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. 

Image courtesy of Larry Christy

Larry Christy owns Missouri River Rafting, where he guides canoe and rafting trips. He’s logged more than 5,000 miles on the water. He’s canoed the entire length of the Missouri River, from Montana to St. Louis – it took him three months. During the winter he works as a carpenter, restoring Victorian houses. He's also written poetry since he was a child. Here, the river guide and carpenter reads a poem about work.

Cassie Mundt

The worn, forlorn Teddy bear clearly misses the little girl with him in the photograph from nearly 110 years ago. Mable was her name.

But more little girls will be coming now. Kansas City's Toy and Miniature Museum is open again.

After a year of renovation and redesign, the National Toy and Miniature Museum at 5235 Oak reopened Saturday.

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Check out the story of two transgender prostitutes or duck gunfire from Mexican drug cartels. This week's selections from Up to Date's indie, foreign and documentary film critics take you to many different worlds.

Cynthia Haines

Amy, R

  • Searing documentary about singer Amy Winehouse

Tangerine, R

  • Dramedy about two transgender prostitutes in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, PG-13 

Kansas City Art Institute

The Kansas City Art Institute's ceramics department dates back to the 1960s – and has a storied history, with larger than life professors who shaped the program like Ken Ferguson, Victor Babu and George Timock. 

This summer, Kansas City firms Helix and McCown Gordon Construction collaborated on a $750,000 renovation of "the old kiln room." 

SqueezeBoxCity / www.squeezeboxcity.com

Music isn’t just an open door – it’s a palace of passageways leading to all kinds of tunes around every corner.

This weekend, check out some of the different ways to explore the musical mansion, from superstar country to indie rock, jazz, blues and more.

The best part? You get to sing along.

1. Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean

  Six accomplished members of Kansas City’s indie-rock scene have joined forces as The Philistines to create what they characterize as “interstellar psychedelic rock 'n roll.”  Twitch of the Death Nerve, the lead single from the band’s forthcoming debut album, is this week’s Local Listen.

The Philistines perform Friday, July 31, at the Tank Room

Jerry Moran / Native Orleanian Fine Photography

Samantha Fish
Wild Heart (Ruf Records)

“Turn it up!”

Samantha Fish’s demand to crank the volume during a song of the same name on her new album “Wild Heart” reflects her general orientation. Although she’s invariably classified as a blues artist, “Wild Heart” reveals that Fish is actually a first-rate rock-and-roller.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Writer and poet Billy Brame majored in acting, and it's shaped his performances at readings and slams around Kansas City. Brame describes his style as silly, in the same vein as Shel Silverstein, and you'll hear that in his two poems — about politics, sort of, and bacon and dinosaurs.  

"I like whimsy, whimsy is where I'd squarely put these," says Brame. "I like just being the nonsense guy, the whimsy guy, wherever I land."

The only thing as hot as the weather are the films being touted by the Up to Date indie, foreign and documentary film critics.  Beat the heat with some cool films.

Cynthia Haines

Amy, R

  • Searing documentary about singer Amy Winehouse

Tangerine, R

  • Dramedy about two transgender prostitutes in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, PG-13 

Katie Knight/KCUR

It’s an age-old question: In the battle of pie vs. cake, which is superior?

Some contend that cake is a great vehicle for frosting. Others say that pie can incorporate more seasonal ingredients, like fresh fruit.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

  For two decades, Henry W. Bloch, co-founder of H&R Block, and his wife Marion, collected what they described as "pretty pictures" — mostly French Impressionist works by the likes of Degas, Matisse, and Monet. Nearly 30 of these paintings filled the walls of their Mission Hills, Kansas home.

Although these masterworks are not there now — you wouldn't know it by looking. 

The Blochs started collecting art in the 1970s for a very practical reason. "My wife and I had a home and we needed pictures in it," he recalls. 

AllieKF / Flickr-CC

Move or be moved.

While that suggestion may seem like a marching order, I’d rather think of it as merely a heads up to anyone interested in having their emotions helpfully set in motion this weekend. That’s right, feelings matter. And if we don’t find meaningful ways to connect with them, it’s easy to become a hollow shell. Yuck.

So find a way to be moved this weekend – I said, move it! See how that works? I just discovered my inner drill sergeant.

1. Kansas City Dance Festival

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye counts out the beats as he directs three dancers darting across the floor in a rehearsal room.

Earlier this year when Jolicoeur-Nye created a pas de deux for Kansas City Ballet’s “New Moves” showcase set to the music of composer Max Richter, it caught the eye of Kansas City Dance Festival’s co-artistic director Anthony Krutzkamp. The two decided to collaborate on a larger work for the festival this weekend that they’re calling "Richter Scales."

Be/Non / Facebook

Brody Rush has alternately delighted and confounded Kansas City’s rock community for 20 years. As the primary visionary behind his band, Be/Non, Rush has crafted a compelling catalog of psychedelic rock.

This week’s edition of Local Listen features Spark 22, a typically adventurous track from Be/Non’s 2009 concept album “A Mountain of Yeses.”

America has a long history with Peter, Paul and Mary, the folk group that endured for 49 years, won five Grammys and kicked out 13 top-40 hits.  Noel Paul Stookey, one of the two living members talks about the trio's memorable career and of the issues he's still passionate about today.

Courtesy the Hillbenders

The HillBenders
'Tommy: A Bluegrass Opera
'

The HillBenders’ bluegrass version of "Tommy" has no real precedent. Other acts have done new versions of classic albums; the Flaming Lips’ recording of "Dark Side of the Moon" springs to mind. But the Hillbenders, an acoustic five-piece from Springfield, Missouri, aren’t attempting to reinvent the Who’s classic album in the way the Lips did Pink Floyd’s classic.

Gina Kaufmann / KCUR

Modernist architecture flourished in the Kansas City area in the period following World War II, particularly at the time that the Johnson County suburbs were developing in Kansas.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Monique Gabrielle Salazar is a writer, artist and musician. A member of the Latino Writers Collective, she’s also a self-described “collector of nostalgia.”

Here, she reads four poems in a series:

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Greg Carroll, CEO of the American Jazz Museum since 2007, has announced his resignation, effective immediately.

In a news release announcing Carroll's resignation, museum board officers praised Carroll's leadership but gave no explanation for his sudden departure.

Follow the downward spiral of singer Amy Winehouse or fight Argentinian mercenaries this weekend-- but do it from the comfort of an air-conditioned movie theater. Up to Date's indie, foreign and documentary film critics can steer you to the right vicarious adventure this weekend.

Cynthia Haines

Amy, R

  • Searing documentary about singer Amy Winehouse

Ardor, R

Jeff Church / The Coterie

Linda Ade Brand has been involved with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City for decades, so she knows many of singers, actors composers, directors and teachers in town. About a year ago, she had a big idea that would put the work of high school students on stage. The result is a KC Fringe Festival show, "Words+Music," that turns short plays by high school students into a night of tiny operas.

Jon Sullivan--CC

The 11th annual Kansas City Fringe Festival kicks off this weekend offering various opportunities to experience edgy entertainment involving theater, comedy, music, dance and more.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The Kansas City Fringe Festival brings an edgy mix of theater, music, dance and comedy to Kansas City audiences. One production, "Silver: A Noir Ballet," gives a jazzy new life to an epic Greek poem. 

Michael Wilson / jeffblack.com

Singer-songwriter Jeff Black emerged from the same Kansas City open mic scene that produced Iris Dement in the 1990s. The subject of this week’s Local Listen continues to craft sturdy songs from his base in Nashville.

Members of the rock band Wilco accompanied Black on the title track of his 1998 debut album, "Birmingham Road," a gritty song that evokes the industrial thoroughfare in North Kansas City.

Jeff Black performs at Knuckleheads at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 17.

Courtesy photo / ArtsKC

Update: This story was updated on July 17.

Harlan Brownlee, the president and CEO of ArtsKC, has announced his resignation, effective at the end of July.

ArtsKC named Susan Stanton, a longtime non-profit interim leader, to serve as interim president. The organization will begin a national search for Brownlee’s successor.

Tech N9ne
“Special Effects” (Strange Music)

Cultural, racial and musical barriers crumbled when the Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne performed for tens of thousands of hard rock fans at Rockfest on May 30.

Courtesy photo / Kansas City Young Audiences

With a national spotlight on issues of racism and inequality — including protests after police shootings of unarmed black men and removal of the Confederate battle flag in some public places — jazz vocalist Lisa Henry says she wants to encourage more conversation in Kansas City with a new work called "Dear White People: The Racism Monologues Set to Music."

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Andrew Johnson had a notebook filled with descriptions of small images.

He also had an interest in what he calls the tension between the monotony of daily life and the beauty of moments and rhythms in the world.

In his poem, "Perhaps One Day This Will All Make Sense," he says, "stylistically I was trying to do something that had that monotony in the repetition while, at the same time, having these things that stand out as novelty events or things that I found intriguing in daily life."

You can go back in time with Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman or stay in the present with a group of teenagers facing a serious issue. Whatever your preference, Up to Date's indie, foreign and documentary film critics have options for your weekend film-viewing.

Cynthia Haines

Wolfpack, R

Julie Denesha / KCUR

During the day, Robert Hingula works as an attorney for one of Kansas City’s most prominent law firms.

But for the next few weeks, he’ll be spending his evenings as Shrek, starring in productions at the Jewish Community Center and at Shawnee Mission's Theatre in the Park.

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