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. 

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.

www.facebook.com

“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

Facebook

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.

Paul Andrews

The Philistines
The Backbone of the Night (The Record Machine)

I generally subscribe to the nihilistic punk-rock philosophy of “kill your idols,” but not when it comes to The Philistines.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Kansas City's new streetcar line presents hazards for bicyclists, but an artist named Don Wilkison, who calls himself m.o.i., for the Minister of Information, hopes his "Rail-Bike-Rail" installation will help them navigate this new environment.

Photo courtesy of Katherine Dumas

On June 30, Governor Jay Nixon appointed Aliki Barnstone as Missouri’s fourth Poet Laureate.

A creative writing professor at the University of Missouri–Columbia, her work has often appeared in UMKC’s New Letters magazine.  

The daughter of Greek visual artist, Elli Tzalopoulou-Barnstone, and American writer, Willis Barnstone, Aliki Barnstone was destined for a life in the arts.

www.facebook.com

Whether it’s thin and crispy or thick and juicy, the burger is a great blank slate for all sorts of toppings and flavors. And don’t forget veggie burgers; in this meat-friendly town, it’s entirely possible to find a hearty and satisfying meatless patty.

From the greasy to the gourmet, KCUR’s Food Critics search out the best burgers — and sides that aren’t fries — in Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

KCUR 89.3

Kianna Alarid and Jared White are the songwriters for the band Yes You Are. Alarid spent her early 20s as the front woman for  Tilly And The Wall, a band from Omaha, Nebraska that toured internationally. The band broke up after two of the members married and started having kids, so Alarid moved to Kansas City.

Here, her music took an about face from lo-fidelity indie to polished pop. She met White through Facebook while the two were separately toiling over songwriting; in 2013 they joined forces to form Yes You Are. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

For nearly 30 years, Paul Mesner Puppets (now known as Mesner Puppet Theater) has produced puppet shows based on fairy tales and contemporary children stories, from Sleeping Beauty to The Stinky Cheese Man.  They're mostly aimed at kids, with sly humor for adults, too.

But, in the last few years at the Kansas City Fringe Festival, the puppeteers have been branching out into more risqué material  — of course, for adults. 

Jelena Ivanovic / Wikimedia Commons

Being pleasing is the point of the pop world, where things that strike people’s fancies rise and fall and perhaps rise again with what might be described as consistent unpredictability.

Bands or shows or concepts given permission by the masses to be truly pop are only there to be enjoyed for the time that they have in the sun.

Wait, are those clouds forming? Better get popping.

1. Duran Duran

Rooftop Vigilantes' Bandcamp Page

The Lawrence garage-rock band Rooftop Vigilantes celebrates the release of its new album Let It Be this weekend.

Rooftop Vigilantes is a proudly sloppy band. Every song on Let It Be is shorter than three minutes. It’s possible this penchant for brevity may be rooted in an inability to maintain focus for more than a few minutes at a time.

3 reasons we’re listening to Rooftop Vigilantes this week

Charlie Parker
Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes (Verve/Universal Music)

Sounding exasperated, someone in the studio production crew sighs “take three” after Charlie Parker’s imperfect version of “Passport,” one of 58 previously unreleased tracks on Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes.

Kansas City, Missouri Parks and Recreation

When something touches people, are you one of those people that that something touches? Would you like to be?

Whether you’re all heart or an emotional fortress of solitude, we all need time to be tender. How much you want – or can handle before falling to pieces – is another matter.

So allow me to point you in the right direction. Tenderly.

1. ‘Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Ghostly, metallic-hued faces stare out from century-old photographs. They neatly line the walls on narrow shelves in Nick Vaccaro’s home office in Lawrence, Kansas.

“Let me get this out of the way,” said Vaccaro, as he opened the door of a lighted display and reached in for a small leather case. Inside, there’s a tintype: an innovation from the 1860s that brought photography to the masses.

Pages