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. 

Keith McDuffee/Flickr -- CC

Poor salad. It’s often dismissed as an unnecessary stomach-filler, consisting of anemic lettuce, a cucumber slice, bits of tomato and cheese and topped with gloppy dressing.

But when it’s good, it’s absolutely delicious. Salads showcase the best of summer produce. They can be breathtaking simple to make, especially the dressing (shake up an acid, an oil and flavoring in a jar).

Salads can be hearty and they can be made in bulk for a crowd during cookout season.

Our food critics go beyond iceberg lettuce to search out the best salads in and around Kansas City.

Jon Lin Photography / Flickr-CC

Competition can be more stressful for some folks than others. A vital difference is whether you’re actually competing or merely observing.

Whichever role you choose to occupy – the doer or the rooter – competitive spirits are set to ascend with a variety of activities inevitably propelled by a certain sense of struggle.

Sometimes you’ve got to sweat it to get it. Yes, even on the weekend.

1. Kansas City Scottish Highland Games & Celtic Festival

The Gospel Scene

Jun 9, 2016

We visit with local gospel musicians to find out what it takes to make a living in KC’s gospel music industry.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A four hour hearing Wednesday left a Kansas City Council committee undecided on the fate of a $27.6 million plan for improvements to the 18th and Vine Jazz District. 

The request for city participation had virtually quadrupled from the $7 million version first proposed.

The plan had grown in its 6-month life to include historic preservation, infrastructure improvements, a fountain, outdoor amphitheater, apartments, retail and a connecting corridor to the Crossroads Arts District.

Matt Needham Photography

Red Kate
unamerican activities (Black Site Records)

As an impressionable teenager with blue liberty spikes, I cut my teeth on the Kansas City punk rock scene, practically living at El Torreon on the weekends. I was the chick in the pit, dodging elbows and mashing around with steel toes. It wasn't an evening if I didn't have a new bruise.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City's 18th and Vine shares similar roots with Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. And both of these music-infused, historically African-American districts have gone through ups and downs over the decades. 

Beale Street is now a thriving tourist destination with restaurants, bars, and shops, although some of its lively streetscape includes facades of historic buildings propped up with steel girders. 

Todd Rosenberg

Musicians in the Kansas City Symphony will get a salary increase of nearly twenty percent over the next four years, along with increases in other benefits after successful contract negotiations, the Symphony has announced.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

In 1975, Paul Stephen Lim, a KU student, was struggling to write a short story.

One night, at a party, he was chatting with a theater professor about his writing problem.

“Maybe it doesn’t want to be a short story,” the professor suggested. “Maybe it wants to be a play.”

And, with that advice, Lim forged a new path.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Even if you're not that familiar with art, you probably know what Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup cans look like.

In April, seven of Warhol's iconic soup can prints from the 1960s — including tomato and chicken noodle — were stolen from the Springfield Art Museum in southwest Missouri. As a set, they were worth about $500,000, but the thieves didn't take them all. 

Nick Nelson, Springfield Art Museum director, stands inside a quiet gallery in a new wing of the building with the standard gray carpeting, white walls and track lighting.

Blake Little

Blake Little made pictures of beautiful cowboys.

Little was a professional photographer, doing film and television work and shooting magazine covers in Los Angeles. When he and a friend went to their first rodeo, he wanted to be a cowboy, too.

“We were hooked immediately, by the whole scene, watching it, imagining that these guys were really doing this, and they were gay,” Little would later say of the first International Gay Rodeo Association event he attended, in Los Angeles in 1988.

Jason Wickersheim / Two West Inc.

If you consider three a crowd, you might want to catch up on your Netflix queue this weekend.

But if you’re ready to sample a bumper crop of community festivals and other organized excuses to party, then it’s time to join the waiting throngs.

What are they waiting for? Well, if you’re watching “Orange is the New Black” or “House of Cards,” we’ll miss you. But not that much!

1. Old Shawnee Days

Courtesy of The Grisly Hand

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

The Composer: Jimmy Fitzner, singer and guitarist

The Band: The Grisly Hand

The Song: “The Picture I Keep,” to be released on the forthcoming album Hearts and Stars

Matt Hopper is a staple of Kansas City’s jazz scene. A leader of his own bands, he's also a valued accompanist for other musicians. Besides the jam session he hosts every Tuesday at The Phoenix, Hopper plays from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Green Lady Lounge on Thursday, June 9.

Why we're listening to him this week:

Matthew Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

A decade ago, lovers of soul and hip-hop in Kansas City would gather on Sunday nights at a greasy downtown dive bar to listen to DJ’s and eat hot wings. MCs would spit rhymes and pretty soon a break-dancing circle would form.

Fast forward to 2016, and some of those people, plus a whole new crew, have joined in on a similar event. But now it’s in the afternoon and involves a lot more crayons.

Krizz Kaliko
Go (Strange Music)

Genius, the title of Krizz Kaliko’s 2009 album, wasn’t hyperbole. The visionary Kansas City musician’s contributions have been essential to the remarkable commercial success of his longtime collaborator, Tech N9ne. Kaliko’s new release, Go, his sixth solo album for the locally based Strange Music record label, is another impressive showcase of his luminous talent.

GunsNHawks/Facebook

At the beginning of May, during finals week at KU, an art project flashed across buildings on campus at night.

Miguel Calderon, who was a senior art student at the time, wanted to start a conversation about guns on campus.

Char Bar/Facebook

Because we’re Kansas City, we automatically associate ribs with barbecue. But other cultures have their own ways of serving those succulent bits of bone, fat and meat.

From hefty slabs (sauce optional) to lighter seasonal short rib dishes to a Mexican-Korean fusion sandwich, KCUR’s Food Critics search out the best ribs in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The Vietnam War divided the country – and families – including that of Kansas City writer Alan Robert Proctor. His brother, Bruce Proctor, worked in the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency before fleeing the country to avoid being sent to Vietnam.

overlandpark.com

To celebrate or not to celebrate is not the question this weekend. Only how.

Answers include a Memorial Day weekend party hosted by the Kansas City Symphony, a sprawling American roots music jamboree and a sentimental arena rock concert that might have fans “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” anyone who’s handy – which is always one way to make a new friend.

Let the celebrations begin!  

1. Celebration at the Station

Courtesy of Arionne Yvette Williams

 When Arionne Yvette Williams first heard “Formation,” the lead single of Beyoncé’s album, Lemonade, one of the lyrics inspired her to start a Bible study group for women.

“I just love the song; it just resonated with me as soon as I heard it,” Williams told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Folk Alliance International reaffirmed its commitment to Kansas City on Tuesday and announced that British folk musician Billy Bragg will be the keynote speaker for its conference in February 2017.

Greg Anderson

Golden Groves
Ideas

Debut EPs are tricky. By definition they are first impressions, but they only capture a band’s earliest efforts, which makes them fragile. They’re also small-serving packages, just the barest of tastes, and often unsatisfying, even at their best. The members of Kansas City’s Golden Groves obviously understand those pitfalls, and they’ve artfully stacked their debut, Ideas, with a little bit of everything they can do.

Brittany Tutt / Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune

The Missouri Arts Council, which funnels money to arts organizations around the state, will see an increase of $1.2 million for fiscal year 2017. That will put MAC’s state funding at $6 million, up from $4.8 million. It’s the first increase in several years, says the organization’s executive director, Michael Donovan.

Annual Jazz Festival Planned For Kansas City

May 22, 2016
americanjazzmuseum.com

Kansas City jazz fans take note: The executive director of the American Jazz Museum says we will have a world-class jazz festival and it will debut in just one year.

A City Council committee this week approved a renewal for the museum to continue to manage the 18th and Vine project. Jazz Museum Executive Director Cheptoo Kositani-Buckner used the occasion to tout the accomplishments of the district she has managed since January.

Courtesy Dawayne Gilley

The Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival has had a hard life. In fact, fans of the scrappy two-day concert featuring all-local musicians probably thought it was dead, since it hasn't graced the corner of 13th and State with baleful riffs and barbecue smoke since 2009.

But like the characters in its performers' songs, it's found a way to survive. After seven years of silence, festival founder Dawayne Gilley says he's bringing it back this summer.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Juan Felipe Herrera's official duty is to be the "lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans."

That's how the Library of Congress begins its job description for the United States poet laureate. In other words, the poet-in-chief "seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry."

courtesy: E.G. Schempf

Letting go of things can be tough, from old letters to baby clothes to extra weight. That’s why two artists are trying to live by example and encourage others to lighten their load.

You could say the Freeing Throwers art project — started by Mo Dickens, a gallery assistant at the Belger Arts Center, and artist Adriane Herman — was sparked by a string of losses, including the death of a beloved pet. 

Barbara Haze

When things don’t necessarily go together, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t put them together.

Like a weekend mix tape. What do all those songs have in common? Maybe nothing, except they’re all on the same weekend mix tape.

See how this works? With or without a pre-selected soundtrack this weekend, try mixing up a combo of asymmetrical activities, a potpourri of divergent diversions – you know, a bunch of stuff. It’s your weekend. You should do what you want.

1. Planet Comicon

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

For two decades, The Billie Mahoney Dance Troupe has riffed, shuffled and flapped to jazzy, syncopated rhythms year round.

Chris Dennis

Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds
It’s 4 A.M.
Somewhere

The power of Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds’ debut comes from several places at once, but is exerted with a devastating focus.

First, there’s the precision of its fine power trio. Calandra Ysquierdo’s prowling, menacing bass and agile backing vocals explode off Michelle Bacon’s relentlessly pounding drums and splashing cymbals. They bolster lead singer Chris Meck’s more fragile bravado and provide ample space for his sharp, clean, ever-reaching guitar.

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