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. 

Charlie Parker
Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes (Verve/Universal Music)

Sounding exasperated, someone in the studio production crew sighs “take three” after Charlie Parker’s imperfect version of “Passport,” one of 58 previously unreleased tracks on Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes.

Kansas City, Missouri Parks and Recreation

When something touches people, are you one of those people that that something touches? Would you like to be?

Whether you’re all heart or an emotional fortress of solitude, we all need time to be tender. How much you want – or can handle before falling to pieces – is another matter.

So allow me to point you in the right direction. Tenderly.

1. ‘Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Ghostly, metallic-hued faces stare out from century-old photographs. They neatly line the walls on narrow shelves in Nick Vaccaro’s home office in Lawrence, Kansas.

“Let me get this out of the way,” said Vaccaro, as he opened the door of a lighted display and reached in for a small leather case. Inside, there’s a tintype: an innovation from the 1860s that brought photography to the masses.

Mike Russo / KCUR 89.3

Morgan Cooper is a Kansas City hip-hop emcee and cinematographer who has been making music for about two years. He collaborates with local producers Conductor Williams and Lion to create intricately layered songs about struggling, but always remaining positive and diligent to achieve his goals as an artist and citizen.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

With about a week to go before the kickoff of the 12th Annual Kansas City Fringe Festival, local actors and performers are rehearsing intensely for the 11­-day festival that includes theater, dance, cabaret, and spoken word.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City artist and writer José Faus was getting ready for bed when he first saw the video of Philando Castile's death at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota.

"There's sun coming in the car window," he remembers. "I see the glare, to the left the open window, the sky, the trees, the [gun] ... and then, the wound."

He says he will never forget the crimson of the blood against Castile's white shirt.

Courtesy Trampled Under Foot

Following a hiatus of almost two years, the popular Kansas City blues-rock band Trampled Under Foot (named after the song on Led Zeppelin’s 1975 album Physical Graffiti) has reunited. They’re playing Friday, July 15, and Saturday, July 16, at Knuckleheads.

Three reasons we’re listening to Trampled Under Foot this week:

Testing Scheduling

Jul 13, 2016
Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

Supporters of the proposed downtown University of Missouri-Kansas City campus for the arts have enlisted Warren Erdman, a savvy veteran of Missouri politics, to lead the lobbying effort for $48 million in matching state funds.

“Warren has been fantastically supportive since early on,” says Dean Peter Witte of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

“His understanding of the University of Missouri System and his reputation in the State Legislature are great assets.”

Kris Krug / Wikimedia Commons

Can I give it to you straight? Probably not. Even if I could, would you take it that way?

Increasingly little these days appears to be totally safe from a potentially ironic interpretation – the sense that the opposite may be true of whatever professed message is being sent, often with humorous results.

Of course, there’s both intentional and unintentional irony, which sometimes can be tricky to differentiate. So I won’t try here. Unless I just did. But I probably didn’t!

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

As the Kansas City Council considers more than $27 million in new investments in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, leaders of the district’s oldest landmark want to make sure City Hall respects the special status of the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

It’s a sacred place not just because alcohol flows legally there after hours.

Courtesy Aliki Barnstone

Missouri has a new poet laureate: Aliki Barnstone, a professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia, appointed last week by Gov. Jay Nixon. Barnstone has published seven books of poetry; her first was published when she was 12; her eighth, Dwelling, is expected this fall.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

You hear the term “placemaking” a lot these days. It's about taking what already exists in a neighborhood and building on it — or reinventing a public space to attract more people to it. The city of Merriam, Kansas is launching a new five-year public art initiative on Wednesday, with a sense of place. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

The members of Kansas City's Dance Gurukul troupe are hoping “Cosmic Forces” helps revive an ancient tradition while honoring the Hindu god Shiva.

This weekend, they'll be performing in the classical Southern Indian tradition of Kuchipudi, a style of dance that started as a temple art form thousands of years ago.

“The stage is a sacred space for us and the essence of the dance is deeply spiritual,” says Samarpita Bajpai. “It’s a way of connecting with God. That’s what you should feel when you are dancing.”

Aaron Bowen

Katy Guillen and the Girls
Heavy Days

With the blues, people throw parties to cover up pain.

That’s exactly what Kansas City-based blues rockers Katy Guillen and the Girls have done with Heavy Days, their second CD. The band takes addictive Friday-night catharsis as seriously as any roots band, and the opening song here, “Driving To Wake Up,” arrives like a house party. Heads can bob. Lips can be bitten in ecstasy. Hips can spontaneously pivot and swirl and shake.

Kansas City author and teacher Whitney Terrell embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq about a decade ago — writing for publications such as Slate Magazine and The Washington Post. Some of the stories he heard became the basis for his third novel, The Good Lieutenant, an eye-opening look at women in the military.  

MoDot / Flickr-CC

It’s that weekend for doing fireworks, waving the American flag and, by all means, having a slice of all-American apple pie.

But you can also sublimely groove to a top-of-the-charts pop princess or be nostalgically serenaded by a famous southern Missouri rock band from the 1970s. However you opt to have fun this Fourth of July weekend, remember, it’s your right to decide.

The folk-rock duo Brewer & Shipley, an act with deep ties to Kansas City, is still together more than 40 years after achieving a few international hits. They perform with the Ozark Mountain Daredevils at Crossroads KC on Saturday, July 2.

Three reasons we’re listening to Brewer & Shipley this week:

1. Brewer & Shipley’s relaxed, folk-rock sound is back in style. You can hear echoes of it in the music of young musicians such as Dawes and the Avett Brothers.

Courtesy High Dive Records

Psychic Heat
Sunshower (High Dive)

The first impression Psychic Heat makes is volume, no matter how high you have the dial turned up. That’s volume in the auditory and spatial senses of the word: loudness, fullness and energy. Psychic Heat is a garage band, a rock ‘n’ roll machine, an uncaged beast.

file photo: Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The late dancer and choreographer, Alvin Ailey, believed that "dance is for everybody." That philosophy extends to an event in its second year called Festival on the Vine: three days of dance, art and live performance in the historic 18th and Vine jazz district. 

The festival was created by Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, the second home for Ailey's New York-based dance company. Chief artistic officer Tyrone Aiken walked us through some things to know: 

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

As soon as Nedra Bonds heard she had breast cancer, she knew one thing: She would somehow turn the experience into an art project.

Bonds is a textile artist, but she's far from the stereotypical creative introvert working alone in a studio.

"My thing is community," Bonds says. "I want people to be able to get free and express themselves.”

It’s said that genius is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration. Actually, Thomas Edison said that, but doesn’t Mr. Light Bulb already get enough credit?

Regardless, given the continuing high summer temperatures, there may be more than a few geniuses in the making out there.

With plenty of perspiration available, where might one find the elusive inspiration to reach one’s lofty potential? Read on, my fellow near-geniuses – we’re so close!

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Theater directors who take on Shakespeare, as Sidonie Garrett does every summer, have an interesting first task ahead of them: Deciding where and when to set their plays.

Dawayne Gilley

Singer Linda Shell has long been described as the "Queen of Kansas City Blues." This weekend, Shell will be crowned Queen, and her husband, K.C. Kelsey Hill, will be King, when the Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival returns after a six-year hiatus

Little Hatch, a.k.a. Provine Hatch, Jr., was Kansas City’s premier blues musician during a popular resurgence of the form in the 1990s. Born in Mississippi in 1921, the harmonica player, vocalist and bandleader died in 2003.

Why we're listening to him this week:

Courtesy of Joshua Hoffine

One photo depicts a corpse lying on the dirt in a white dress, black spiders streaming out of her mouth, cradling a plump sleeping baby.

Another shows a little girl kneeling on her bed in her pink bedroom, screaming as the devil emerges from a jagged split in the floor.

These photos are the work of local photographer Joshua Hoffine. Clearly, he doesn't take your typical wedding or graduation photos; his specialty is "horror photography" and the young kids in the photos are his daughters.

Crawford Barton / Reel in the Closet

Just days after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Kansas City’s Out Here Now LGBT Film Festival screened two documentaries, Against Hate and An Act of Love, focusing on battling hate speech, homophobia and crimes targeting the LGBT community and their families.

Hannah Copeland / KCUR

About 7,000 volunteers and patrons traveled to a pasture on Saturday, June 11, near Cottonwood Falls, Kansas to listen to the Kansas City Symphony perform at the 11th annual Symphony in the Flint Hills.

As the sun began to set Saturday evening the crowd's attention was diverted to the co-stars of the outdoor concert: cows. Volunteer ranchers on horseback herded brown, white and black cattle across the bright green grassy hill behind the Symphony stage.

ProjectManhattan / Wikimedia--CC

Children’s literature is becoming more and more diverse, but choosing which books to share with children can still be difficult. 

KCUR’s Central Standard recently welcomed Kansas City authors Christine Taylor-Butler and Traci Sorell to a discussion of how representations of race in children’s literature have changed over time.

Here are their recommendations for books with diverse and nuanced characters and storylines.

Christine Taylor-Butler, children’s book author:

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