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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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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Dance
10:31 am
Thu August 22, 2013

Kansas City Ballet Launches Second Company

KCB II dancers (from left to right): Rochelle Chang, Lark Commanday, Katya Duncan, Morgan Sicklick, and Meagan Swisher.
Credit Courtesy of the Kansas City Ballet

The Kansas City Ballet is joining other dance companies around the country – from Boston Ballet to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – to create a training ground for young dancers: a second company. 

Devon Carney, newly appointed artistic director of the Kansas City Ballet, described the second company, Kansas City Ballet II (KCB II), as a "natural next stage of development," based on the Ballet’s growth in recent years.

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Visual Arts
11:00 am
Wed August 21, 2013

Kansas Sculptor Jim Brothers Dies At 72

Jim Brothers' bronze sculpture called 'Citizen Soldier,' at the VFW national headquarters, 34th and Broadway, Kansas City, Mo.
Credit Courtesy of Leopold Gallery, Kansas City, Mo.

Lawrence-based sculptor Jim Brothers died on Tuesday after a battle with cancer. He was 72.

Brothers grew up in Eureka, Kan., a small town in the Flint Hills. He told the Lawrence Journal-World in 2004 that when he was growing up, art was not viewed as practical and he was "the only kid in that little school who drew."

An aunt encouraged Brothers to follow his passion; he attended Phillips University in Enid, Okla. and earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts.

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Dance
5:00 am
Wed August 21, 2013

Famed Choreographer's Personal Papers Find New Home

Michael Sweeney, the Archives' collection librarian; Crosby Kemper III, director of the Kansas City Public Library; and Allan Gray, Lee's Summit mayor pro tem, view some of the objects on display.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Playbills from performances, snapshots of family and friends, and personal letters of the late choreographer Alvin Ailey are now housed at the Black Archives of Mid-America.

The collection is called the Allan Gray Family Personal Papers of Alvin Ailey. And it's on long-term loan to the Black Archives.

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Performance
9:00 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Kansas City Creative Couples: Watson & Baskin-Watson

Saxophonist Bobby Watson and Pamela Baskin-Watson spend time together on the back porch of their Shawnee, Kan. home.
Julie Denesha KCUR

The work of iconic Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is on display this summer at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. They’re part of an exhibit called Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Masterpieces of Modern Mexico.

Kahlo and Rivera are known not only for their paintings, but for their tempestuous marriage, which sometimes influenced their art.

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Visual Arts
4:00 pm
Sat August 17, 2013

Kansas City Creative Couples: Casanova Cinderhouse & Cinderhouse

Héctor Casanova Cinderhouse and Renée Cinderhouse pose in front of a wall of items collected over the course of their relationship in their historic Northeast home.
Julie Denesha KCUR

The work of iconic Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is on display this summer at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. They’re part of an exhibit called Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Masterpieces of Modern Mexico.

Kahlo and Rivera are known not only for their paintings, but for their tempestuous marriage, which sometimes influenced their art.

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Visual Arts
2:15 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

From The Twin Cities To KC: A New Executive Director For Charlotte Street Foundation

Charlotte Street Foundation's new executive director Julie Gordon Dalgleish and Kate Hackman, who transitions from co-director to the new position of artistic director.
Credit Sabrina Staires / Courtesy of Charlotte Street Foundation

Charlotte Street Foundation today announced its new executive director: Julie Gordon Dalgleish, a 30-year veteran of arts and cultural organizations and foundations.

The search started in 2012 after Charlotte Street's founder and co-director David Hughes announced he'd step down.

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Visual Arts
5:00 am
Fri August 9, 2013

Artist Creates 'Haven' For Honeybees

Bees fly in and out of Jarrett Mellenbruch's Haven sculpture, a working beehive above the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden.
Julie Denesha KCUR

They’re small insects, flitting from flower to flower, and most people don’t give them a second look. But honeybees are vitally important to agriculture, pollinating seeds and crops, mostly fruits, vegetables and nuts.

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Government
7:09 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

6 Questions For Councilman Scott Wagner About The Kansas City Museum

In 2003, Scott Wagner moved to the city's historic Northeast and got interested in neighborhood issues. A year later, Wagner joined the mayor-appointed Kansas City Museum Advisory Board. "I've been involved now for nine years. I've seen quite a bit in that time," he laughs.

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Government
4:22 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

Museum Advisory Board Asks City To Reinstate Director

The Kansas City Museum is housed at Corinthian Hall in the city's historic northeast. The mansion was built by lumber baron R.A. Long in 1908; it opened as a museum in 1940.
Credit Scutter / Creative Commons

The Kansas City Museum Advisory Board has formally approved the business plan calling for the city to break Kansas City Museum's ties with Union Station Kansas City.

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Performance
5:00 am
Fri July 19, 2013

KC Fringe Festival Inspires Creative Challenges

Actors Jake Walker and Diana Watts rehearse their lines, as a husband and wife in a sinking boat, at the Fishtank.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

This year’s KC Fringe Festival includes dance, theater, visual arts, spoken word, fashion, and film; in 11 days, there are just over 360 shows in 19 venues.

Artists often describe Fringe as an opportunity to take on new roles: to direct, to write, to produce. But sometimes, it's also a chance to have some fun.

Connecting to the Kansas City theater community

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Visual Arts
3:39 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Public Art Will Go On Display, Despite Withdrawal Of Commission

courtesy: A. Bitterman

The Kansas City metropolitan area has had its share of controversies over the years when it comes to public art. Remember the 2012 petition drive to remove the statue of the headless bare-breasted woman at the Overland Park Arboretum? Or the artists who were encouraged to drop arrows from their terrazzo flooring design at KCI, so as not to confuse travelers?

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Government
8:38 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

Recommendations For The Future Of Arts And Culture In KC

From left to right: Co-chairs Sean Kelley and Pat Jordan, and Chair Mike Burke at the Kansas City Public Library Plaza branch, July 15, 2013.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

Kansas City, Mo. started a collaborative process in January 2013 when the public was invited to a series of brainstorming sessions to map out the city’s role in arts and culture. Top recommendations were announced on Monday.

The draft report, revealed in the auditorium at the Kansas City Public Library's Plaza branch, includes 10 goals, with strategies based on public input and subcommittees of the Mayor’s Task Force for the Arts.

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Government
3:27 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

Union Station And Kansas City Museum, Parting Ways?

The Kansas City Museum’s house director Christopher Leitch was fired on Monday. Details have not been released because it’s considered a confidential HR matter. But rumors have circulated that this signals the potential closing of the museum and layoffs.

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Government
9:20 am
Wed July 10, 2013

New Kansas Arts Commission Gives First Grants To 8 Organizations

The Culture House in Olathe is one of eight arts organizations to receive arts funding from the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (CAIC). They presented 'The Wizard of Oz' in July.
Credit courtesy of The Culture House

Eight arts groups, including one in Olathe, will receive funding from the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission. This marks the first round of grants from the organization that rose from the ashes of the former state arts agency.

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Government
10:29 am
Tue July 9, 2013

Leadership Shake Up At Kansas City Museum

The Kansas City Museum is housed in Corinthian Hall.
Susan B. Wilson KCUR

Update, 11:30 a.m.: "We are unchanged in our commitment in working with the city and our management contract to deliver programming for Kansas City Museum, both at Corinthian Hall and elsewhere," said Jerry Baber, chief financial officer of Union Station. "Our operation isn't changing, associated with the Kansas City Museum. Our relationship with the city isn't changing. This is strictly just an employment issue."

Denise Morrison, director of collections and curatorial services at Union Station, will step in as the museum's interim house director.

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Classical
12:00 pm
Fri July 5, 2013

A New Contract For Kansas City Symphony Musicians

The Kansas City Symphony performs in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
Credit Chris Lee / Kansas City Symphony

It’s been called a "tumultuous time" for orchestras across the United States with labor disputes leading to strikes and lockouts. But the Kansas City Symphony, the city’s largest performing arts organization, announced a new three-year contract Friday with musicians signed a year ahead of schedule.

The Symphony's executive director Frank Byrne says work started on the contract in January 2013, about 18 months before the expiration.

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Architecture
2:56 pm
Wed July 3, 2013

Historic Kansas City Foundation Releases Endangered Buildings List

The Wheatley Provident Hospital was established and run by and for the African-American community during the era of racial segregation in Kansas City, Mo. Founded by Dr. J. Edward Perry, it was run as a nursing school and hospital until closing in 1972.
Julie Denesha KCUR

The Historic Kansas City Foundation releases a list each year of buildings and city landmarks in danger of being lost due to demolition or neglect. This year’s "endangered" buildings include the oldest in the Crossroads, Lane Blueprint Building, as well as Disney’s Laugh-o-Gram studios, and the Country Club Plaza

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Performance
11:08 am
Tue July 2, 2013

A New Executive Director For The Rep

Angela Lee Gieras has been appointed executive director of Kansas City Rep.

After conducting a nationwide search, the Kansas City Repertory Theatre has chosen Angela Lee Gieras as its executive director. This marks a newly created position for the nearly 50-year-old regional theater.

Scott Boswell is the chair of the Rep's board of directors and served on the search committee. In a release, Boswell says, "Angela (Gieras) has a strong background in theatre, not-for-profit strategy, finance and development."

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Books
5:09 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

David Sedaris: A Marathon Book Signing In Kansas

It’s hard to imagine sitting for 9 hours at a stretch. Maybe on a long-haul flight, or a long-distance car trip. But, a 9-hour book signing?

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Visual Arts
1:00 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Kauffman Foundation Announces $20 Million For Downtown Arts Campus

Julia Irene Kauffman received a standing ovation, and a hearty handshake from the Conservatory's Peter Witte, after the announcement of the Muriel McBrien Kauffman leadership gift.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

It’s been two years since officials at the University of Missouri-Kansas City unveiled a plan for a downtown arts campus, which would relocate the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. On Wednesday, the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation announced a pledge of $20 million to support the effort.

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Agriculture
5:00 am
Wed June 26, 2013

Last Call For The Kansas City Board Of Trade

Jac T.Bowen constructed 'Sheaves of Wheat,' for the exterior of the Board of Trade building at 48th and Oak. The Board of Trade moved here in 1966.
Julie Denesha KCUR

In October 2012, Chicago-based CME Group acquired the Kansas City Board of Trade, the more than 150-year-old wheat exchange. Operations move to Chicago as of July 1 – and the last call on the Kansas City trading floor takes place on Friday. We take a look back at the long history of the Board of Trade – and the end of an era.

For 157 years, the price of most wheat grown on the plains has been set by the Kansas City Board of Trade. That will soon come to an end.

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Performance
9:15 am
Mon June 24, 2013

Father And Son On Stage At Heart Of America Shakespeare Festival

During a rehearsal, Orlando, played by Todd Carlton Lanker, and Oliver, played by Matt Rapport (in the center), struggle. Adam, played by Michael Linsley Rapport (at right), looks on in dismay.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

This year, in its 21st season, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival presents the romantic comedy, As You Like It. The production features conflicts between brothers, and a circuitous path to love.

Two actors – a father and son - talk about the challenges of acting in the same production and carrying on a family tradition.

A childhood in theaters leads to a career on the stage

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Film
3:39 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

Kansas Town Renamed Smallville...For A Day

Henry Cavill stars as Superman in 'Man of Steel.'
Credit Clay Enos / Warner Brothers Pictures

In a scene from the recent film Man of Steel, Superman is asked why he should be trusted. He responds, "I grew up in Kansas." For the past year, three natives of Hutchinson, Kan., have argued that their hometown is probably the closest fit to the superhero’s: Smallville.

On Friday, June 21, for one day only, Hutchinson will be known as "Smallville, Kansas – the Home of Clark Kent."

Hutchinson as candidate for Smallville

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Performance
10:10 am
Thu June 20, 2013

Feeling Groovy At The Heart Of America Shakespeare Festival

As raindrops begin to fall over a dress rehearsal performance, Mark Robbins, as Duke Frederick, holds out his hand to catch a drop.
Julie Denesha KCUR

This year's Heart of America Shakespeare Festival production of As You Like It, one of the Bard's romantic comedies, is set in 1967. And it's been at least 15 years since the festival presented a "full modern dress production," according to the festival's executive artistic director Sidonie Garrett who recalls it was Measure for Measure in 1998.

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Classical
5:00 am
Wed June 19, 2013

Off-Season: Kansas City Symphony's Miles Maner

The Kansas City Symphony's Miles Maner plays an excerpt from a Saint-Saëns piece in the KCUR studios.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

There are some artists, like musicians and dancers, whose contracts are for roughly 40 weeks a year. So, how do they spend the rest of their time?

We asked Kansas City Symphony musicians, on contract for a 42-week season, to share stories about their plans for the off-season.

Miles Maner, associate principal, bassoonist and contrabassoonist

On learning to love the bassoon

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Visual Arts
12:07 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

You Can Buy The Kansas City Board Of Trade Building, And Its Art

At the end of June, the Kansas City Board of Trade, founded in 1856 by Kansas City merchants, will begin trading Kansas City wheat futures in Chicago.
Julie Denesha KCUR

The Kansas City Board of Trade is slated to close its trading floor on June 28 after more than 150 years in Kansas City. In December, CME Group bought the exchange and plans to move operations to Chicago. The Board of Trade building at 4800 Main is on the market, including one of Jac T. Bowen's sculptures.

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