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. 

Jules / Flickr -- CC

What's not to like about cheese? First of all, it's probably the one food item for which "ooey-gooey" was invented. (And if not, let's just say it was).

Whether you like it melted in a sandwich or by itself with a glass of wine or beer, cheese is having quite a moment in KC.

Author William Gass died Wednesday at his home in St. Louis.  He was 93. The former Washington University professor was known for his contributions to fiction, criticism and philosophy. 

Longtime friend and coworker Lorin Cuoco said Gass’ work flourished in St. Louis.

Courtesy Elizabeth Schultz

Few people in their 80s are inclined, or able, to feed time and energy into a second career. Elizabeth Schultz is such an anomaly.

As an English professor at the University of Kansas, Schultz was an acclaimed scholar on Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” However, just before her retirement in 2001, she felt a pull toward a more creative use of language.

courtesy: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art's third location, Kemper at the Crossroads, has closed. 

"An exhibition on display there was scheduled to close on Saturday, December 2," says Breeze Richardson, director of marketing and communications. "It felt like the most appropriate way to frame the closing, not installing a subsequent exhibition."

A sale of the property has been negotiated but not finalized, she adds.

Courtesy Andrew Schwartz / Veritography

A Thanksgiving feast in a Scottish castle was the cherry on top when Kansas City’s Fountain City Brass Band toured the United Kingdom last month as America’s highest-ranked brass band.

Fountain City is one of Kansas City’s strongest musical ambassadors, with a second-place finish at the prestigious Brass in Concert competition at Gateshead, England (placing ahead of top-ranked Cory) and a third at the Scottish Open in Perth. On their own turf, our homegrown ensemble held its own against bands with traditions dating deep into the 1800s.

Mathias Kang

Andrew Morris, a guitarist and vocalist from Indiana, and Julie Bates, a fiddler and vocalist with roots in the Kansas City area, have released two albums as The Matchsellers.

They're an old-timey, folk and country duo whose between-song banter is as entertaining as their music. Among their two shows in upcoming days is the “Cover Me, KC” benefit for the Midwest Music Foundation, which Bates organized, with a roster of well-known area musicians covering one another’s compositions.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

An entrepreneur is often defined as someone who designs, launches and runs a new business. A risk-taker, an individual who takes a big idea and brings it to life. 

On Tuesday, the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will recognize this year's honorees at the annual Entrepreneurship of the Year awards celebration. The Institute is housed at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

Courtesy Lyn Elliot

Can you name one practical thing you learned from a former partner?

This question was the seed of "Lessons from Exes," a new short film featuring five vignettes by Kansas City filmmakers.

“I was making some popcorn in a pan on the stove,” Lyn Elliot remembers, “and the thought came into my mind that a particular ex-boyfriend had taught me how to do that.”

Courtesy: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Barbara O'Brien, who had served as executive director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, for more than five years, left the museum on November 3, according to a statement posted on the Kemper's website.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

For 25 years, Kansas City’s newEar contemporary chamber music ensemble has been performing brand new music — some of it by composers who live here — in what has become a long and productive conversation between area musicians and composers. 

courtesy photo / The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

Let me just say it: Nothing lasts forever.

And yet…the human heart yearns for permanence, an assurance from somewhere that somehow our hopeful expectations that the things that matter most to us just might endure.

Leave it the ironically fleeting weekend to potentially deliver on that longstanding front, from holiday traditions and dreams of worldwide freedom to an unforgettable tale of miraculously durable love and purpose. Will it stick with you? Cross your fingers.

 

Courtesy Ami Ayars

In a town like Kansas City, no one has an excuse for sending anything but locally crafted, one-of-a-kind gifts to their relatives in less creative parts of the world.

The artisans who'll be selling their wares at the events below have created something for every person on your list, and buying from them will give you a warm, fuzzy feeling because you’re buying local.

Courtesy Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear

Madisen Ward and his mother Ruth Ward of Independence went from complete obscurity to a modicum of international celebrity in 2015. Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear were playing at open-mic nights in area coffeehouses when they signed with Glassnote Records, home of superstar acts including Mumford & Sons.

Courtesy Joe Darling

Remember sitting by the Christmas tree, peeling back the wrapping on what could only be an LP – but which one? And by which of your favorite bands? Then listening for days, flipping that record from the A side to the B side, memorizing the lyrics on the liner notes, devouring the graphics.

Admittedly, some of you might be too young for those kinds of memories. But take it from someone who’s collected John Denver records since she was seven: A new album pressed on vinyl is a gift you receive several times over, every time the music plays.

Joe Darling agrees.

courtesy: Reference Recordings

The nominees for the 60th annual Grammy Awards were announced on Tuesday, and the Kansas City Symphony performs on a record nominated in two categories.

The recording is Adam Schoenberg: American Symphony; Finding Rothko; Picture Studies, and it features the Kansas City Symphony conducted by music director Michael Stern

Courtesy Edison Lights

The history of rock and roll is littered with lurid stories about the abhorrent behavior of male musicians. Chris Doolittle, who set aside a promising music career to help provide for his wife and children, is one of the good guys.

City and arts leaders on Monday announced a new two-month city-wide arts festival called Open Spaces 2018: A Kansas City Arts Experience

"It’s 60 days of city-wide visual and performing arts debuts on a scale previously unseen in the city," Mayor Sly James said at a press conference at the KCAI Crossroads Gallery in the Crossroads Arts District.

James said he expects the event will foster the city's reputation as an arts destination. 

Erwin E. Smith Collection of the Library of Congress / On Deposit at the Amon Carter Museum

The worn-slick saddle encased in Plexiglas is not a standard fixture of the Kansas City Public Library’s grand, marbled entry hall. But it's not out of place, either, considering that the stately former First National Bank building, which opened in 1886, is a monument to how cosmopolitan the cattle industry once made our town.

Courtesy Randy Michael Signor

In Randy Michael Signor’s new novel “Osawatomie,” homesteaders settle near the titular Kansas town just before the Civil War. This turns out to be problematic in ways that reverberate for generations (it might as well be a metaphor for America).

YouTube

Son of the blues legend Johnnie Taylor, the Kansas City-based T.J. Hooker-Taylor performs at the annual Thanksgiving breakfast dance at the National Guard Armory in Kansas City, Kansas.

Organizers claim this year's party is the 68th annual Thanksgiving blues dance in Kansas City. Many of the revelers wear their holiday finest and sip on premium liquor (libations are B.Y.O.B.; a breakfast buffet is included with the price of admission).

Cory Weaver / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Ten years ago, when Eric Rosen was angling for the job as artistic director of Kansas City Repertory Theatre, he pitched a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol. It was something he'd wanted to do for years while running a theater company in Chicago. Now he's finally bringing it to the stage.

"It's sort of a dream project in the sense of having a scope and a cast and a capacity to make something huge that we don't often get to do," Rosen says. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

On Wednesday, the Kansas City Ballet opens the first of seven prestigious performances of “The Nutcracker” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., capping a year and a half of planning and meeting a massive logistical challenge.

Moving the entire production required four 52-foot semi trucks. Besides 30 company dancers, the Ballet brought along 12 second-company members and around 20 crew members and artistic and administrative staff.

Courtesy Michael McClintock

When Michael McClintock and Dálida Pupo Barrios met, it was not love at first sight.

Pupo Barrios was doing her job, working for the Cuban minister of culture, accompanying McClintock's tour group when he first visited the country.

Courtesy Tom Stroik

"One thing that a poet needs more than anything else — well, you need a sense of language — but you need people who love you. And I have that," the poet Michelle Boisseau told New Letters on the Air host Angela Elam earlier this year. "I have incredible colleagues, and of course my husband Tom [Stroik], and people who believe in your work. Just keep doing it."

Courtesy Stevie Stone / Facebook

Stevie Stone, a Kansas City-based rapper signed to the Strange Music label, is a regular presence at Tech N9ne concerts. But his show on Saturday is the final date of a 28-city tour he headlines in support of his new album "Level Up."

courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on Monday announced to employees that 23 staffers would be leaving, taking advantage of an "enhanced benefit option for retirement."

The museum currently has 250 employees, including part-timers. The employees are departing from nearly every division of the museum, including administration, curatorial and information services.

Bonnie Bolling remembers when she first stepped on Middle Eastern soil. A writer, Bolling was in an airport in Dubai and the call to prayer came over the loudspeakers.

She’d never heard the call, and while she definitely felt reverence, she also panicked because she didn’t know what to expect or what her own response should be. Her heart beat hard as she stopped and awaited the reactions of her fellow travelers.

“I realized I was going to experience it in a way I was going to need to write about,” Bolling says of the Middle East.

Courtesy Truck Stop Love / Black Site Records

For Truck Stop Love, the early ‘90s were a magical rock and roll blur.

Some things the band does remember: recording their major label debut for Scotti Brothers records in Santa Monica, California, just down the hall from Weird Al Yankovic, who was working on Alapalooza; and making a record produced by Jody Stephens of Big Star at Ardent Studios in Memphis, playing in the same room where The Replacements once recorded.

ilaria / Flickr -- CC

Italian food. Those two words may bring up images of a pasta dish with red sauce, or perhaps a thick square of lasagna. Throw in a glass of wine, and you're set for a cold winter night.

Some local chefs are also putting a creative spin on the cuisine. From old-school favorites to some new takes, our food critics on KCUR’s Central Standard searched out the best Italian food in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

courtesy: Mulvane Art Museum

Artist Rita Blitt made a significant gift to the Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, Kansas — a bulk of her life’s work, an estimated 2,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures and film, as well as archival material. It represents preserving a legacy and a lifetime of giving. 

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