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 the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art recently acquired a rare daguerreotype of abolitionist John Brown. A daguerreotype is one of the earliest forms of photography and created a one-of-a-kind image. And this portrait is one of only six known daguerreotypes of the anti-slavery militant who's still somewhat of a controversial figure. Some view John Brown as a religious fanatic; others say he was a freedom fighter.

Miles Bonny first took up the trumpet because of his father. Francis Bonny, who now plays in Broadway musicals, instilled in his son a love of jazz and classical music that now influences Miles' work as a hip hop producer and performer.

photo: Beth Harris, Kemper Museum

Artist Christopher Ruckh?berle grew up in West Germany in the 1970s and 80s and then moved to the United States to study animation. He returned to Germany to study painting at the Academy of Art in Leipzig. Beth Harris, Curator of Education at the Kemper Museum, recently interviewed Ruckh?berle, whose paintings are included in the Life After Death exhibition. (image credit: Christoph Ruckh?berle, Theater, 2003; oil on canvas, 190 x 280 cm; Rubell Family Collection, Miami, Florida)

photo: Bruce Mathews, Kemper Museum event photographer

Listen and watch the audio slideshow, with images from opening night, here.

On the opening night of the exhibition Life After Death: New Leipzig Paintings from the Rubell Family Collection at the Kemper Museum, we asked some of the museum patrons to share their reactions.

Spencer Museum purchase: Peter T. Bohan Art Acquisition Fund

University of Maryland emeritus professor David Driskell discusses the life and work of Topeka-born artist Aaron Douglas, who was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

The artists from the "New Leipzig School" have been described as the 21st century's first artistic phenomenon. Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art Curator Christopher Cook and exhibition co-curator Mark Coetzee, curator of the Rubell Family Collection, located in Miami, Florida explore what drew the Rubells to the works.

In the second half of their conversation, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art Curator Christopher Cook and exhibition co-curator Mark Coetzee, curator of the Rubell Family Collection, talk in more detail about the city of Leipzig and the teaching style of its Academy of Visual Arts.

photo: Bruce Mathews, Kemper event photographer

Kemper Museum Docent Winfried Wiegraebe was born and raised in West Germany, but after reunification, he lived in East Germany near Leipzig. Here, Wiegraebe describes the day the Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989, and some of the reactions to a united Germany. He also talks about his love for contemporary art.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Kemper Museum presents a film series called Behind the Wall Film Classics. Dr. Larson Powell, assistant professor of German and film studies at UMKC, highlights the challenges of Eastern Bloc filmmaking.

Through an audio collaborative, KCUR and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art will provide listeners with the voices and insights of living artists. Since its opening in 1994, the Kemper Museum has brought more than 100 artists to Kansas City. The collaborative project will present these artists' voices as well as community and curatorial voices to a broad range of listeners.

Charles Gatschet released his second album Step Lightly earlier this year. About half the album is made up of what Kansas City Star jazz critic Joe Klopus called "thought-provoking originals," including a bebop tune dedicated to Charlie Parker and a bossa nova for anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.

For three years, singer Toni Gates has organized a show at Unity Temple on the Plaza, called the One by One Concert Series, which brings together a number of musicians who originally met as teachers at Paseo Academy of the Arts, like sound engineer Tom Ransom and percussionist Clarence Smith.

The Kansas City Ballet marks its 50th anniversary with a season full of choreography new to the company. This weekend's fall performance includes the Kansas City premiere of three works. It also provides an opportunity to examine the company's past and its future.

Kansas City, MO – October 11 - 14, Lyric Theatre

Kansas City Ballet's Fall Performance:

Mozartiana
Choreography: George Balanchine
Music: Peter Tchaikovsky

In almost six decades as a professional musician, Kansas City saxophonist Ahmad Alaadeen has performed with jazz greats like Billie Holiday and Miles Davis and Motown stars like Gladys Knight and Smokey Robinson. In his most recent album -- And the Beauty of It All -- Alaadeen is working with a group of musicians most of whom are less than half his age.

Kansas City, MO – KCUR's Lee Ingalls spoke with Ahmad Alaadeen about the new album and its somewhat deceptive subtitle: Ballads.

Note: This is an extended version. When more than 200 guests gathered in September for a party celebrating Richard Harriman's 75th birthday, conversation at the event focused as much on the performing arts series Harriman founded in 1965, now called the Harriman-Jewell Series.

Sony Classical

The pre-teen prodigy that wowed audiences in the late 90s is back with a new release that demonstrates his expanding concept of jazz piano.

Kansas City, MO – Eldar Djangirov wowed jazz audiences in Kansas City as pre-teen prodigy in the late 90s. Now 20, the Russian-born pianist is turning heads again with his third album.

Photo by Crackerfarm

The Russian-born jazz piano prodigy returns to his former home for a pair of concerts.

ASR Records

Up to Date host Steve Kraske welcomes KCUR morning news anchor and Up to Date jazz critic Lee Ingalls for their regular discussion of the latest jazz. This time around, jazz with Kansas City connections and Louis Armstrong, captured in concert at the 1958 Monterey Jazz Festival.

Kansas City, MO – New releases featured in this month's jazz update:

"Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival" - Louis Armstrong and The All-Stars (Monterey Jazz Fest)

"Step Lightly" - Charles Gatschet

The American Jazz Museum kicks off three days of events to mark its first decade.

The American Jazz Museum kicks off a three-day celebration of it 10th anniversary today. The museum first opened to public in 1997. Events include a symposium tonight on the history of the 18th and Vine historic district and series of performances by local and national acts. on Friday the museum holds its annual gala fundraiser at the Gem Theater.

The sold-out concert is headlined by singer Patti LaBelle and the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band.

Soon after choreographer Mary Pat Henry moved to Kansas City to teach at UMKC's Conservatory, she suggested a friend move here too. Leni Wylliams was in his early 30s and already an accomplished veteran of the modern dance world. Together they founded a company to perform not only their own work, but pieces by some of the country's premier choreographers. Their collaboration was cut short in 1996, when Wylliams was brutally murdered.

Once again, the music of Charlie "Bird" Parker echoed through Lincoln Cemetery, in the wooded hills of Blue Summit, Missouri, just outside the Kansas City city limits.

Everlasting Universe

Aug 24, 2007
Laura Spencer/KCUR

The Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City presented two new works recently, including a world premiere called Everlasting Universe exploring the relationship between the early Romantic poets Byron and Shelley.

Kansas City, MO – The Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City presented two new works recently, including a world premiere called Everlasting Universe exploring the relationship between the early Romantic poets Byron and Shelley.

Kansas City jazz unit brings free improv to the Jazz and Beyond series weekend. Special guests include Jeffery Ruckma, Patrick Alonzo Conway and the All Souls Hand Bell Choir.

Up to Date host Steve Kraske welcomes KCUR morning news anchor and Up to Date jazz critic Lee Ingalls for their regular discussion of the latest jazz. This time around, new releases from the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, Kansas City's James Ward Band, Charles Mingus Septet with Eric Dolphy and Bruce Hornsby (with Christian McBride and Jack DeJohnette).

Kansas City, MO – New releases featured in this month's jazz update:

photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Kansas City Snapshot is a project created by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects to celebrate the organization's 150th anniversary. As discussions continue about the future of the metropolitan area - from downtown Kansas City to Metcalf Avenue - organizers say this "yearlong experiment" could provide an opportunity to take a look at where we are now...and how we live, work and play.

Up to Date host Steve Kraske welcomes KCUR morning news anchor and Up to Date jazz critic Lee Ingalls for their regular discussion of the latest jazz. This segment features new music outstanding female jazz artists: Sarah Gazarek, Anat Cohen, Deborah Cox, and Hiromi.

Kansas City, MO – Note: this segment has been edited to comply with current music webcasting restrictions.

The new executive director of the American Jazz Museum settled in to his office last week. Greg Carroll is a percussionist and a longtime jazz educator who most recently served as director of education for the International Association for Jazz Education, one of world's premier jazz organizations.

Rhyme Records records Bengali and North Indian artists who perform around the world. When Pro Ghosh moved to Kansas City from upstate New York to work for Sprint, he brought the idea for creating an Indian music record label with him.

photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

African-American modern dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey died nearly 20 years ago. But, until recently, his personal collection of photographs, costume sketches, stage notes and letters had not viewed by the public.

KCUR's Alex Smith visited the home of Llewellyn Thompson, who's a member of a team called the Immigrant Smokers. They're competing in this week's Rhythm and Ribs Festival.

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