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 Nace Brothers

The Nace Brothers
Space In Time

In Kansas City, we’ve depended on the Nace Brothers forever.

Courtesy Emma Harford

The spring assignment for a small class of Kansas City Art Institute students: Spend six weeks making art about Brush Creek. The results: 19 experimental video documentaries — none longer than five minutes — screen on Tuesday night.

Most of the 19 students in the Mapping Brush Creek workshop had never made videos until they took his class, says Steve Snell, an assistant professor in the Art Institute's freshman foundations program.

Krokstrom Klubb & Market / Facebook

It's starting to warm up, and Kansas City's food scene is changing.

KCUR’s Food Critics — Charles Ferruzza, Bonjwing Lee and Pete Dulin — have been watching what’s going on. They shared their news with host Gina Kaufmann on Friday’s Central Standard.

Bob Wasabi Kitchen / Facebook

When KCUR Food Critic Charles Ferruzza moved to Kansas City in 1984, there were “lots and lots” of Chinese restaurants, but very few Thai, Korean or Vietnamese places.

That has changed.

“People have no idea what a plethora of options they have now,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Art Institute stakes a claim in the Crossroads Arts District on First Friday, April 1, with the debut of KCAI Gallery.

The new venue at 1819 Grand Boulevard will be a familiar stop to many gallery-goers. Grand Arts had a 20-year run at this site, producing and exhibiting shows by artists such as Sanford Biggers, Laurel Nakadate, and Sissel Tolaas, among many others, until it closed in September 2015

There are more than just spring gardens abloom this weekend. Up To Date's indie, foreign, and documentary film critics come with a bouquet of movie choices for your weekend.

Cynthia Haines

The Witch, R

  • An unsettling, but not graphic horror film, set in 1600s at the edge of an eerie forest where the lives of a religiously conservative family unravel.

City of Gold, R

courtesy SFS Architecture

In the early 1950s, the Kansas City Power & Light Co. dreamed up a futuristic home to demonstrate — and promote — the potential of electrical technology. The target audience: couples moving to the suburbs. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Sixth-grader Miguel Gonzales sits at a grand piano at Eisenhower Middle School in Kansas City, Kansas. He’s in a large room reserved for special events.

Under a mop of auburn hair, Gonzales smiles shyly as he waits for his lesson to begin. His instructor Paul Adams (that’s Mr. Adams to Gonzales) soon shows up — on the screen of a laptop. Adams, a graduate student in piano at the University of Kansas, is about 35 miles away in a music studio on the Lawrence campus. 

rumpleteaser / Flickr-CC

As one-hit wonder The Main Ingredient so melodiously clarified way back when: “Everybody plays the fool sometimes / There’s no exception to the rule / Listen, baby!”

Are you listening? I hope so, because you wouldn’t want to miss the point of April Fools' weekend.

You didn’t know there was an April Fools' weekend? Well, there is when April Fools' Day falls on a Friday. No fooling – well, maybe a little.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

How to tell kids the unfathomable but necessary story of a busload of students who simply disappeared after being stopped by police? Or explain the agonizing reality that requires a slogan as basic as Black Lives Matter?

Coloring books, of course.

“My niece loves to paint, and I like to draw,” says Celia Ruiz, whose difficult conversation with her niece inspired the ¡Ayotzinapa Vive! coloring book.

The National Center for Arts Research

Kansas City comes in at number 19 among cities provocatively called “Hotbeds of America’s Arts and Culture” in a new report by the National Center for Arts Research at Southern Methodist University.

courtesy ArtsKC

When Bruce W. Davis travels around the country he's often asked what he does for a living. The veteran arts administrator replies, "arts, entertainment and politics." For Davis, the term 'executive director' just doesn't encompass it all, including "the politics of supporting the arts behind the scenes. Arts and politics are inseparable to me."

Courtesy of Diallo Javonne French

Matt Otto
"Soliloquy" (Jazz Collective Records)

Matt Otto doesn’t resemble an agent of subversion.  Yet the mild-mannered man has instigated a quiet revolution on Kansas City’s jazz scene since he moved to the area in 2009.

http://haven.la/

The cool and cloudy weather this weekend makes for a perfect excuse to hole-up in a theater and take in a film. Steer clear of the long lines for Superman v Batman and check out these recommendations from the Up To Date film critics.

Cynthia Haines

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, Not Rated

The Lady in the Van, PG-13

Spotlight, R

Steve Walker

The Lady in the Van

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City writer Angela Cervantes won an International Latino Book Award in 2014 for her first book, Gaby, Lost and Found. Published by Scholastic Press, the book helped establish Cervantes, originally a poet and short-story writer, as an author of middle-grade fiction (for audiences between the ages of 8-12).

Ethan Hickerson / Flickr -- CC

Legends loom large. It’s what they do.

Still, they come in all shapes and sizes and even species, like the Easter Bunny or Mickey Mouse – yes, “cartoon character” is a genus, at least in my pop-culture-infested mind.

So buckle up this weekend. It’s going to be a legendary ride.

1. Kansas City Easter Parade

Music Review: The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra's 'Rhapsody'

Mar 22, 2016
Todd Zimmer / Kansas City Jazz Orchestra

The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra
"Rhapsody"

A few years ago, I worked as a concierge for a corporate hotel downtown. Guests would ask, “Does Kansas City still do the jazz thing?” I would laugh and open my drawer of cards. “Oh, do we,” I'd say, before packing them like mules with fliers for shows at local clubs. “We had no idea!” they'd exclaim. “Kansas City still has the best jazz in the world,” I’d say.

Being scared doesn't make my list of top five emotions. It's not even in the top 20. I actively dislike both roller coasters and horror movies. (In fact, a Donald Duck fire safety video I saw when I was 4 scared me enough that I can still recall scenes from the movie, vividly.) And though I'm not Polyannaish in my reading taste, I'm not a thrill seeker, either. Live radio supplies me with plenty of adrenaline.

So it's saying a lot that the weekend before Kansas author Cote Smith came on Central Standard to talk about the anxiety-laced world he created in his new novel Hurt People, I found myself glued to my seat for hours, heart thumping along to the words on the page.

courtesy Kansas City Art Institute

Cary Esser, longtime chair of the ceramics department at the Kansas City Art Institute, credits a high school classmate in the 1970s for her introduction to ceramics. 

As Esser recalls, her best friend, Julie, was taking a class, and "truthfully, I didn't know what ceramics was." 

Esser visited the basement classroom and saw her friend throwing pottery on the wheel. "I really had one of those moments where I just looked at what she was doing, and I just said, 'That is the coolest thing. I'm going to do that.'"

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Foundation on Friday announced a fundraising boost of $4.5 million for the proposed downtown campus for the arts. The first phase of the project calls for re-locating the students, faculty and staff of the Conservatory of Music and Dance from the Volker campus to downtown.

But the clock is ticking.

Plate / Facebook

“I’ve always maintained that the best vegetarian food you can find anywhere is deep-fried,” joked KCUR Food Critic Charles Ferruzza.

But Kansas City’s meatless food scene has blossomed over the past few years. In addition to vegetarian and vegan-only restaurants, chefs at restaurants of all stripes are getting creative.

“I think people have such an unfortunate misunderstanding that vegetarian food is bland,” commented guest Food Critic Lisa Murphy. “And when done properly, it’s absolutely not. It’s every bit as flavorful and as delightful as food made with meat.”

Submarine Deluxe

Just when you thought it was safe to go out and enjoy the warm weather this weekend, the temperatures are set to take a dive. So ward off the chill  at a neighborhood theater showing one of these films recommended by the Up to Date film critics.

Cynthia Haines

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, Not Rated

Embrace of the Serpent, Not Rated

Lady in the Van, PG-13

Steve Walker

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Growing up, Tony Berg remembers the excitement of getting the newspaper.

"That was how we got news. I remember every day, go out to the driveway and it was like Christmas," he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard.

And for Berg, being the new publisher of The Kansas City Star is a dream job.

“I feel like this is my hometown and this is my hometown paper,” he said.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

For thousands of years, artisans have been making musical instruments out of clay — from whistles and rattles to ocarinas and horns. That tradition continues with two Kansas City artists who've turned ceramic vessels into a sonic experience. 

Brian Paulette / Kansas City Actors Theatre

The Island is a play about apartheid. Its two actors are prisoners in a tiny cell on South Africa’s notorious Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was kept.

courtesy of the artist

A celebration of clay — in all its forms — is underway. More than 100 ceramics exhibitions are on view in Kansas and Missouri, timed with the National Council on Education for the Ceramics Arts (NCECA) conference in Kansas City. 

But as more artists experiment with digital tools, some of the artwork on display hardly seems like clay. Case in point: Unconventional Clay, an exhibition at Project Space in the Bloch Building at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. 

courtesy of David Lane

For Kansas City photographer David Lane, the night sky is a canvas where he composes Milky Way-themed works of art.

“The glow that is in those pictures is from 250 billion suns," Lane says. "To see that represented, it helps give our place in the universe."

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Story of a Song is a monthly segment on KCUR's Central Standard, in which local musicians tell the story behind a recent song, and explain how it was constructed musically. 

The project: Igor Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du Soldat," or "A Soldier's Tale."

Otterbein University Theatre & Dance / Flickr-CC

Some things are smart to do. Others are not.

We could argue forever about which is which, which wouldn’t be the brainiest move on anyone’s part.

My advice? Just pick something to do this weekend from the list that I’ve dutifully assembled for your intelligent perusal. See, you’re smarter already.

1. ‘The Fantasticks’

Brodie Rush

Be/Non
Mystic Sunrise / Sunset Magic (Haymaker)

Seven men are trapped on the moon. Only a song played well enough to please their alien captors will save them from eternal banishment from Earth. Some plead for a ride home with "oohs" and "aahs"; others beat drums, press keys and turn knobs in perfect unison. With “Aahs Come from the Skies/Oohs Come from the Ground,” Be/Non makes such an unlikely scenario sound possible.

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