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 of A to Z Theatrical Supply and Service

After five decades in the Waldo neighborhood of Kansas City, A to Z Theatrical Supply and Service has moved to a long-vacant building in East Brookside. 

The company's new location at 800 East Meyer Boulevard — a former synagogue, and then later, a Pentecostal Church — combines retail space with a warehouse and shop.

A to Z got its start in 1959, and opened the 6,000-square-foot Waldo location in 1961. President Alex Perry says the company outgrew the space several years ago. 

Bill Brownlee / Plastic Sax

For decades, Kansas City's jazz community has celebrated Charlie Parker's birthday with a musical tribute at his grave site in Lincoln Cemetery.  In recent years that's taken the form of a "21 Sax Salute" — only with a lot of instruments besides saxophones, and a lot more than 21.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Mike Wilson, of Independence, Missouri, has a hectic schedule — he works long hours as a mail delivery driver, and he's married with three kids (with one more on the way).

So Wilson sneaks in time to write when he can.

"Late, really really late, or really really early," he explains. "(I write) before they're awake, or when they're asleep, when I get home."

Wilson’s work has been published in literary magazines such as The Allegheny Review and Midwestern Gothic, as well as on Tweed’s fiction blog.

Explore the world of David Foster Wallace. Find out if you really can tell someone's sexuality by their voice. Jump into the fiery rhetoric as it flies between Gore Vidal and William Buckley. Up to Date's indie, foreign and documentary critics have found a wide variety of options to spice up your weekend.

Cynthia Haines  

Listen To Me Marlon, not rated

Courtesy / the artists

Anne Pearce made her name in Kansas City years ago, as a painter and as director of the Greenlease Art Gallery at Rockhurst University, where she also teaches art. Two years ago, during sabbatical on the other side of the world, Pearce had a profound experience — one she's now sharing with her students.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In Sarah Ruhl's play The Oldest Boy, a suburban couple's life is turned on its ear when they learn their 3-year-old son may be the reincarnation of a high Buddhist lama. Playing the boy's mother in the Unicorn Theatre production is Katie Kalahurka. 

For our series called Actors Off-Script, Kalahurka spoke with me about motherhood and the innovative way her character's son's story comes to life.

Ricky Brigante / Flickr-CC

People have so many different interests and ways to be individually enthralled, getting family members to agree on the same weekend action plan can be a challenge.

Still, I’d like to believe that the family that plays together, stays together.

Corny? I guess. Worth trying this weekend? You know it.

1. ‘Disney on Ice: Frozen’

badjonni / Flickr--CC

Summer breezes may make you feel fine, but for many, summertime is all about the music.

We wanted to build a summer 2015 playlist, so we asked, “What’s your song of the summer?” on the air and on social media.  

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Cicadas sing the rhythm of late summer as plein air painter Patrick Saunders and his wife, photographer Kimberly Saunders, sit at a picnic table beneath the shade of a tent — the living room in their new life together.

Shooting Star was the most commercially-successful rock band to emerge from Kansas City in the 1980s. International hits like “Tonight” combined progressive rock with radio-friendly pop.

This week's edition of Local Listen features “This Is Our Town,” a hard-charging track from Shooting Star’s new album “Into the Night.”

Shooting Star will open for Boston at Starlight Theatre on Sunday, Aug. 30. 

Iris Dement

Iris Dement
"The Trackless Woods"

Iris Dement’s new album is both right in line with all the music she’s ever made and unlike anything else she’s accomplished in an already iconoclastic career.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Andrea Johnson is a Kansas City native, now studying English, creative writing and music up at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.

She wrote this piece after graduating from high school, when she and a few of her friends were facing long-distance relationships as they headed off to college.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Martin Heuser, an eighth generation chef, grew up in Bonn, Germany, where corn is eaten, but not a traditional part of the cuisine. He grew to appreciate fresh, local corn as an ingredient when he lived in Canada. 

"For me, corn is summertime," Heuser said it adds another component and flavor to a dish.

At his restaurant Affäre in the Crossroads, he features it in special recipes when it's in season.

The documentaries are thick on the ground this week, whether you want to explore of the life of Marlon Brando, take on the warring voices of Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley or watch a man confront the effects of a genocide. Or, if you're not in the mood for serious contemplation, Up to Date's indie, foreign and documentary critics also have a comedy in mind for you.

Cynthia Haines

Best of Enemies, R

Laura Spencer / KCUR

With its new production of West Side Story, Spinning Tree Theatre takes an intimate approach to a large classic musical.

It’s thought to be the first in Kansas City with an all-local, all-professional cast. And while maintaining the original choreography, two veteran cast members are putting their own stamp on it. 

cindyt7070 / Flickr-CC

Been there and done that? Lucky you. Not been there and done that? Lucky you, too.

That’s because whether you’re an old hand or a newbie regarding this weekend’s tried-and-true entertainment and attractions – some familiar annual events, some well-known in other ways – their established allure is undeniable.

Courtesy SFS Architecture

The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners Thursday will get a design update for the Arts and Heritage Center in a 1960s-era building in Overland Park, Kansas. 

The county bought the former King Louie West at 8788 Metcalf in 2011. Now, instead of ice skating and bowling, the facility is slated to house the Johnson County Museum, parks and recreation classes, and Theatre in the Park musicals.

Samantha Fish’s billing at the Spirit of KC Fest reflects her elite status in Kansas City’s music community. The blues-rock artist headlines over five other noteworthy locally-based acts.

This week's Local Listen features “Highway’s Holding Me Now,” a blistering song from Fish’s new “Wild Heart” album.

The Spirit of KC festival is at Crossroads KC on Saturday, August 22. 

Missouri Department of Tourism, via flickr

An anonymous donor has given the Kansas City Art Institute a gift of $25 million. It's the largest in the school's history and believed to be one of the largest donations to any arts college in the country.

The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation presented the record-setting donation to the school at a private ceremony Tuesday. Debbie Wilkerson, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a press release, "The gift comes from a donor who has the highest confidence in the Kansas City Art Institute, and therefore, wants to demonstrate that support financially."

Andrew Malan Milward
I Was A Revolutionary (HarperCollins)

 

As a place and as an idea, Kansas has a rich, textured history, including everything from bloodthirsty abolitionists to the first woman elected to public office, Susanna Salter. And for every widely known story about America’s 34th state, another remains more or less forgotten.

Consider the legacy of Nicodemus, Kansas, an all-black homestead founded in the decades after the Civil War, or the annihilation of the People of the South Wind, the Kaw Nation, also known as the Kansa, who gave their name to the territory that settlers — often German, Irish, Polish, or Balkan immigrants in the process of becoming white — stole from them.

Much of the state’s secret past is like this: sad, contentious, bloody, and thought-provoking. Sometimes it’s downright weird. In other words, fertile ground for storytellers.

Andrew Malan Milward’s new collection, I Was a Revolutionary, grows complex narratives from these obscure and captivating historical fragments. His writing is quiet, beautiful, and harrowing, bringing life to people and places you thought you knew. It’s a book powered by the past, if not consumed by it.

Ten years ago this month, Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans and upended the lives of people who called the city home.

Mike and Katie West lived in the Lower Ninth Ward, and in the time since the hurricane, they have relocated to Lawrence, Kansas.

Radkey

Radkey
Dark Black Makeup (Little Man Records)

Glenn Danzig, the rock veteran often characterized as the Evil Elvis, performed in Kansas City last month. The New Jersey native founded the influential horror-punk band the Misfits in the 1970s, but Danzig ceased being cool years ago. Radkey shamelessly recreates Danzig’s sound, but there’s little about this band from St. Joseph that isn’t extremely cool.

From the Not My Ozarks Facebook page

Rachel Luster wasn’t happy when news started showing up in her social media feeds that the Ku Klux Klan wanted to train “the first recruits… in a mighty army” in her part of the Ozarks.

Courtesy photo

The only time I've come close to getting at a brawl was at Yankee Stadium.

It was 1999. I was living in New York, and I went to a game with my baseball-obsessed college boyfriend.

We sat in the bleachers where the tickets were cheap, the beer flowed and fights were plentiful. The Royals were a joke and the Yankees were World Series champions.

I was a Kansas Citian living in New York, accustomed to a certain amount of abuse. I loved the Royals on principle, but I’m not a sports person. If I can pay attention past the 7th inning stretch, it’s a personal victory. Because let’s face it, there are only so many possibilities in baseball. Guy hits the ball, or he doesn’t. Makes it to first base, or not. And so on.

But that night, something caught my attention: The Royals started looking like they might win. At first it felt like a fluke, but soon, the Yanks around me started noticing.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

"I think once you start writing — and you really love it — you can't stop doing it," says Andrew Gordon Rogers, who graduated with a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

"Every form that I can think of, you know I've tried short stories, poetry, non-fiction, creative non-fiction, and it's all fun to me." 

The kids have gone back to school, and maybe it's time for you to go back to the movie theater. Up to Date's indie, foreign and documentary film critics have a few ideas to spruce up your weekend.

Cynthia Haines

Best of Enemies, R

  • The thing that’s quite amusing is the pompous attitudes of these men and their accents.

Mr. Holmes, PG

Whether it's a Buckley-Vidal debate that gets your blood pumping or an exploration of the late David Foster Wallace, Up to Date's indie, foreign and documentary film critics have given the verdict to help you select your weekend entertainment. Here are the films they discussed:

Best of Enemies, R, Tivoli

Wondaland Records

Kansas City, Kansas, native Janelle Monae on Thursday released a new single that's an anguished litany of black men and women who've been killed by police and other injustices.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Large puffy, clouds float overhead as Alex Hamil mixes water and pigment in the shadow of Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. "Bag of tricks: brushes, water for watercolor," he says as he pulls out supplies.

Alex has entered a plein air painting competition and is trying a new style of painting he knows well but has been reluctant to explore.              

Simon & Schuster

It's been a long, strange trip for U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill.   

From homecoming queen to state auditor to two-term U.S. senator in one of the most competitive states in the country, the journey has been an uphill battle. 

McCaskill talks about navigating a political world dominated by men in her memoir, Plenty Ladylike

Here's an excerpt from the book, in which she describes the challenges she faced as a female lawyer in the Missouri House of Representatives:

Plenty Ladylike, by Claire McCaskill with Terry Ganey

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