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. 

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

When the Kansas City Actors Theatre opens Israel Horovitz’s My Old Lady next week, the production will star three actors that might, in one of the profession's euphemisms, be described as "well-known" actors.

But KCAT isn't bothering with euphemisms.

The show "provides three great acting roles, especially two for middle-aged and older women,” director Darren Sextro said in the show's news release, adding that this particular group of artists "deserves more opportunities than they’re offered."

Chris Lee

The Kansas City Symphony has been quietly fundraising over the last four years with the goal of adding $55 million to its endowment. On Wednesday, in front of more than 100 donors and arts officials on the stage of Helzberg Hall, the Symphony announced that they'd raised nearly $52 million.

Now, they're seeking public support for the "Masterpiece Campaign."

Courtesy Isaac Cates

Isaac Cates is a Kansas City native who studied at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. Since he co-founded Ordained in 2004, it's become one of the most prominent gospel groups in Kansas City.

3 reasons we're listening to Isaac Cates & Ordained this week:

1. They've shared stages with gospel greats like Marvin Sapp and Shirley Caesar.

Christophe Testi

This story was updated with comments from ArtsKC. 

Bruce W. Davis has resigned as the president and chief executive officer of ArtsKC —Regional Arts Council after less than a year on the job. 

In a news release on Tuesday, ArtsKC board chair Brad Douglas announced that Davis's last day was Monday, January 2. 

Douglas told KCUR that Davis notified the board in December about his departure.

Courtesy A La Mode

A La Mode
C’est Si Bon

Gypsy jazz — or, probably more appropriately, Django jazz — is a booming style in Kansas City.

This sub-genre, built around the silky runs and inimitable swing of guitarist Django Reinhardt in the same way bluegrass grew around Bill Monroe’s mandolin, pops up periodically around the world, and now it’s our turn.

www.facebook.com

Why do you get one Tater Tot in your order of fries at Winstead’s?

According to Kathy Fern, the general manager at the Winstead’s near the Plaza, that’s not a mistake.

About five years ago, they started adding the lone tot as a promotional thing, but then it stuck. It’s something they strive to do with each order, she said, though that renegade tot doesn’t always appear.

Cristian Bortes / Flikr -- CC

So here comes 2017. But before abandoning the current calendar year for whatever amalgam of cheer and challenge that lies ahead, why not celebrate New Year’s Eve with a look back?

Not just back to 2016, but waaay back to times and traditions that you may never have experienced firsthand, but are still cool to “remember” with a little imagination.  

Want to visit the Roaring Twenties? Maybe dust off your Funky Chicken? Out with the old and in with the old!

1. Roarin’ recordBar 1920s New Year’s Eve Party

E.G. Schempf

When Grand Arts closed in the fall of 2015 after a 20-year tenure in the Crossroads, Stacy Switzer, the artistic director of the organization (calling it a "gallery" would be inadequate), said it had been a place of "extraordinary" freedom for artists. 

Steven Depolo / Flickr -- CC

Why is comfort food so … well … comforting?

“Carbohydrates,” said KCUR Food Critic Charles Ferruzza.

“I think comfort food is heavy, filling, fattening food that you know you probably shouldn’t be eating,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on Central Standard. “But if you’re sick or depressed or cold, it really hits the spot.”

For Food Critic Carmen Gramajo, though, it’s also the memories associated with those dishes.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The installation called "The Steeple of Light" shines like a beacon from the rooftop of Community Christian Church at 4601 Main Street in Kansas City, Missouri. But the artist behind it is not as well-known. Sculptor Dale Eldred died in his West Bottoms studio during the 1993 flood, while trying to save his equipment from the rising waters. Since 1994, his "Steeple of Light" has illuminated the night sky.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

"Growing up, I thought I lived in like a black city," says Nathan Louis Jackson, who spent his childhood and early adulthood in the Quindaro neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas. "I didn't understand the makeup of this city. And not just that, it wasn't just a racial makeup, it was also economic. All that, I didn't get. I was in a little bubble."

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Despite her lifelong Muslim faith, Sofia Khan didn't always wear a head scarf. She was a spiritual person but considered herself a moderate practitioner of Islam, wearing a head scarf on certain occasions.

That changed after the 9/11 terror attacks.

"I realized a negative image was coming on my faith," Khan says. "I wanted to make a statement and show people this not what Islam is. There are so many Muslims living around you, you just don’t know who they are."

Celeste Lindell/Flickr

The board of commissioners of the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority, or PIEA, approved a new plan on Thursday for the Crossroads Arts District in Kansas City, Missouri. The nearly 40 properties in the Crossroads occupied by artists or for arts activities will get a 50 percent tax abatement for 15 years. Taxes will be frozen at the 2016 assessed value.

David Jones / Flikr -- CC

Look around. What do you see – really?

We get so used to our surroundings that it’s easy to take them for granted. This weekend is your chance to see some familiar things in a different way or even gaze upon a brand new item or two.

Mainly, just try looking around with fresh eyes. See where that takes you!

 

1. Arrowhead Stadium Tours

courtesy of the artist

The film La La Land opens nationwide on Friday, and it's already racking up award nominations including seven Golden Globes. The musical stars Emma Stone as an actress and Ryan Gosling as a jazz musician. Both are struggling to make ends meet in Los Angeles, California. 

Paul Andrews

The world doesn’t need any more Christmas music. But with the complex emotions of the season so unavoidable, songwriters like David George can be forgiven for succumbing to them – especially when it results in more risqué holiday tunes, which the world might be able to use.

Star Athena / Flickr -- CC

Some people have strict rules when it comes to cookies.

"Can we agree ... any cookie that does not have butter as an ingredient should never be made?" Charles Ferruzza asked host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard.

Ferruzza, with our other Food Critics, searched out the best cookies in and around Kansas City — with and without butter.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

Aaron Doughtery

AIA Kansas City, the local chapter of American Institute of Architects, gives awards each year for "outstanding contributions to our profession, the community and the built environment." 

The awards were announced Tuesday night at the annual AIA KC holiday party, with about 200 members in attendance. 

Clint Ashlock

The Hammond B-3 organ is one of the most recognizable sounds in American music. Kansas City musician Chris Hazelton plays that instrument on his new record, Soul Jazz Fridays, recorded live with his band Boogaloo 7, at the Green Lady Lounge.

Hazelton spoke with the Fish Fry about the history of soul jazz music in Kansas City.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

A few weeks before The Nutcracker is scheduled to open, in a rehearsal studio at the Kansas City Ballet’s Bolender Center, dancers Amaya Rodriguez and Liang Fu run through the steps for the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.

Esther Honig / KCUR 89.3

It’s better to give than to receive, without a doubt.

But it takes cooperation. There’s no way for any giving to happen without someone receiving on the other end. So here’s this weekend’s big ask: Take the free or almost free things offered to you.

That might be a simple pat on the back or a warm hug, as well as more formal experiences that come with little or no money changing hands. Free advice: If anyone wants cash for a kiss, don't do it! Just give them money, if you can, because they must really need it.

 

Régine Debatty / Flickr -- CC

Even though he was born in the United States, artist Roger Shimomura still gets asked where he’s from. Or he’s told that he speaks English really well.

“The presumption is that if you’re Asian, you must be foreign to this country,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Courtesy Berwanger

Berwanger
Exorcism Rock

The cover of Berwanger’s new one, Exorcism Rock, brazenly claims brand new territory for the band, and for Josh Berwanger, the songwriter.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The new Grand Boulevard Bridge over I-670 in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, re-opened on Friday morning. 

Structural issues, such as falling chunks of concrete and cracks, led to an emergency bridge closure in May. The Missouri Department of Transportation decided the aging bridge should be torn down and replaced.

Brian Kidwell, assistant district engineer for MODOT, says projects like this can take years, but a city-state partnership expedited it.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

When musician Amado Espinoza and theater artist Karen Lisondra moved to Kansas City from Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2014, Espinoza noticed that many people here were disconnected from their own roots, from each other and from the earth. He'd come from a place where indigenous culture is present in everyday life.

As they looked to develop a creative network and collaborate with other artists, Espinoza and Lisondra also started thinking of a project that would bring different people with indigenous backgrounds together.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

 It’s December and there’s no turning back: The holiday season is upon us – or if you’d prefer a friendlier image, it’s sharing space with us.

And there are plenty of related festivities to go around, too, including community friendly tuba carols, the balletic exploits of the Sugar Plum Fairy and heavy metal tidings of comfort and joy.

Tis the season for sharing the merry, however you and yours decide to go about it.

 

1. TubaChristmas 2016

James Hugo Rifenbark

Kyle Powell died in my arms, November 4, 2006.

That's the first line of Gerardo "Tony" Mena's poem "So I Was a Coffin," which he set to music, added photographs from other members of the United States Marine Corps' 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, and posted on YouTube.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Council approved $7 million in funding in July for the historic 18th and Vine jazz district to stabilize historic buildings and acquire properties not under city control.

The Council’s finance committee met on Wednesday and approved $44,000 in additional funding. 

Courtesy The Show Globes / Facebook

The Snow Globes is a Kansas City trio of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Lindsey Jones, guitarist/vocalist Barclay Martin and bassist Rick Willoughby. They specialize in performing traditional Christmas carols and original songs about the holiday season.

3 reasons we're listening to the Snow Globes this week:

1. The trio’s gentle folk-pop might sound insufferably precious and exasperatingly twee in July, but its approach matches the sentiment of the holiday season.

Courtesy Amy Meya

Once again, the traditional art-opening weekend meets the traditional gift-giving season at the following shows and sales, which involve multiple Kansas City artists.

Belger Crane Yard Studios Open House & Holiday Sale
2011 Tracy Ave., Kansas City, Missouri 
More than 30 artists sell handcrafted pottery, jewelry, sculpture and ornaments as part of the Kansas City Clay Guild’s Annual Pottery Tour. Friday, December 2, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and Saturday, December 3, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

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