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. 

Meanz Chan / Courtesy Front/Space

Art is a process that often takes place in quiet spaces, away from large crowds. But on Saturday night, Madeline Gallucci and Kendell Harbin say they plan to pull back the curtain on the creative impulse.

Co-directors of the Crossroads gallery Front/Space, Gallucci and Harbin invited 28 artists to draw, paint, print and collage original works for the four-hour live drawing fundraiser. As each work is completed, it goes on the gallery wall for immediate sale at $30.
 

Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds

The band: Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds

The song: "Destination Revolution"

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When he was 4 years old, Ed Dwight built an airplane out of orange crates from Safeway in the backyard of his house in Kansas City, Kansas.

But while growing up in a segregated Kansas City in the 1930s and 1940s, he never dreamed that he could be an airplane pilot.

And he certainly didn't think he'd be the first African-American to train as an astronaut for NASA.

But then, a local newspaper changed the course of his life.

Kristi Yarcho

The Blackbird Revue is a Kansas City based folk-rock ensemble led by the husband-and-wife team of Jacob and Danielle Prestidge that headlines a show at RecordBar on Thursday, January 19.

3 reasons we're listening to the Blackbird Revue this week:

1. The Blackbird Revue is relocating to Los Angeles.

Amy Kligman, executive/artistic director of the Charlotte Street Foundation, says the news StartUp program will provide critical early support for arts startups.
Courtesy Charlotte Street Foundation

When you think of a startup, a technology startup is probably what first comes to mind. But the Charlotte Street Foundation has focused on the arts for 20 years, and just launched a StartUp Residency program. It's designed to help up-and-coming arts startups, such as an artist-run collaborative or a new business.

The Missouri State University Chorale is anxiously anticipating January 20—the day millions of eyes will turn to the nation’s capitol for the inauguration of the 45th U.S. president.  The 50-member choir will be part of the ceremony and has commissioned a new piece for the event.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has the story.

Courtesy Dino Massa

The Dino Massa Kansas City Quintet
Echoes of Europe (Artists Recording Collective)

Echoes of Europe, a collaboration between the Italian pianist Dino Masso and jazz musicians based in the Kansas City area, is the result of a chance encounter in Naples in 1990.

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Happy new year! KCUR’s Food Critics — Charles Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Jenny Vergara — have been keeping up with the latest news from KC’s restaurant scene.

They shared their picks with guest host Brian Ellison on Friday’s Central Standard.

architetural rendering, courtesy of RMTA architectural firm

Like a handful of other cities in the Kansas City metro area, Roeland Park, Kansas, has a funding mechanism for public art. Roeland Park's one percent for art program was established in 2010 by a city council resolution, and it sets aside one percent of development costs for art. 

But city administrator Keith Moody says the program hasn't been tested a lot. At least not more than once to his knowledge. 

The Rieger / Facebook

When it’s cold out, a big, hearty bowl of pasta really hits the spot.

Whether it’s a creamy mac and cheese or something a little more sophisticated (squid-ink noodles, anyone?), KCUR’s Food Critics search out the best pasta dishes in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is a much-loved institution in Kansas City. What many Midwesterners may not know, though, is that the Nelson also has a world-renowned reputation among artists and scholars of Asian art. With more than 7,000 works spanning 5,000 years, the museum boasts one of the most celebrated collections of Asian art in the West.

David Bickley

Hungarian composer Béla Bartók was a pianist. But some of the music Bartók wrote for strings, inspired by folk music, is considered among his most expressive and inventive. 

This weekend, Kansas City Symphony concertmaster Noah Geller will be the featured soloist in Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 2. 

Courtesy Kansas City Irish Center

The Kansas City Irish Center begins 2017 with much to celebrate. After almost a decade in the lower level of Union Station, last year the Center bought historic Drexel Hall, in Midtown at the corner of Linwood and Baltimore, and moved into its new home in September. 

“It’s in a location that we really want in the heart of the city, where a lot of the cultural activities are happening, and where the history of the Irish is in Kansas City,” says Nancy Wormington, the center’s executive director.

Courtesy Lincoln Marshall / Facebook

Lincoln Marshall is the Kansas-based rap duo of Approach (Sean Hunt) and MilkDrop ( John-Alan Suter). They're on the bill for this weekend's Sound Machine concert, a monthly event that's envisioned as a miniature version of the annual Middle of the Map Fest.

3 reasons we're listening to Lincoln Marshall this week:

When the St. Louis Art Museum announced that George Caleb Bingham’s “Verdict of the People” would be sent to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump, local artist Ilene Berman took to Facebook to express her displeasure. She had plenty of company.

Courtesy Mbird

Mbird
MercyFlight

Megan Birdsall has long been a Kansas City jazz darling, her slight presence a contradiction to the voice that's filled the corners of almost every jazz club in town. But to peg her in such a niche would be a mistake, as she and her band Mbird prove with their new release, MercyFlight.

Courtesy and copyright of the Mildred Thompson Estate, Atlanta, GA

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, received some welcome news in this first week of the new year: a $50,000 grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Courtesy Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Play-reading isn't the type of thing most audiences expect to be raucous, but that's what's likely to happen at the Kansas City Rep's Playwright Slam on Monday night, says Marissa Wolf, one of the organizers.

"We invite anyone from community and the public to come and bring a one-to-three-page script. We give them a theme, and then we'll just randomly choose a script," Wolf says. "Then we choose actors from the audience, so whoever wants to jump up and be an actor, we give them a role and they go for it."

Courtesy Lansing Historical Museum

When Jennifer Myer looks at the photographs along the wall of her tiny museum next to the Lansing Correctional Facility, the experience is "humbling," she says.

Others who've seen the images say they're "haunting."

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

When the Kansas City Actors Theatre opens Israel Horovitz’s My Old Lady next week, the production will star three actors that might, in one of the profession's euphemisms, be described as "well-known" actors.

But KCAT isn't bothering with euphemisms.

The show "provides three great acting roles, especially two for middle-aged and older women,” director Darren Sextro said in the show's news release, adding that this particular group of artists "deserves more opportunities than they’re offered."

Chris Lee

The Kansas City Symphony has been quietly fundraising over the last four years with the goal of adding $55 million to its endowment. On Wednesday, in front of more than 100 donors and arts officials on the stage of Helzberg Hall, the Symphony announced that they'd raised nearly $52 million.

Now, they're seeking public support for the "Masterpiece Campaign."

Courtesy Isaac Cates

Isaac Cates is a Kansas City native who studied at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. Since he co-founded Ordained in 2004, it's become one of the most prominent gospel groups in Kansas City.

3 reasons we're listening to Isaac Cates & Ordained this week:

1. They've shared stages with gospel greats like Marvin Sapp and Shirley Caesar.

Christophe Testi

This story was updated with comments from ArtsKC. 

Bruce W. Davis has resigned as the president and chief executive officer of ArtsKC —Regional Arts Council after less than a year on the job. 

In a news release on Tuesday, ArtsKC board chair Brad Douglas announced that Davis's last day was Monday, January 2. 

Douglas told KCUR that Davis notified the board in December about his departure.

Courtesy A La Mode

A La Mode
C’est Si Bon

Gypsy jazz — or, probably more appropriately, Django jazz — is a booming style in Kansas City.

This sub-genre, built around the silky runs and inimitable swing of guitarist Django Reinhardt in the same way bluegrass grew around Bill Monroe’s mandolin, pops up periodically around the world, and now it’s our turn.

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Why do you get one Tater Tot in your order of fries at Winstead’s?

According to Kathy Fern, the general manager at the Winstead’s near the Plaza, that’s not a mistake.

About five years ago, they started adding the lone tot as a promotional thing, but then it stuck. It’s something they strive to do with each order, she said, though that renegade tot doesn’t always appear.

Cristian Bortes / Flikr -- CC

So here comes 2017. But before abandoning the current calendar year for whatever amalgam of cheer and challenge that lies ahead, why not celebrate New Year’s Eve with a look back?

Not just back to 2016, but waaay back to times and traditions that you may never have experienced firsthand, but are still cool to “remember” with a little imagination.  

Want to visit the Roaring Twenties? Maybe dust off your Funky Chicken? Out with the old and in with the old!

1. Roarin’ recordBar 1920s New Year’s Eve Party

E.G. Schempf

When Grand Arts closed in the fall of 2015 after a 20-year tenure in the Crossroads, Stacy Switzer, the artistic director of the organization (calling it a "gallery" would be inadequate), said it had been a place of "extraordinary" freedom for artists. 

Steven Depolo / Flickr -- CC

Why is comfort food so … well … comforting?

“Carbohydrates,” said KCUR Food Critic Charles Ferruzza.

“I think comfort food is heavy, filling, fattening food that you know you probably shouldn’t be eating,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on Central Standard. “But if you’re sick or depressed or cold, it really hits the spot.”

For Food Critic Carmen Gramajo, though, it’s also the memories associated with those dishes.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The installation called "The Steeple of Light" shines like a beacon from the rooftop of Community Christian Church at 4601 Main Street in Kansas City, Missouri. But the artist behind it is not as well-known. Sculptor Dale Eldred died in his West Bottoms studio during the 1993 flood, while trying to save his equipment from the rising waters. Since 1994, his "Steeple of Light" has illuminated the night sky.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

"Growing up, I thought I lived in like a black city," says Nathan Louis Jackson, who spent his childhood and early adulthood in the Quindaro neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas. "I didn't understand the makeup of this city. And not just that, it wasn't just a racial makeup, it was also economic. All that, I didn't get. I was in a little bubble."

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