Arts & Culture | KCUR

Arts & Culture

KCUR’s Arts & Culture Desk covers arts news from music to visual art to dance and theater, with a focus on Kansas and Missouri.

Our reporters explore the behind-the-scene stories about newsmakers and emerging artists. We also take a look at the intersections of arts and technology, science and creativity, and present profiles of creative people. 

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

In the early 2000s, Tim Finn was raising two young daughters while working as The Kansas City Star's full-time pop music critic. His wife, Lauren Chapin, was the paper's food critic. They were eating in restaurants, bringing home tons of free music and going to shows all the time. He still wonders whether his daughters thought that was just how people lived.

"They must have thought, 'Wow, this is ... you know, what a glorious life.' And it was."

The 13th annual Symphony in the Flint Hills event took place on June 9 in Butler County. KMUW’s Ascha Lee files this Audio Postcard, featuring music from the Kansas City Symphony and voices from Gov. Jeff Colyer and special guest singer Aoife O’Donovan.


LaBudde Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library

Who in Kansas City remembers AIDS activists smashing vials of HIV-positive blood in City Hall, and abortion opponents trying to display fetuses in coffins at Planned Parenthood protests?

It was 25 years ago, so you’d have to be a certain age to remember. And you’d need to have been paying attention to the news.

Kansas City Business Journal

Kansas City's long-vacant Luzier Cosmetics Building may soon have a new tenant: The Nelle, an urban social club for women.

Although a lease hasn't yet been signed, Nelle co-founder Sierra Miramontez said she and her business partner, Lauren Saks, have been in talks with the building's owner and developer Butch Rigby since last year. They plan to occupy about 15,000 square feet inside 3216 Gillham Plaza and open in the fall or early 2019.

Peter Borsari / Kansas City Business Journal

A nondescript building in the Kansas City area is home to something that many in the art world can't believe exists in a Midwest city, according to the man tasked with selling it, according to the Kansas City Business Journal.

Original 18th-century engravings by William Hogarth. Photos by pioneering photographer Weegee. Millions of photographs, plates, line drawings and ephemera, such as posters, broadsides and tickets. And it's all on the market at the fire-sale price of $15 million.

Libby Hanssen / KCUR 89.3

When you see a stranger on public transit, what's your usual reaction? Do you make eye contact, even small talk, or studiously ignore them and play Pokémon Go on your phone?

Traveling with Megan Karson's The Stranger on the Train, reactions are a little different. When The Stranger trundles onto the #801 at the Kansas City Streetcar stop at Union Station, passengers stare, then laugh, at the surprising addition to their ride.

Danny Wood / KCUR 89.3

Decades after most of the buildings were dismantled, newspaper articles raved about the beautiful vistas from a hilltop in Clay County: “One of the finest views of Missouri River countryside in all directions that may be found,” the Kansas City Journal wrote in 1941.

Smallcakes

Kansas City will be the first to get a taste of a new concept from Smallcakes founder Jeff Martin: Southern Charm Gelato.

A trip to Italy less than two years ago inspired the idea, the founder of Overland Park-based franchising company Sweet Brands told the Kansas City Business Journal.

Brian Collins

Kansas City's annual summer ritual, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, is upon us. This year's production is the comedy “Much Ado About Nothing.” 

This also means it's time for another annual ritual at KCUR: tracking down Geraldo U. Sousa, a professor of English at the University of Kansas, who has written several books on Shakespeare.

Fidencio Fifield-Perez

As a second grader growing up in North Carolina, Fidencio Fifield-Perez was the school cartoonist. He won a few awards and certificates, and a local newspaper wrote an article about him. He’d newly immigrated to the United States from Mexico.

Years later, when he needed proof that he’d grown up in the United States in order to gain DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status, his early art skills came in handy because those awards and the newspaper story provided documentation of his childhood.

Pirate's Bone / Facebook

Vegetarian options pop up on a lot of Kansas City menus, from high-end restaurants to brand-new coffee shops … and yes, even at barbecue joints.

“Now, it’s just part of everybody’s diet. You don’t have to ask for something vegetarian. It’s just a dish without meat or fish or whatever,” KCUR food critic Mary Bloch told host Gina Kaufmann on Central Standard.

courtesy: Susan Emshwiller

Is Robert Altman’s 1996 film “Kansas City” responsible for the preservation of the 18th & Vine jazz district?

Jazz historian and KCUR Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix says the answer is yes.

Anne Kniggendorf

Rob Hill was pretty sure he had the makings of the fabled great American novel. But the retired Army lieutenant colonel isn’t much of a writer, so his idea for a story about who was buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers didn’t pan out.

He did have a creative outlet, though, one that led Hill to think he could tell the post-World War I story through song. A member of the Heartland Men’s Chorus, Hill took his idea to Artistic Director Dustin Cates.

Wikimedia Commons

Hulu is casting the pilot for a TV show called "Kansas City," which will be filmed in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The concept for the show is dystopian. According to KMBC, it will be set in Kansas City, in a future in which the city is deeply divided between liberals and conservatives with a wall between the two sides.

Cynthia Levin / Unicorn Theatre

A particular role in the Unicorn Theatre's newest production is perfect for Kansas City actor Ahafia Jurkiewicz-Miles.

“I've always wanted to play someone like me on stage,” Jurkiewicz-Miles told host Gina Kaufmann on Tuesday's episode of KCUR's Central Standard. “The fact that I get to do that now makes it so exciting to go into work every day.”

Bloch News / UMKC

Fashion designer Kate Spade, 55, was found dead in her New York City apartment on Tuesday. The Associated Press reports that she died by suicide. 

She was born Katherine Noel Brosnahan in Kansas City, Missouri, and graduated from St. Teresa's Academy. She went on to attend the University of Kansas, and switched to Arizona State University. That's where she met her future husband, Andy Spade.

Belger Arts Center

When it comes to the relevance of her artwork in the post-Obama political landscape, no one could blame Renée Stout for saying she warned us.

Centric Projects/Kansas City Repertory Theatre

A $50 million funding proposal for a new building for the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, sponsored by Rep. Noel Shull, R-Kansas City, never made it out of committee during the Missouri General Assembly session that just ended.

Shull proposed the legislation after now-former Gov. Eric Greitens' 2017 veto of $48 million in state bond funding for a downtown Conservatory campus (also sponsored by Shull).

Marco Pavan

“Nobody gets out alive on planet Earth,” says Cannupa Hanska Luger.

He's stating the obvious, of course, but the New Mexico-based artist is also talking about the title of his show in Kansas City: “Life is Breathtaking.”

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

When First Fridays started in Kansas City, the whole point was to bring more people to the Crossroads to experience art. But for years now, critics have been saying the festive scene has lost all focus on art.

“Most contemporary artists in Kansas City have a tendency to hate or just throw vitriol at First Friday because they think it’s an annoying touristy trap of everyone from the suburbs,” said Melaney Ann Mitchell, an artist who runs a website called Informalityblog, where art critics write about what’s happening in area galleries.

Ubah Kariye

With the instant and reliable nature of cell-phone photography, most people have little need for disposable cameras. The old-school tools proved perfect, however, for a group of refugees documenting their new lives in Kansas City.

A show of their photography opens Friday at the Kansas City Public Library, in an exhibition called "Indisposable: KC Cultures."

The photographers originally came from countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Syria. Many of them settled in Kansas City less than a year ago.

Adam Vogler / Kansas City Business Journal

As Andrews McMeel Universal looks to the future of comic strips, it's working to attract a new generation of talent and reimagine what comics could be, the Kansas City Business Journal reports.

Part of the Kansas City-based company's vision involves tapping into short-form animated videos, and it's kicking off that initiative with a GoComics Short Shorts Animation Contest open to the U.S. and Canada.

YouTube

Kansas City likes to boast that it’s internationally recognized for jazz. A concert at the Gem Theater on Thursday provides some evidence.

“Our musicians are everywhere in the world. We are pretty famous for our musicians,” says vocalist Deborah Brown, a Kansas City native and one of the instigators of Jazz Sister Cities, a partnership between musicians in Kansas City, Missouri, and Szczecin, Poland.

Kansas City already has civic relationships with 13 sister cities around the world, but this is the first purely musical relationship, unrelated to City Hall.

Mary Ellen Matthews / NBC

Last weekend wrapped up yet another season of Saturday Night Live.

For cast member and Kansas City native Heidi Gardner, it was an incredible debut.

Gardner was one of three new cast members who joined the show last September.

Now that the season is over, she had time to Skype with Central Standard guest host Michelle Tyrene Johnson about what it was like to work on NBC’s legendary show.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Maybe what Kansas City’s slow-to-redevelop 18th and Vine district has needed all along is The Popper.

The entrepreneurial rapper, whose real name is Walter Edwin, recently opened a storefront just south of the historic street corner. True to his hometown cheerleading, the name of the shop echoes the title of his signature song: It’s called I’m KC.

Nan Goldin / The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

They’d been promised “gritty expression.”

But the two dozen members of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s Society of Fellows who’d gathered at the southern tip of the Bloch Building did not appear in search of any such thing. Just past the end point of “The Big Picture,” the Nelson’s recently opened showcase of photos from the Hall Family Foundation, the smartly dressed patrons sipped wine and listened to cocktail jazz.

Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

As a kid growing up on his family’s farm in Louisburg, Kansas, David Wayne Reed just wanted to perform.

He wore his mom’s heels, a cinched-up shirt as a dress, and a wig to entertain visiting seed salesmen. He also choreographed dances for the hay crew.

“As kind of a slightly effeminate little kid, (farming) was hard, it was masculine, and I didn’t know that I really fit in. I kind of felt like a little bit of a square peg,” Reed told guest host Brian Ellison on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Lee Hartman wants to show a few hundred musicians from as far away as Australia and Great Britain that Kansas City isn't flyover country.

Hartman gets his chance next week, when Kansas City’s Mid America Freedom Band, of which he is artistic director, plays host to 30 concert bands and marching bands coming to Kansas City for the Lesbian and Gay Band Association's annual conference.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include developments at Thursday's City Council meeting.

This week marked the deadline for Kansas City's troubled American Jazz Museum to respond to the city's request to change its staff and board leadership in order to be eligible for city funds.

Joshua Wiener

Merriam City Council members on Monday approved a new public art project by a close vote of 5-4.

The sculpture, "Hmmm..." is designed by Colorado-based artist Joshua Wiener. A nine-foot tall caterpillar stands next to a 12-foot cairn, a stack of granite river boulders, with a butterfly perched on top. Weiner's proposal was selected by a resident-led arts committee that reviewed 45 submissions. 

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