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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Performance
5:00 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Immersion In Music Inspires Jun Kaneko's 'The Magic Flute'

Artist Jun Kaneko created the scenic and costume design for Mozart's 'The Magic Flute.'
Cory Weaver

Artist Jun Kaneko grew up in Japan, but he's been based in Omaha, Neb. since the mid-1980's.  He's known for his monumental ceramic sculptures, including his signature "dangos," or rounded forms - and he’s also created scenic and costume design for opera.

Mozart’s The Magic Flute marks Kaneko's third opera. The set is almost entirely digital animated projection, with colorful, whimsical costumes. The Lyric Opera of Kansas City opens the production this weekend at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

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Government
7:34 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

November 5 Election Results, By The Numbers

Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Updated 5:36 a.m.

The ballot issues Tuesday were on the Missouri side of the Kansas City area, including the largest tax increase in Jackson County in more than two decades. Voter turnout was, as expected, light.

The results below are unofficial until certified.

Here are the latest numbers:

Blue Springs, Mo. Parks Sales Tax:
In Blue Springs, voters defeated a permanent half-cent sales tax that would have raised $3 million a year for parks-related projects, including community recreation centers.

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Visual Arts
5:00 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Kemper Museum's Exhibition Gets 'Dressed Up'

Hope Gangloff, Vera, 2013; acrylic on canvas, 81 x 54 inches.
Collection of Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

The Halloween season is a time when, for at least a night or two, you can become something – or someone – else.  An exhibition at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art called Dressed Up explores the "theater of the self," and the role of nature, culture, reality and perception.

Creating a new self-image

"Let’s be really ornery in the museum," encourages librarian Meghann Henry. "And on the count of three, you're going to count shout ‘Good morning!’ One, two three, 'Good morning!' Pretty good, alright."

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Classical
9:30 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Haunting Soundtrack For Silent Classic 'The Phantom Of The Opera'

'The Phantom of the Opera' starred Lon Chaney, as the phantom who haunts the Paris Opera House.
Credit Blackhawk Films/Image Entertainment

The Phantom of the Opera, a 1925 silent film, tells the story of an organist who lurks beneath an opera house. This Halloween night, organist Aaron David Miller will be in plain sight at the Kauffman Center, when he provides the soundtrack for a screening of this film.

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Visual Arts
2:42 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Nelson-Atkins Commissions Work From Artist Maya Lin

Artist Maya Lin's new work for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art will be installed on November 15.
Credit Walter Smith / Courtesy Maya Lin Studio and Pace Gallery

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has commissioned a new work by architect and artist Maya Lin, who's probably best known as the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. 

Lin’s sculpture, Silver Missouri, inspired by the Missouri River, is crafted from recycled silver, and it’s one in a series of works exploring water conservation. It will be installed in the Bloch Building on November 15. 

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Performance
5:00 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Kansas City Actor Goes From Shakespeare To ‘House Of Cards’

Nathan Darrow plays Edward Meechum, Congressman Francis 'Frank' Underwood's bodyguard and driver in 'House of Cards.'
Credit Netflix

In the Netflix series, House of Cards, actor Nathan Darrow, a native of Kansas City, plays Edward Meechum. It's an understated role, but he's the keeper of secrets as the bodyguard and driver for ruthless Congressman Francis "Frank" Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey.

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Education
7:15 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Kansas City Public Schools Denied Provisional Accreditation

KCPS Superintendent Green on Tuesday said the district will continue "full throttle" in its efforts to regain accreditation.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Public schools in Kansas City, Mo. will remain unaccredited.

The State Board of Education on Tuesday chose to take no action on a request by Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Green to grant provisional accreditation, based on this year's assessment scores in which the district placed within the provisional range. But State Board President Peter Herschend says there hasn't been sufficient improvement sustained over a period of time.

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Visual Arts
4:30 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

KU Board of Regents Approves Spencer Museum Expansion Plans

The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

The Kansas Board of Regents this week approved the renovation and expansion plans for the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas.

The building where the museum is housed opened to the public in 1978, and according to a news release, the collection has grown by more than 250 percent. This includes the nearly 10,000 objects transferred to the Spencer's holdings in 2007, with the closing of the KU Museum of Anthropology, and other acquisitions.

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Visual Arts
5:00 am
Thu October 17, 2013

An Impressionist Journey Through France

Claude Monet, French (1840-1926). The Promenade with the Railroad Bridge, Argenteuil, 1874.
Courtesy: Saint Louis Art Museum

A new exhibition, Impressionist France: Visions of Nation from Le Gray to Monet, at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art examines the relationship between landscape and national identity. There are more than 100 paintings and photographs, from 1850 to 1880, including works by artists such as Manet, Monet and Le Gray, as well as artists well-known at the time but not today.

Photographers and painters construct "an idea of nation"

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Government
9:38 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Board Votes, Again, To Sever KC Museum Ties With Union Station

The Kansas City Museum at Corinthian Hall in 2005.
Credit Scutter / Creative Commons

The Kansas City Museum Advisory Board on Monday approved a plan recommending the Kansas City Museum separate from Union Station. The board meeting opened with a Sunshine Law training. The last time the board voted on this issue, the city attorney’s office said it violated the state’s open meetings law.

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Visual Arts
6:00 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

New KC Brand: 'A Recognizable Mark'

City officials unveiled the new brand on October 10, 2013.
Credit Emily Elmore / Single Wing Creative

Update, 12:30 p.m.: The Kansas City Star reports that "the fountain/heart logo is on the official flag of the city. And a similar logo makes up the official seal."

That won't change unless it's brought before the City Council for a vote. So, this new image will serve as a secondary brand, a marketing logo.

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Visual Arts
4:45 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

Branding A New KCMO

Kansas City's current logo, with a fountain shaped like a heart, was unveiled in 1992 by the mayor (now U.S. Congressman) Emanuel Cleaver.
courtesy: City of Kansas City, Missouri

In 1970, the symbol for the city of Kansas City, Missouri, resembled paper clips; in 1992, it was a heart-shaped fountain, in shades of pink and blue. Thursday marks the unveiling of a new image for the city.

Communications director Danny Rotert says the new brand reflects the city’s look and attitude.

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Music
11:45 am
Wed October 9, 2013

18th & Vine Jazz And Blues Festival Features Kelley Hunt

Kelley Hunt, onstage at Aspen's Bellyup.
Credit Courtesy of the artist

Roots and R&B singer/songwriter Kelley Hunt says when she first started singing, her grandmother, a gospel singer, gave her this advice: "Don’t sing it, if you don’t mean it."

Hunt was born in Kansas City, Mo. and grew up in Emporia, Kan. She told Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix that her parents always had music playing in the house, including jazz, blues, R&B and Motown.

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Music Stories
1:24 pm
Fri October 4, 2013

Classical Connections In Symphony's Season

Kansas City Symphony's associate conductor, Aram Demirjian, and violinist Stefan Jackiw, attended elementary school together in Boston.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Violinist Stefan Jackiw rehearsed at Helzberg Hall before the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts was open, but didn't get to play there. This weekend, Jackiw returns to perform on stage with the Kansas City Symphony - and also reconnects with a childhood friend.

Getting back to work at Helzberg Hall

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People
10:52 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Russell Patterson, Former Opera And Symphony Director, Dies At 85

Russell Patterson served as the Kansas City Symphony's first music director, and as the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's general artistic director for four decades.

Updated: Friday, October 4, 11:15 a.m.

Russell Patterson, general artistic director of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City for four decades, as well as one of its founders, died Wednesday; he was 85. Patterson was also the first music director for the Kansas City Symphony.

From 1957 to 1998, Patterson served as the Lyric's artistic director. In a history of the company posted on its website, he's credited with sparking the idea:

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Government
6:53 am
Wed October 2, 2013

Mo. Head Start Programs Brace For Impact Of Shutdown

Head Start, a federally funded pre-K program for low-income children, had already been hit by a 5.3 percent sequestration budget cut. In the Kansas City metropolitan area, 200 Head Start slots were eliminated in Missouri and 50 more in Kansas.

On Tuesday, due to the government shutdown, 23 Head Start programs in 11 states, with fiscal years beginning October 1, were told to close.

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Government
11:56 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Government Shutdown Closes Truman Library And Museum

The Harry S. Truman Museum and Library is closed today.
Credit Edward Stojakovic / Flickr.com

There are an estimated 27,500 federal employees in the Kansas City metropolitan area. And Tuesday, with the shutdown of the federal government, some of those workers are furloughed.

Michael Devine, the director of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Mo., was at work Tuesday morning with other staffers, shutting down the facility. This included changing outgoing email and voice messages.

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Visual Arts
12:45 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Controversial Public Art In Crossroads Comes Down Early

According to A. Bitterman, his work called 'The Scout' 'represents a conversation with history, and invites the viewer to examine the ways in which the past intersects with the present to define our sense of place.'
Credit courtesy of the artist

The controversial work called The Scout was taken down Monday. The two-part image included the artist, known as A. Bitterman, standing on scaffolding taking aim at the Scout statue. It was originally commissioned as one of Missouri Bank’s Artboards. But, when it was "de-selected" in July, Bitterman looked into other options for public display.

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Visual Arts
5:00 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Ellie Ga, Searching For An Ancient Light

During one of her dives, Ellie Ga brought along replicas of Roman coins.
courtesy of the artist

There were Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, including two in Egypt: the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. You’ve probably heard of the pyramid - because it’s still standing - but the ruins of the lighthouse are underwater. For artist Ellie Ga, tracking down its remains became a quest of discovery.

An Arctic trip sheds light on a new project

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People
9:44 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Marion Bloch, Wife Of H&R Block Co-Founder, Dies At 83

Marion Bloch, wife of H&R Block co-founder, Henry W. Bloch, died on Tuesday.

Marion Bloch died at home on Tuesday in Mission Hills, Kan. at the age of 83. Bloch was married to Henry W. Bloch, co-founder of the financial services firm, H&R Block, for more than 60 years.

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Visual Arts
5:00 am
Fri September 20, 2013

'Gard Blue' Fills Spencer Museum Of Art With Light

Gard Blue, 1968. Copyright James Turrell
Credit Florian Holzherr / Collection of Mark and Lauren Booth/Courtesy Spencer Museum of Art

The "thingness," or the physicality of light, has been a focus of exploration for artist James Turrell for five decades. This summer, three major exhibitions of Turrell's work opened in Los Angeles, Houston, and New York, where he turned the Guggenheim Museum’s rotunda into, what one critic described as, a "meditative spectacle."

At the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Turrell's Gard Blue, a projected light work, dates to the 1960s, when the artist first started exploring the potential of light.

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Visual Arts
11:38 am
Wed September 18, 2013

Charlotte Street's Julie Dalgleish On Bringing New 'Energy and Passion'

Charlotte Street Foundation's new executive director, Julie Gordon Dalgleish.
Credit Sabrina Staires / Courtesy of Charlotte Street Foundation

Her three-decade career working with arts and cultural organizations has taken her to cities across the country, and into Canada. But, for most of her adult life, Julie Dalgleish has been based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area - until now.

Dalgleish moved to Kansas City in August, as the new executive director of the Charlotte Street Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1997 by David Hughes – it provides fellowships, residencies, studios, and exhibitions for Kansas City artists. She talked about what encouraged her to make the move.

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Visual Arts
5:00 am
Thu September 12, 2013

Portraiture, In The Gallery And Online

Visitors to the museum can view two exhibitions - one online and one on the gallery walls.
Credit courtesy Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

How do you define portraiture today?

It’s a question posed by the exhibition About Face: Contemporary Portraiture at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art – and one explored by the nearly 40 photographers whose images are on display on the gallery walls. An online exhibition Making Pictures of People, keeps the conversation going outside the museum walls.

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Visual Arts
1:54 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Philip Heying, Taking Portraits On Sept. 11

#1
courtesy of the artist

There are probably certain images that come to mind when you remember the September 11th terrorist attacks: the approaching plane, the two towers of the World Trade Center in flames, clouds of smoke, and people walking en masse across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Photographer Philip Heying is now based in Lawrence, Kan., and works as an adjunct instructor in the photography department at Johnson Community College.

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Agriculture
2:22 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Susan Werner's 'Hayseed,' An Ode To Agriculture

Chicago-based singer-songwriter Susan Werner has worked on concept albums before – from jazz standards to pop classics to Gospel music for agnostics. Her new CD, Hayseed, is described as "egg meets art," celebrating agriculture through music.

Susan Werner's roots are in Iowa; she grew up on the family farm near Dubuque. When her parents decided to move to town about a year ago, the idea of creating a musical tribute took shape.

Preserving stories, language, and characters in song

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Performance
5:00 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Artspace Exhibition Explores 'Performance Now'

Clifford Owens, "Anthology (Maren Hassinger)," 2011, HD video, 25 min., 35 sec.
Credit Courtesy of the artist

A traveling exhibition at the H&R Block Artspace, Performance Now, includes performance art from the last decade, with work by artists spanning generations, such as Marina Abramović, Yael Bartana, and Clifford Owens.

There’s a 12-hour performance of a 3 ½ minute aria; a slightly-scripted soap opera filmed in Ikea stores; and a Claymation film about urban violence. There are also re-performances, or re-creations of famous works from the past.

Performance art, then and now

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Business & Tech
6:18 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Roeland Park, Kan. Council Votes To Bring In Google Fiber

A screenshot, dated September 3, 2013, of the installation progress of Google Fiber in Kansas City, Kan.

The Roeland Park City Council Tuesday voted to bring Google Fiber, the high-speed Internet service, to the city. Spokeswoman Jenna Wandres says Roeland Park marks the "14th local Kansas City expansion (in addition to the original announcements in Kansas City, Kan.

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Music Stories
2:27 pm
Sun September 1, 2013

The Story Behind Tiny Horse's 'Ride'

A still from Tiny Horse's 'Ride.'

When news broke about the death of musician Abigail Henderson, the lead singer in bands such as the Gaslights and Atlantic Fadeout, some of the stories linked to a Tiny Horse music video directed by Mitch Brian and Todd Norris.

Tiny Horse started as a duo, including Henderson and her husband Christopher Meck, but it then expanded into a full band. In March 2013, Tiny Horse released an album called Darkly Sparkly. The song Ride was the first track on the EP.

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Music Stories
10:06 am
Sat August 31, 2013

'Siren' Silenced, But Abigail Henderson's Music Lives On

Abigail Henderson, a color image from the video shoot of Tiny Horse's 'Ride.'
Credit Mitch Brian

Friends and family will gather on Saturday to remember Abigail Hope Henderson. The musician died on Tuesday in Kansas City after a five-year fight with cancer. She was 36.

In some ways, her legacy will be interwined with her illness. 

Henderson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. She and her husband and bandmate, Christopher Meck, had been introduced to the idea of a health care collective for musicians in New Orleans. Her own diagnosis provided an impetus.

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Visual Arts
5:00 am
Wed August 28, 2013

Exhibition Program Halted At KU Medical Center

Until recently, Dykes Library hosted rotating exhibitions, but the program is now closed. On Monday, the last day of Hawk Week, rows of tables were set up for an event for students.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

After more than 20 years of showing rotating artwork, mostly of local artists, an exhibition program at University of Kansas Medical Center has closed. Officials say it’s the impact of steep cuts to state funding. And the KU Chancellor defended the school's commitment to free speech Tuesday. But others are calling it censorship. 

Inside and outside the library

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