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. 

A storefront on the corner of Brooklyn and Lexington, across the street from a Caribbean restaurant and a convenience store in the Historic Northeast, might be an unexpected location for an art gallery. But The Source Fine Art owner Bill Heineken, who hosts his second art opening on Friday, says more artists are coming to the neighborhood.

From the outside, Westend Recording Studio is an unassuming building in a quiet neighborhood just across State Line Road in Kansas City, Kansas. But inside, insulated by walls of foam, there's a hardcore noise rock band recording session.

On a Wednesday night, Kansas City heavy band 34 is recording a new song, with producer and sound engineer Justin Mantooth working the mixing console in the control room.

Starting in September, KCUR Studios brings you Question Quest, a podcast about everyday mysteries, curiosities and questions in the Midwest. Co-hosts Suzanne Hogan and Cody Newill will take turns sending each other on grand adventures to find the stories behind intriguing things. 

The Philistines
The Backbone of the Night (The Record Machine)

I generally subscribe to the nihilistic punk-rock philosophy of “kill your idols,” but not when it comes to The Philistines.

Kansas City's new streetcar line presents hazards for bicyclists, but an artist named Don Wilkison, who calls himself m.o.i., for the Minister of Information, hopes his "Rail-Bike-Rail" installation will help them navigate this new environment.

Photo courtesy of Katherine Dumas

On June 30, Governor Jay Nixon appointed Aliki Barnstone as Missouri’s fourth Poet Laureate.

A creative writing professor at the University of Missouri–Columbia, her work has often appeared in UMKC’s New Letters magazine.  

The daughter of Greek visual artist, Elli Tzalopoulou-Barnstone, and American writer, Willis Barnstone, Aliki Barnstone was destined for a life in the arts.

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Whether it’s thin and crispy or thick and juicy, the burger is a great blank slate for all sorts of toppings and flavors. And don’t forget veggie burgers; in this meat-friendly town, it’s entirely possible to find a hearty and satisfying meatless patty.

From the greasy to the gourmet, KCUR’s Food Critics search out the best burgers — and sides that aren’t fries — in Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

Kianna Alarid and Jared White are the songwriters for the band Yes You Are. Alarid spent her early 20s as the front woman for  Tilly And The Wall, a band from Omaha, Nebraska that toured internationally. The band broke up after two of the members married and started having kids, so Alarid moved to Kansas City.

Here, her music took an about face from lo-fidelity indie to polished pop. She met White through Facebook while the two were separately toiling over songwriting; in 2013 they joined forces to form Yes You Are. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

For nearly 30 years, Paul Mesner Puppets (now known as Mesner Puppet Theater) has produced puppet shows based on fairy tales and contemporary children stories, from Sleeping Beauty to The Stinky Cheese Man.  They're mostly aimed at kids, with sly humor for adults, too.

But, in the last few years at the Kansas City Fringe Festival, the puppeteers have been branching out into more risqué material  — of course, for adults. 

Jelena Ivanovic / Wikimedia Commons

Being pleasing is the point of the pop world, where things that strike people’s fancies rise and fall and perhaps rise again with what might be described as consistent unpredictability.

Bands or shows or concepts given permission by the masses to be truly pop are only there to be enjoyed for the time that they have in the sun.

Wait, are those clouds forming? Better get popping.

1. Duran Duran

Rooftop Vigilantes' Bandcamp Page

The Lawrence garage-rock band Rooftop Vigilantes celebrates the release of its new album Let It Be this weekend.

Rooftop Vigilantes is a proudly sloppy band. Every song on Let It Be is shorter than three minutes. It’s possible this penchant for brevity may be rooted in an inability to maintain focus for more than a few minutes at a time.

3 reasons we’re listening to Rooftop Vigilantes this week

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.

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’

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.

Morgan Cooper is a Kansas City hip-hop emcee and cinematographer who has been making music for about two years. Under the name Barrel Maker, 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.

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.

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

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.”

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!

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.

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. 

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.”

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.

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