as this year's Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artists: poet Glenn North and choreographer and dancer Tiffany Sisemore. Each will receive unrestricted cash grants of $5000.

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

A new dance piece, titled "Gates Bar-B-Que Suite," pays tribute to a Kansas City barbecue restaurant.

Kansas City, MO – A new dance piece pays tribute to a Kansas City barbecue restaurant. Titled "Gates Bar-B-Que Suite," the work pairs an original composition by jazz artist Bobby Watson with the choreography of Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company co-founder and artistic director Mary Pat Henry.

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

In E.B. White's classic novel "Charlotte's Web," a pig called Wilbur, the runt of the litter, is raised by a young girl named Fern and befriended by a spider named Charlotte.

Kansas City, MO – In the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's production, professional opera singers and more than 20 children bring the story to life through song. KCUR's Laura Spencer spoke with a middle schooler and a high schooler who share the role of Fern.

photos: Laura Spencer, KCUR

In dance, a professional career begins at a young age and often ends early. Two members of the Kansas City Ballet take their final bows this weekend.

More than 200 performers share the stage this week for "The Lord of the Rings Symphony" composed by Howard Shore. It's based on the musical score from the films adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien's tales of hobbits, elves, dwarves, orcs and men of Middle-earth.

Director/CEO Marc F. Wilson Announces Retirement as of June 2010

Kansas City, MO – The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's Director and CEO, Marc Wilson, is stepping down after nearly three decades. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

The museum's fourth director since opening in 1933, Marc Wilson oversaw the transformation and expansion that included the opening of the Bloch Building in 2007, which received much critical acclaim. Newly expanded and reinstalled American galleries opened to the public April 22, 2009, and expanded Native American galleries open in November.

Kansas City, MO – State arts agencies and regional arts organizations will soon be infused with $20 million from the federal stimulus package. The National Endowment for the Arts will distribute the funds as part of an effort to jumpstart the economy. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

Kansas Arts Commission Executive Director Llewelyn Crain says the funds are to be used specifically for grant recipients to preserve jobs in the arts. The amount of the grants will range between $5,000 and $40,000.

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art presents a two-part exhibition, exploring utopia and dystopia through works from its permanent collection. The titles of the exhibitions, In Loving Memory of You, come from the Kemper Museum's recent acquisition by Kansas City-based artist Archie Scott Gobber. In this edition, a conversation between Gobber and Museum Director and CEO Rachael Blackburn Cozad.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

The Top of the Bottoms Social Aide Pleasure Society's Dirty Force Brass Knuckle Street Band and Soul Revue, or simply Dirty Force, has gained a reputation for arriving unannounced.

But each year on Mardi Gras, the New Orleans-style brass band gathers on Kansas City's West Side to mark the festivities with an early morning march.

Listen here to the February 23, 2009 Walt Bodine Show about Kansas City's Mardi Gras traditions.

The neo-classical dance company, St?rling Dance Theater (in residence at the Culture House in Olathe), has tackled difficult subject matter in its choreography over the last decade, from biblical themes to Alzheimer's.

In its more than 40 year history, the Harriman-Jewell Series has presented 18 American recital debuts, including tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Recently, it was soprano Danielle de Niese's turn.

In Kansas City recently, the all-male vocal group, Chanticleer and the Shanghai Quartet continued the world premiere tour of Chen Yi's From the Path of Beauty.

Kansas City, MO – A Kansas City-based composer, Chen Yi has taught for the last decade at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. KCUR's Laura Spencer has this profile.

photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Kansas City, MO – A lot of people are holding onto their money this holiday season, but one Kansas City man has been doing just the opposite. If you're lucky, you might see him, dressed in red, handing out crisp hundred dollar bills to random, unsuspecting people, like Cody Bennett from Overland Park. Bennett says, "Money is tight this year, so it opens a lot more doors."

TubaChristmas 2008

Dec 18, 2008

For nearly 30 years, hundreds of tuba, euphonium and baritone players, amateurs and professionals, have gathered in Kansas City to perform in the annual TubaChristmas concert.