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. 

Courtesy Lindsay Adams

When did we stop telling folk tales? The days of white-haired elders sitting by fires under the stars recounting local legends might be over, but storytelling and oral traditions aren't. 

In fact, Kansas City playwright Lindsay Adams has created her own folk tale.

"I just had this image of the woman crying and the river flowing and keeping all the wheat alive. I wrote it down in a notebook," she says. "And then I came back to it, started writing and it just sort of came. It was pretty magical."

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

The poet Mbembe Milton Smith wrote some provocative words about a Kansas City suburb:

“There are uncharted places like Overland Park, Kansas or Greenwich Connecticut where they lock their back door if they heard black power was coming cause black folk wouldn’t dare come round the front.”

For a person of color, those words might articulate a vague feeling of uneasiness that accompanies a visit to Johnson County even today. But they come from the poem "Allegory of the Bebop Walk," written decades ago.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

Rachel Arato-Hrabko

It takes a special kind of mid-life Midwestern songwriter to transform the tale of Ann Boleyn, Henry VIII’s famous second wife, and Thomas Cromwell, the king’s lesser-known chief minister, into a cheatin’ song.

Brian Slater / Courtesy Making Movies

One of Kansas City’s most accomplished rock bands, Making Movies tours extensively and collaborates with prominent artists — but this weekend they're part of a free concert in downtown Lawrence.

That free show comes as the band — brothers Diego and Enrique Chi, who are Panamanian immigrants; and brothers Juan-Carlos and Andres Chaurand — is enjoying a wave of national attention.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Kansas City-based photographer Dan White has won a Pulitzer Prize and traveled the world photographing people and places. From his home and studio in the West Bottoms, he's preparing to set out on his next trip into the field.

But his latest trip isn’t taking him off to some far-flung location. White is headed to his troubled hometown of Flint, Michigan.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

Courtesy Oleta Adams

Fireworks lit the sky behind Oleta Adams as she headlined 18th and Vine's Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend — but they were intended for the audience a couple of miles away at Union Station, where the Kansas City Symphony was performing its annual Celebration at the Station.

Anne Kniggendorf

People around here know Oz.

“Being in Kansas — holy crap — we just get inundated," says Matt Hawkins, the puppet designer for Paul Mesner Puppet Theater’s production of The Wizard of Oz. "Every truck stop is full of Wizard of Oz.”

So why would Mike Horner, the company's artistic director, bother with yet another production of the story?

Courtesy Mid-America Arts Alliance

Todd Stein will continue leading the Kansas City-based Mid-America Arts Alliance, where he has been interim chief executive officer since longtime director Mary Kennedy retired last August.

In an announcement Friday, Mid-America Arts Alliance board chair Ed Clifford said Stein is "the right person to lead our team as the arts world faces challenges securing federal funding for the cultural organizations we support in six states."

Courtesy Tom Shawver

Some people contend that James Joyce's Ulysses is the best novel of the 20th century. I'm not jumping into that debate. But as the annual worldwide literary holiday known as Bloomsday celebrating Ulysses rolls around again, I've made one more attempt to understand the book.

Not by reading it, but by speaking to some local experts.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR 89.3

When Makeda Peterson was growing up, history was personal to her.

Her father, Horace Peterson III, founded the Black Archives of Mid-America. He also started Kansas City’s Juneteenth celebration in 1980.

As a current organizer and coordinator of Juneteenth KC, she is continuing his legacy.

Jolynne_martinez--Flickr CC / photo circa 1962

I think we all know that Father’s Day is the second most important day of the year devoted to honoring a parent.

History suggests as much: President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day an official U.S. holiday in 1914, yet it wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon did the same for Father’s Day, which failed to save him from the Watergate scandal. Nice try, Dick.

That said, playing second fiddle is important – just ask the guy playing second fiddle. So go and do something fun with your favorite paternal figure this Father’s Day weekend. No, not Mom! Good grief.

Marla Keown

Twenty-two years is a long time for any band, even a bluegrass band, to stay together.

Split Lip Rayfield has made it that far.

To put their career in perspective, Bill Monroe and the most famous versions of his Bluegrass Boys only made it about half that long, and not without several important line-up changes along the way.

Vicky Diaz-Camacho / KCUR 89.3

A team of Lawrence and Kansas City artists have “revived” a lost mural in downtown Lawrence.

Figures painted in vibrant purples, blues and greens are shown gesturing, singing and gardening in “Pollinators,” which decorates the side of the relatively new loft building on the 800 block of New Hampshire.

“It's historic isn't it?” said Saralyn Reece Hardy, director of the Spencer Museum of Art, to a crowd of about 50 people who gathered at a celebration on Friday, June 9.

Paul Andrews

My Brothers & Sisters is a large Kansas City collective that adds psychedelic flourishes to rock, funk and soul. In characteristically purple prose, the band refers to itself as “the ascetic bloodhounds of immortal sonic ecstasy.”

They deliver a powerful live performance. The nine or more musicians who squeeze onto stages during My Brothers & Sisters shows induce wide smiles and uninhibited dancing.

Brian Collins / Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

So what's it like going from a blockbuster hit like Netflix's House of Cards to returning to your hometown to perform outdoors in a Shakespeare play?

That was Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann's question for actor Nathan Darrow on the day Hamlet opened in Southmoreland Park, presented by the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.

Brian Collins

Presumably, everyone knows that "To be, or not to be" is a phrase from Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Same goes for "something is rotten in the state of Denmark." And many people might correctly guess that "Get thee to a nunnery" is from Hamlet as well.

But what about "the lady doth protest too much"?

"To thine own self be true"?

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be"?

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

On Sunday May 22, 2011, an EF5 tornado swept through Joplin, Missouri. In minutes, winds reaching up to 200 miles per hour reduced homes and buildings to rubble. One of the deadliest tornadoes to strike the United States left 158 people dead and some 1,150 others injured. 

Joplin is Travis Pratt's hometown. He's a painter who studied ceramics at The Kansas City Art Institute and now splits his time between Kansas City and Joplin. After the storm, Pratt and his father went to visit family members. The scene was disorienting.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

When Tim Lona was a teenager, he pestered his dad for a car.

“He was like ‘Hey, I'm not going to buy you one. You have to build your own. There's a '64 Impala in back that I'll give you,’” Lona said.So, with help from his family, he rebuilt the car from the ground up.

Since then, Lona has restored and rebuilt hundreds of cars at his family’s shop on Southwest Boulevard. He comes from a three-generation family of mechanics, and the shop has been in its location in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood since 1912.

Courtesy Hembree

Hembree is one of Kansas City’s most popular indie-rock bands, and has an opening slot for Elvis Costello & the Imposters at Crossroads KC on Friday.

In spite of Hembree’s popularity, the band isn’t an obvious candidate to open for Costello. The British star is a dazzling lyricist, while Hembree’s appeal is rooted in its moody sound.

The band rose from the ashes of the defunct Americana band Quiet Corral, but Hembree’s polished sound bears little resemblance to Quiet Corral’s folk-rock.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

The painter Thomas Hart Benton spent some of his most productive years working in his Kansas City studio, just behind the large stone house in Midtown's Roanoke neighborhood.

The imposing limestone house was built in 1903. The Bentons bought it in 1939 and lived there for 36 years. The property is now Missouri's smallest state park (it's just one-third of an acre) and has been a museum since 1977.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Kansas Citians have a rare opportunity to spend some time inside a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright on Saturday.

That's when the Sondern-Adler home opens to the public for an afternoon during the Roanoke Neighborhood Spring Home & Garden Tour.

Howard Simmons / Courtesy Washburn University

Gwendolyn Brooks lived in Topeka for just a few weeks after she was born. But the iconic poet – Brooks was the first African-American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize — still has relatives in Kansas, and they’re ready to celebrate what would have been her 100th birthday.

“I’m very happy and proud when I hear so many people here in Topeka that really had a lot of respect for her and the gift God had given her,” says Carolyn Wims Campbell, Brooks’ first cousin once removed (Brooks and Campbell’s father were cousins).

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

After coming to an agreement with its neighbors about a re-zoning request, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has now received approval from the Kansas City Plan Commission. 

Last year, such approval seemed uncertain. The Nelson wanted to turn houses it owned along 45th Street into administration and staff offices, and reuse some of the former Rockhill Tennis Club site as a sculpture garden and for overflow parking. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The University of Missouri system is facing a $101 million budget crunch due to cuts in state funding, as well as declining enrollment at the campus in Columbia. 

UM System President Mun Choi on Friday presented plans for the budget in fiscal year 2018.

For UMKC, proposed cuts could mean $15.4 million less in spending and the loss of 51 positions — including four faculty members from the Theatre Department and a $400,000 decrease in the department's budget. 

Courtesy Park University

UPDATE: This story was updated on Friday, June 9, to reflect Kenneth Broberg's advance to the final round of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

Having advanced to the finals of the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Kansas City pianist Kenneth Broberg has one more concert to play before learning who will win the competition in Fort Worth, Texas.

Danny Wood / KCUR 89.3

A unique collection of jazz art is on display in Kansas City’s Northland. The collector, Juan Houston hopes the display will draw attention to the little-known Garrison School Cultural Center in Liberty.

“He is local, he was born and raised here in Liberty, Missouri, and he wanted to do this for Garrison School to let the community come up to see Garrison as well as see his collection,” says Cecilia Robinson, a retired William Jewell College English professor.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

On a windswept hillside in Leavenworth County is a weather-worn wooden church that’s been there for nearly 150 years. For more than a century, Little Stranger Church was a place for worship and celebration   — until it wasn’t anymore. But now, some locals are trying to bring it back, and they have a powerful incentive: home-made pie.

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