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. 

C.J. Janovy

As a kid, Andrew McKenzie had an unusual affinity for languages.

He took French in high school (because everyone else was taking Spanish). But that wasn't enough.

"I started to teach myself different languages, like Latin and Greek and Basque and Turkish," he remembers. "I would drive into the city to a bookstore, and they’d have a section with language books. I'd say, 'I'm just going to learn this language because the book has the prettiest font.'"

Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

The historic Attucks School building in the 18th & Vine Jazz District won’t be reused as a school after all.

Instead, the city has chosen a proposal by two internationally-renowned artists based in Chicago to convert the old building at 1815 Woodland Ave. into a hub for arts and culture.

The Zhou Brothers, ShanZuo and DaHuang, plan to create a Kansas City version of their Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. The plan includes gallery and exhibition space, live-work space for artists and other arts-related uses.

Todd Rosenberg

After a five-year fundraising campaign, the Kansas City Symphony announced Wednesday that it had accomplished its goal of raising $55 million for its endowment fund, which will now total more than $100 million.

In a news release, the Symphony reported that 1,000 donors had pledged gifts ranging from $10 to $10 million over the five-year period.

Courtesy Wick and the Tricks

Aligned with the riotgrrrl and queercore punk movements, Kansas City's Wick & the Tricks celebrate the release of a new four-song, 7-inch limited edition vinyl "Not Enough" at Davey’s Uptown Rambler’s Club on Saturday.

Courtesy Brad Norman

Lawrence once had a legendary punk club where bands like Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Fugazi played. But it was no CBGB or Whiskey a Go Go. It was east of downtown, tucked between a pumpkin patch and seemingly endless fields of crops, in a windowless, low-slung concrete building that sat back a bit from the road.

Fernando Leon/NBC

Commercials, TV shows and movies can provide an economic boost — if they're shot in your city or state. 

In the fall of 2013, when Gone Girl filmed in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, it contributed nearly $8 million to the state's economy, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. The production marked the last for Missouri's film production tax credit, which expired in November 2013.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Granted, people tend to think about dressing up this time of year. But even those who don't normally consider donning Cleopatra’s headdress, waltzing in Cinderella’s ball gown or vamping like a starlet might find something they need at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City Opera Costume Sale

Gordon C. James / Courtesy of Agate Publishing

Sometimes, a haircut isn’t just a haircut.

When he was growing up in Kansas City, author Derrick Barnes felt like a new kid after visiting his barber.

“Man, to get my haircut on Thursday means that when I showed up to school on Friday, I would look so fresh, and people would pay attention to me,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Courtesy Andrew Johnson

In his new book, Kansas City writer Andrew Johnson stares down the tiny occurrences that make up everyday life, using observations about small things, such as people's habits of speech and social media comments, to raise big questions about humanity.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Drive along U.S. Route 400 in western Kansas, and you’ll see hundreds of metal sculptures on tall poles, some as high as 20 feet. It’s the work of self-taught artist M.T. Liggett, who crafted signs and whirligigs out of scrap metal, tractor parts, and pipe. Whimsical - and politically provocative - art. 

Liggett died on August 21 at the age of 86. These outdoor sculptures are now in the care of four trustees, including one based in the Kansas City area. 

Courtesy The Sextet

The Sextet is a jazz group led by bassist Robert Castillo, with saxophonist Max Levy, trumpeter Teddy Krulewich, trombonist Trevor Turla, guitarist Peter Marten and drummer Fritz Hutchison. Their penchant for soulful grooves and elements of funk will appeal to fans of like-minded Kansas City jazz groups like the Project H and Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle.

Damron Russel Armstrong

People need space to talk about war these days, says Anne Gatschet.

“We live in a world that’s got a lot of war. I think all of us are dealing with how to talk-slash-not talk about a great deal of pain and injury, moral and physical,” says Gatschet, who is president of the board at The Writers Place.

Gatschet's grandfather was killed in World War II, but her parents and extended family won’t talk about it. She says that leaves a void.

Rob Bertholf / Flickr -- CC

It's one of the best times of the year to be outside. It's officially fall on the calendar, and after a hot September, it has finally cooled down.

In that spirit, KCUR’s Food Critics searched out the best outdoor dining spots on Friday's Central Standard. From a see-and-be-seen sidewalk café to something that's more secluded and romantic, they found a plethora of spots in and around KC to enjoy the outdoors with food and drink in hand.

Here are their recommendations:

Virginia State Parks / Flickr--CC

The familiar leanings of the fall season can take many forms, from pumpkin picking and chili cooking to spooks and scarecrows – and perhaps even a bit of pining for summer. It's been known to happen!

So, like a pile of leaves swirling in the wind, here's a flurry of things to do that could quite possibly make this the very best autumn ever.

Ramsey Mohsen / Flickr--CC

The “West” — once wild, now long-tamed — continues to symbolize both the benefits and the risks associated with aiming to achieve the greatest amount of personal freedom. 

Even if we can’t go back to a home on the range offering seemingly endless vistas and possibilities, we can still “go west” this weekend, whether witnessing gutsy cowpokes astride bucking broncos, learning cool stuff about the traditional cowboy life or allegorically exposing ourselves to the extraordinary individualism spurred by the notion of a wide-open frontier.

Isabel Fimbres

The artist: Brotha Newz

The Song: Fallen Roses

Courtesy Fred Wickham

Fred Wickham has clearly absorbed the spirit of the Hadacol Caravan.

Back in the early ‘50s, the Caravan, named for an alcohol-laden “medicine” designed to ease good country people through dry county weekends, needed as many as train cars to tour the country. Originally hosted by Hank Williams, the Caravan featured performers as varied as Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Milton Berle and Judy Garland.

Morgan Dameron / Different Flowers

What does it mean for a film to be “a love letter to the Heartland”?  

That's how "Different Flowers" is being pitched. Director Morgan Dameron grew up spending summers at her grandparents’ farm in Moberly, Missouri, and last summer the Kansas City native spent 18 days shooting her first feature film here.  

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

Kansas-based singer Vanessa Thomas, who tours the country sharing a bill with Grammy Award-winning tumpeter Doc Severinson, doesn't know why she's wearing a cast in her baby pictures.

"It was a foot cast that went all the way up above my knee," she says.

The rest is lost in what she calls a no-man's land of forgotten memories. A story she knows is hers, but almost can't believe is true, except that paper files full of documentation insist that it is.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Humans tend to take time and space as a given. We are assured that in 60 seconds, a minute will have passed; after 59 more it will have been an hour. We assume our living spaces will not suddenly develop new real estate behind the closet wall. We generally understand objects' physicality and can discern area through depth perception and touch. Most of us (author not included) are aware enough of the actual reach of our limbs so as not to knock fragile objects to floors.

Courtesy Fred Wickham

Named for an elixir advertised on Hank Williams’ radio broadcasts, Hadacol was once among Kansas City’s most notable bands, attracting national attention in the late 1990s. 

This week, brothers Fred and Greg Wickham (vocals and guitars) and bassist Richard Burgess reunite, with Matt Brahl on drums (the band's original drummer was Scott McCuiston) to celebrate the release of Fred Wickham’s new album "Mariosa Delta."

Courtesy Chris Ortiz

Samantha Beeson definitely does not like to be the center of attention. But that hasn't prevented her from being the subject of a photography exhibition.

Beeson lives with an array of difficulties that her partner, photographer Chris Ortiz, describes as “social anxiety disorder, depression, PTSD and panic attacks as a result of a past abusive relationship.” Her "everyday struggle to manage these disorders" is the point of his exhibit “Living With Sam.”

Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium makes its long-awaiting debut this week. The Bass Pro Shops’ founder says he’s finally brought to life a decade’s-old vision; to honor the world’s creatures and those committed to conservation. 

Courtesy Melissa Etheridge

Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge was moved to hear how her music had affected fans during a conversation on KCUR's Up to Date on Friday before a weekend of performances with the Kansas City Symphony.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Art fairs don't seem like a place of fierce competition — but getting a booth at one can be.

More than 1,400 artists apply each year for the Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City. Participants are selected by a jury, a group of curators, gallery owners and educators. This year, 240 artists got in, including about 40 from Kansas and Missouri.

KCUR's Band Of The Week: Molly Hammer

Sep 20, 2017
Kevin Morgan

Molly Hammer is a prominent Kansas City actress and vocalist whose debut album, "Out of This World," was released on September 15. Produced and arranged by pianist Joe Cartwright, the 11-song album also features saxophonist Brad Gregory, bassist Steve Rigazzi, drummer Todd Strait and backing vocalists Molly Denninghoff and Jessalyn Kincaid.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

Julián Zugazagoitia came to Kansas City in 2010, to take a job as CEO and director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The new guy from Mexico by way of New York and Paris made a fast impression as a lanky intellectual with a worldly resume and a lot of energy.

The Midwest made an equally large impression on him.

"Coming to the Midwest definitely was as foreign a country as I have ever been," he jokes.

Kansas City initially felt like a tiny village.

Courtesy Kansas City 48-Hour Film Project

You’re making a film and there are some constraints. You have to include a hat as a prop (not a baseball cap!). You have to have a character named Alex (or Alexis) Brownstone who must be a restaurant server. Your script has to include the line “she should be here any minute.” Your film must be between 4 and 7 minutes long.

The final catch: You don’t get to choose the genre.

Could you do it?

Could you do it in 48 hours?

Mike Tsai / Kansas City Actors Theatre

It was a year ago when the Kansas City Actors Theatre decided to produce Sam Shepard's play “A Lie of the Mind” this season. When Shepard died in July, company members were shocked at first, but then their feelings evolved.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Tiny works by 68 artists from around the world, on display this weekend at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, can help us understand "what defines us as humans,” according to the museum's director.

To host this special exhibit celebrating all things small, the museum partnered with the International Guild of Miniature Artisans for a juried showcase of fine-scale miniatures.

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