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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Theater/Performance
2:59 pm
Thu October 6, 2011

Tom Sawyer: From Page to Stage at the Kauffman Center

Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer tells the story of a young boy - a bit of a troublemaker - growing up in a town along the Mississippi River.

Kansas City, Mo. – The setting is inspired by Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens) lived. But how do you incorporate vividly written characters into a ballet - where the story is told through movement, not words?

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Visual Arts
9:18 am
Tue October 4, 2011

Lawrence Lithography: Creating An Image From Stone

The first home of the Lawrence Lithography Workshop in downtown Lawrence, Kan. It's now located at 2011 Tracy, Kansas City, Mo.
courtesy of Lawrence Lithography Workshop

Mike Sims was first introduced to lithography, described as the closest of all printing processes to pure drawing, as a student in the late 1960s. And Sims was hooked.

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Visual Arts
1:47 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Bloch Building Filled with Sculptures of Rodin [VIDEO]

An image of Rodin's "The Thinker" on the wall of the Bloch Building. Visitors will be able to see the image along Rockhill Road at night.
photos: Laura Spencer/KCUR

"Rodin: Sculptures from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation" displays 40 bronze sculptures in the Bloch Lobby of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Kansas City, Mo. – The exhibition, only the second to be installed in the lobby, is divided into three sections: figures related to the "Gates of Hell," a massive bronze portal; commissioned historical and cultural heroes; and a series of hands.

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Opera/Performance
11:01 am
Wed September 28, 2011

Building the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's "Turandot"

This summer's heat didn't affect the staff building scenery for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, probably the first time in three decades. In June, the Lyric moved tools, lumber, and other items from an un-air conditioned space in the East Bottoms to a new production facility in the East Crossroads.

Kansas City, Mo. – KCUR's Laura Spencer visited on a hot day in July (the expected high was 101), and filed this report.

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Visual Arts
8:17 am
Wed September 28, 2011

Kemper ARTcast: June Ahrens

June Ahrens, Still Standing, 2010; reclaimed jars, glass, aluminum, 24 x 72 x 30 in.;
Collection of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Artist June Ahrens sits with Chief Curator Barbara O'Brien to discuss her works relating to September 11, in the exhibition Acquisitions in Context: June Ahrens.

Kansas City, Mo. – Acquisitions in Context: June Ahrens
September 9-December 24, 2011
Kemper Museum

From the Kemper's website: "Artist June Ahrens's work addresses issues of loss, pain, fragility, danger, and survival. Her work is obsessive in spirit and uses reclaimed or repurposed everyday objects."

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Classical
9:58 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Chen Yi's 'Fountains of Kansas City'

Narong Prangcharoen (UMKC Conservatory alum) and Chen Yi take notes on the score during the Kansas City Symphony rehearsal, September 21, 2011.
photos: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Three world premieres are slated for the Kansas City Symphony's inaugural season in Helzberg Hall. And they all take inspiration from a Kansas City trademark: fountains. The first, by renowned composer Chen Yi, called Fountains of Kansas City, premieres this weekend.

Kansas City, Mo. – Born and raised in China, Dr. Chen has lived and taught in Kansas City for more than a decade at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

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Visual Arts
10:55 am
Wed September 21, 2011

June Ahrens: Tapping Memories through Material

June Ahrens, Hiding in Plain Site, 2008; site-dependent installation, acrylic mirror and light, 174 inches diameter.
Courtesy of the artist

Artist June Ahrens draws on a wide range of materials, from rusty razor blades and air conditioner filters to insulation foam and pillows.

Kansas City, Mo. – The latest series by the artist uses broken acrylic mirrors, broken jars, and bottles to create works inspired by the events of 9/11.

KCUR's Laura Spencer caught up with Ahrens recently during the installation of two of her pieces, Hiding in Plain Site and Still Standing, at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

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Performance
1:35 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

WEB EXTRA: Tommy Tune and Patti LuPone

Muriel Kauffman Theatre at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Hours before the opening gala for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Broadway stars Patti LuPone and Tommy Tune discussed some of their signature roles and what it's like to open a new hall.

Kansas City, Mo. – Patti LuPone on Muriel Kauffman Theatre: "It's probably one of the best new houses I've ever sung in...the acoustics are key. And this is a fantastic space."

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Performance
11:51 am
Fri September 16, 2011

Nearly Two Decades in the Making: Kauffman Center Opens Its Doors

photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

The concrete-and-glass shell-shaped Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opens tonight. And it's been almost two decades in the making.

Kansas City, Mo. – A bit of giddiness was in the air at a media preview yesterday - tempered by awareness of the work ahead.

With her bright blonde hair, and tailored pink suit, Julia Irene Kauffman, in her trademark throaty voice, describes how it all began.

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Performance
9:59 am
Tue September 13, 2011

Dedication of Kansas City's New Performing Arts Center

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, Kauffman Board Chairman Julia Irene Kauffman, and Kansas City Mayor Sly James attended the ribbon cutting.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Officials gathered Tuesday to mark the dedication of the $413 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts - and its new city-funded parking garage.

Kansas City, Mo. – Officials gathered Tuesday to mark the dedication of the $413 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts - and its new city-funded parking garage.

Kauffman Center Chairman of the Board Julia Irene Kauffman said the project was personal and close to her heart since its inception, nearly two decades ago. She credits the collaborative approach.

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Arts & Culture
2:22 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Creating a Regional Cultural Plan

Words from the discussion during the Regional Cultural Planning session in August.
image courtesy of the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday announced its "Big Five" - five ideas to move the region forward. The project launched in 2010, collecting nearly 200 suggestions. The list was narrowed down to 20 in July - and many of those ideas were related to arts and culture (including moving the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance downtown, which made the top 5).

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Visual Arts
1:35 pm
Thu September 8, 2011

CNN's "9/11 Ripple" Project: Peregrine Honig

Peregrine Honig's "Twins"

CNN.com commissioned artists from around the world "to create or choose work to illustrate the ripple effect of 9/11." Here, Kansas City's Peregrine Honig describes her work called "Twins," and recalls where she was on September 11, 2001.

Kansas City, Mo. –

Peregrine Honig's artist statement for CNN.com's 9/11 Ripple project:

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Theater/Performance
1:07 pm
Thu September 8, 2011

Responding to 9/11 Through Music

newEar, the contemporary chamber ensemble, opens its 19th season with a concert exploring themes of time, loss and remembrance. Two works on the program were written in response to September 11th.

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Music
9:09 am
Fri September 2, 2011

Cowtown Ballroom Co-Founder Stan Plesser Dies at 79

Vanguard Coffee House flyer

The early 1970s Kansas City music venue Cowtown Ballroom will be inducted into the Missouri Music Hall of Fame Saturday night in St. Joseph. But one of its founders won't be there. Stan Plesser died on Thursday.

Kansas City, Mo. – Stan Plesser was raised in New York, and moved to Kansas City to attend high school.

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Visual Arts
9:55 am
Thu September 1, 2011

An Architectural Response to Demolition of West Edge

The unfinished West Edge project.
courtesy of Safdie Architects

There are two Moshe Safdie-designed projects in Kansas City: the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, slated to open September 16th; and West Edge, an office and hotel complex near the Country Club Plaza that's been plagued with problems. A construction dispute, bankruptcy, and changes in ownership stalled the project for nearly three years.

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Theater/Performance
12:39 pm
Fri August 26, 2011

Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity Opens Its Doors

Jacques d'Amboise, former principal dancer of the New York City Ballet and colleague of Todd Bolender, and Kimberly Cowen, Kansas City Ballet company dancer, cut the ribbon to open the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

On Friday morning, under a grand white tent, hundreds gathered to mark the official opening of the Kansas City Ballet's new home.

Kansas City, Mo. – On Friday morning, under a grand white tent, hundreds gathered to mark the official opening of the Kansas City Ballet's new home.

A former coal-fired power plant for Union Station is now called the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity.

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Visual Arts
2:59 pm
Thu August 25, 2011

Temporary Artwork Generates Discussion about Economic Policy

Artist John Salvest looks at the diagram for "IOU/USA" in Memorial Hill/Penn Valley Park.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

On the grassy lawn near the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City, trucks are hauling cargo shipping containers to be unloaded and stacked into a towering, temporary sculpture. One hundred and five containers, piled almost seven stories high, will spell out IOU on one side and USA on the other. It's a nod to this country's increasing federal budget and foreign trade deficits.

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Visual Arts
12:32 pm
Wed August 24, 2011

Visitors Vote on Scumak to Add to NAMA's Collection

Museum visitors Joan Newell, Jennifer Baxter, and Rachel Newell after voting for their favorite Scumaks.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Acquiring new art for a museum's permanent collection can be a complex, and sometimes political process. When the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art found out they'd be able to keep three of New York-based artist Roxy Paine's Scumak sculptures, they decided to open up the decision to the public.

Kansas City, Mo. – Acquiring new art for a museum's permanent collection can be a complex, and sometimes political process.

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Theater/Performance
1:59 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Kansas City Ballet Celebrates New Home

Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity
image: courtesy of BNIM

On Monday, the Kansas City Ballet kicks off a two-week celebration of its new home in the Crossroads, the $32 million Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity.

Kansas City, Mo. – On Monday, the Kansas City Ballet kicks off a two-week celebration of its home in the Crossroads, the $32 million Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity.

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Visual Arts
8:30 am
Fri August 19, 2011

"America I AM" Travels to Union Station in October

A traveling exhibition, exploring 500 years of African-American history, from slavery to the present-day, is coming to Union Station this fall.

Kansas City, Mo. – A traveling exhibition, exploring 500 years of African-American history, from slavery to the present-day, is coming to Union Station this fall. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

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Government
10:41 am
Wed August 17, 2011

NEA Says KS Not Eligible for Arts Grants

The National Endowment for the Arts, or NEA, says the Kansas Arts Commission is not eligible to receive federal matching funds.

Topeka, Kan. – The National Endowment for the Arts, or NEA, says the Kansas Arts Commission is not eligible to receive federal matching funds. That comes after Governor Sam Brownback vetoed the agency's budget earlier this year. As KPR's Stephen Koranda tells us, the governor wants private donations to fund the arts in Kansas.

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Performance
11:28 am
Fri August 5, 2011

Up to Date: Tour the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts will hold its grand opening in mid-September, but finishing touches are already well underway, from the installation of the 5,548-pipe Casavant Freres organ in Helzberg Hall, to the addition of decorative touches in reception suites, to the finishing of the parking garage.

Kansas City, Mo. – (Up to Date, August 5, 2011)

Listen to the broadcast here.

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Visual Arts
3:58 pm
Thu August 4, 2011

<I>Between Thee & Me</I> Bridges Divides Through Art

Artist Gerry Trilling talks about her work at the Epsten Gallery.
photo: courtesy of Epsten Gallery

Over the centuries, art and religion...have grown apart. As a Huffington Post writer puts it: "The art world suffers from a secular hangover." But, in recent years, artists are returning to religious subjects and imagery in their artwork.

Kansas City, Mo. – KCUR's Laura Spencer takes a look at two group exhibitions that ask artists to delve into religious objects.

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Government
12:28 pm
Wed August 3, 2011

Statement from the NEA Regarding the Kansas Arts Commission

In a contentious meeting on Tuesday, Linda Browning Weis, the chairwoman of the defunded Kansas Arts Commission, announced she'd sent a letter to the National Endowment for the Arts. Browning Weis argued the organization is still qualified to receive matching federal funds. The NEA released this statement today.

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Government
8:21 am
Wed August 3, 2011

Kansas Arts Commissioners Clash Over Foundation Funding Report

There was heated discussion on Tuesday at the meeting of the Kansas Arts Commission. The conflict was over how the state agency will work with a new private foundation that will raise money for arts programs in Kansas.

Kansas City, Mo. – There was heated discussion on Tuesday at the meeting of the Kansas Arts Commission. The conflict was over how the state agency will work with a new private foundation that will raise money for arts programs in Kansas.

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Visual Arts
1:41 pm
Mon August 1, 2011

Debate over Controversial Statue Resumes

This statue, located in front of the police communications building, has sparked years of controversy in Kansas City about art and interpretation.
Brenna Daldorph/KCUR

Renovations of the police communications building mean that a well-known statue will have to find a new home. Will it be sent to storage or be moved to another public spot in Kansas City? The debate is on!

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Theater/Performance
11:58 am
Fri July 22, 2011

Kansas City Ballet's "Tom Sawyer" Moves Into Kauffman Center [VIDEO]

photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

The Kansas City Ballet's first season in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opens in October with "Tom Sawyer: A Ballet in 3 Acts" (choreography: William Whitener, music: Maury Yeston).

Kansas City, Mo. – The sets for "Tom Sawyer," built by the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, were recently loaded into the Kauffman Center's Muriel Kauffman Theatre. KCUR's Laura Spencer stopped by to take a look.

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Theater/Performance
12:23 pm
Fri July 15, 2011

Installation Underway for Kauffman Center Pipe Organ

July 11, 2011: Containers backstage at Helzberg Hall during the installation of the pipe organ.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opens in two months. And it will also take the next two months for a crew from Montreal to install a new Casavant Fr?res pipe organ.

Kansas City, Mo. – Installation work began last week, and boxes and crates filled with pipes and other components are stacked on stage - and behind stage - at Helzberg Hall.

KCUR's Laura Spencer talked to project manager Fabien Tremblay about the progress.

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People
11:34 am
Fri July 15, 2011

Plans Continue for Skywalk Memorial

This Sunday (July 17, 2011) marks the 30th anniversary of the collapse at the Hyatt Regency hotel where 114 people lost their lives. No plaque commemorates the tragedy.

Kansas City, Mo. – This Sunday (July 17, 2011) marks the 30th anniversary of the collapse at the Hyatt Regency hotel where 114 people lost their lives. No plaque commemorates the tragedy.

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18th and Vine
9:59 am
Wed July 13, 2011

NEA Awards Funding to Renovate Historic 18th and Vine Theater

Boone Theater at 18th and Highland, Kansas City, Mo.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Kansas City, Mo. – The National Endowment for the Arts announced its first round of "Our Town" grants on Tuesday. Projects in 34 states, including restoring an historic theater in Kansas City, Missouri, were awarded more than $6.5 million. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports. -------------------------------

NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman says he uses a framework called creative placemaking: "Which simply put, are the ways that towns and cities shape their social, physical and economic characters."

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