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. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The National Park Service has added the Kansas City, Missouri, parks and boulevard system to its National Register of Historic Places.

The historic district includes parks and boulevards dating from 1895 to 1965. Three parks are on the list: Kessler Park, Penn Valley Park, and The Parade, as well as seven boulevards: Gladstone, Linwood, Armour, The Paseo, Benton, and Broadway.

Danny Clinch Sax and Co.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear made a minor international splash in 2015. The mother-and-son folk duo from Independence plays a free outdoor concert at Johnson County Community College on Friday, which gives us an excuse to listen again this week.

3 reasons we're listening to Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear this week:

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Mark Hayes’s musical career started with a decision: piano lessons or band instrument?

He was going to grade school in Normal, Illinois, and his school offered lessons. Since he had three siblings, his parents said that they could afford to pay for either one or the other.

He chose the piano, and, as he said, he never looked back.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Robert and Karen Duncan are well-known art collectors in Lincoln, Nebraska – but they haven’t forgotten their hometown in southwest Iowa.

The couple moved to Lincoln in the 1960s, when Robert came to run the family business, Duncan Aviation, a massive airplane service business. They also started collecting art. Forty years later, they had amassed a significant collection, and built a home designed to display it, on forty acres landscaped for a sculpture garden.

Courtesy The Brad Cunningham Band

The Brad Cunningham Band
Every Inch of Texas

It’s too easy to forget that Kansas City’s traditional country music is still out there.

Part of the blind spot is the residual glow from the flash of contemporary country acts that, to their credit, regularly land in town. Some of the neglect comes from music so stratified that acts without a hyphen (i.e., not alt-country, bro-country, etc.) have trouble persuading audiences to bridge beyond their favorite sub-genres.

Ariana Brocious / NET News

Ord, Nebraska, with its population of 2,000, sits between corn fields and ranches on the North Loup River, in the middle of the state.

Downtown, its historic art deco theater boasts high ceilings, multicolor arches, and inlaid wooden decorations in the lobby, walls tiled in red and navy, and hexagonal lights. The building on Ord’s central square served as a movie theater for decades, but in 2011, it underwent extensive renovations to become a live performance space.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Kids in the Lyric’s Summer Opera Camp are getting some particularly timely lessons this year, and they don’t all have to do with vocal performance.

The opera they’re learning is She Never Lost a Passenger, which recounts the tale of Harriet Tubman, the slave who escaped to freedom and returned to guide some 70 slaves to freedom using the Underground Railroad network of safe houses.

Courtesy of Bruno Bessa

Story of a Song is a monthly segment on KCUR's Central Standard in which local musicians tell the story behind a song they have written or are performing.

The Song: "Sabiá"

The Songwriters: Chico Buarque and Antônio Carlos Jobim

Interpreted by: Vocalist Bruno Bessa and guitarist Beau Bledsoe with Ensemble Ibérica

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Miguel M. Morales has been a writer his whole life, but he began to make it more than a hobby after joining Kansas City's Latino Writers Collective seven years ago (he recently finished a two-year term as the organization's president).

Morales says this summer's shootings at the Pulse nightclub "disrupted" his life in ways that will probably always affect his writing.

"This summer, in particular, has been very troubling, very violent — just one instance after another of violence, shootings, and massacres," he says.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

A meeting of artists in the River Market four decades ago was the spark that ignited the Kansas City Artists Coalition, which brings visual artists together through curated exhibits and mentors them in their art practice.

On a recent Saturday morning, the organization's executive director, Janet Simpson, greeted artists as they dropped off their work for the fortieth anniversary show. Simpson has been working full-time at the Coalition since 1989.
 

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

The Buhs is an 11-piece pop group from Kansas City that fuses elements of hip hop and soul.

 

They formed in 2013 when trumpeter Hermon Mahari was corralling talent for a Michael Jackson tribute show. The band started with a vision of writing songs to be picked up by other artists, but has since changed its focus to keeping their own music and growing their online presence through videos.

 

Jacob Meyer / KCBMC

By the time the weekend arrives, a little comic relief is welcome. So how about more than a little?

You can begin with a comic book party, a comic beard contest and that funny little comic who made “makin’ copies” a catch phrase on “Saturday Night Live.”

I know, it’s never enough. How tragicomic.

1. Kansas City Comic Con

Courtesy Wendy Thompson

Longtime Kansas City film producer and director Rick Cowan died of a heart attack around 2 a.m. on Monday. Cowan’s wife, Wendy Thompson, announced the news on Facebook.

The two had shared a nice evening together before he started feeling poorly, Thompson tells KCUR.

Cowan had worked in Kansas City’s film industry since arriving in town in the late 1970s.

Courtesy The Rainmakers

Rightfully categorized as a heartland rock band in the vein of John Mellencamp, The Rainmakers are one of the most notable bands to emerge from Kansas City.

They remain local favorites more than 30 years after the group’s formation.

3 reasons we’re listening to The Rainmakers this week:

1. The Rainmakers’ self-titled debut album was released by Mercury Records in 1986. Two tracks, “Downstream” and “Let My People Go-Go,” were minor hits.

Michael Robinson

Two Kansas City design firms Helix Architecture + Design and Blackbird Design Studio announced a merger Tuesday morning.

In its nearly 25 years in downtown Kansas City, Helix has gained a reputation for renovations of notable city landmarks, such as Midland Theatre and the Kansas City Missouri Police Department building.

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“Farm-to-table” is a concept that's been embraced by restaurants. But what does that term really mean?

“People are very interested in ‘where does my food come from?’” said Jill Silva of The Kansas City Star.

As the locally-sourced movement has grown, so has the variety and quantity of food available in area restaurants.

And because farm-to-table depends on what chefs get from the farmers, some dishes won't stay on a menu for long.

Michael Byars / KCUR 89.3

Taryn Miller is a musician from Winfield, Kansas, who plays under the moniker Your Friend. She was signed to Domino Records, home of Animal Collective and Blood Orange, in 2014, and the label re-released Miller's first self-produced EP, Jekyl/Hyde. After graduating from the University of Kansas, she jumped straight into working on a full-length album and touring internationally. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Kansas City audiences might know Johnny Hamil from his funky bass lines in the band Mr. Marco's V7. But Hamil is also a music teacher and a one-man evangelist for the deep sounds of the double-bass.

Walter / Flickr - CC

Choices for being adventurous this weekend include beholding cosmic swashbuckling, singing along with pop idols in their spicy prime and getting totally soaked on a colossal downtown slip-and-slide.

Your mission: Don’t pick just one. Because where’s the adventure in that?

1. ‘Star Wars’ Marathon

Paul Andrews/paulandrewsphotography.com

On his 9th birthday, Crosby Kemper III realized that his family was different.

His aunt’s ex-husband had kidnapped his cousin, and the uncle was arrested by the FBI at the New Orleans airport. That incident made the front pages of newspapers all over the country.

Courtesy Indyground Entertainment

Ray Pierce, the man who performs as Steddy P, is the founder of Indyground Entertainment, a miniature version of Tech N9ne’s Strange Music empire. The label has issued music by regional artists including Farout and Dom Chronicles.

3 reasons we're listening to Steddy P this week:

Courtesy Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute

It's no secret that science often produces mesmerizing images to go along with all of its graphs, charts and tables. Now some of those images, generated by biomedical research underway in the Kansas City region, have a show all of their own at Kemper East.

"It's not something we usually show here," says Erin Dziedzic, the Kemper's director of curatorial affairs.

Courtesy First Friday Film Festival

With the exception of Oscar-nominated shorts and the occasional Pixar release, films under thirty minutes go largely unseen by general audiences in the United States. The presenters of a new First Friday Film Festival hope Kansas City will become an exception to that rule.

Janet Saidi / KCUR 89.3

It all started with Death of a Salesman.

When up-and-coming Kansas City playwrights Sarah Aptilon, Victor Wishna and Inbar Kahnsat sat down and thought about how they might collaborate on a project for the Kansas City Fringe Festival, they understood it would be a challenge to combine three separate plays into a production that made sense.

But they each were inspired by the themes of disillusionment in Arthur Miller’s classic.

Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr - CC

Want to get real?

I hope not, because this weekend’s shaping up to be a surreal treat, with music, comedy and festival action promising to be out of the ordinary, fantastic and even dreamlike.

So … want to lose touch with reality? I knew you could do it all along.

1. Dolly Parton

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Rachel Mallin & The Wild Type release their debut EP Degenerate Matters on Friday at the RecordBar.

After establishing a reputation as one of the region’s most significant small rock-oriented venues at its initial location in Westport, RecordBar has moved to a larger, two-tiered space downtown.

3 reasons we're listening to Rachel Mallin & The Wild Type this week:

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

With its rich history and symbolism as Kansas City’s black-white dividing line, Troost Avenue is a frequent source of material for artists. The current example is a KC Fringe Festival play by Donna Ziegenhorn, whose Bingo on the Boulevard depicts a diverse cast of neighborhood characters dealing with life’s complexities.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

A storefront on the corner of Brooklyn and Lexington, across the street from a Caribbean restaurant and a convenience store in Kansas City's 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.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

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.

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