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. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Hundreds of musicians carrying instruments are filling the hallways of the Westin Hotel in downtown Kansas City, Mo. this weekend.  Clustered in small groups picking, strumming and fiddling, they are gathered for the 27th Annual Folk Alliance Conference and Winter Music Camp.

On day two of the conference, fiddler Betse Ellis was fighting off a cold and trying to pace herself.

“I’ve certainly been sicker than this onstage,” says Ellis with a laugh.

Billy Krest / Imgur

Billy Krest is a self admitted "road porn" enthusiast. (Author's note: be careful typing that phrase into a search engine.) He also loves playing SimCity, a game that allows players to create their own virtual towns and metropolises.

courtesy: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Art collecting can be a hobby, a passion, or even an obsession. An exhibition at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Piece by Piece: Building a Collection, takes a look at the holdings of one Kansas City couple — and the connection between collector and artist.

A contemporary collection grows by a piece or two at a time

University of Kansas

Elden C. Tefft, best known for his iconic bronze sculptures on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, died Tuesday. He was 95.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the campus is privileged to have Tefft’s work.

“Elden’s pieces are such an integral part of Mount Oread — pieces such as ‘Moses’ and ‘Academic Jay’ — that it’s nearly impossible to imagine our campus without them,” said Gray-Little.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

Wyandotte County, Kan., claims the Kansas Speedway, Sporting Kansas City major league soccer and the Kansas City Renaissance Festival among its popular attractions.

While those seasonal experiences won’t be available until later in the year, the county offers other significant pleasures that can be thoroughly enjoyed this weekend – from delicious ethnic food and indoor water fun to fascinating historic sites and eye-opening prospects for nature enthusiasts.

Not been to the "Dotte" recently? Explore the possibilities. Your free time will thank you.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Cellist Sascha Groschang is no stranger to new music. Since 2009, she's performed with the alternative strings duo The Wires. But in a collaboration with the contemporary chamber ensemble, newEar, Groschang says she's found herself pushing the boundaries of music, sound ... and noise.

Lomax Collection / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

When the Folk Alliance International moved its headquarters to Kansas City and held its annual conference in town last year, quite a few area musicians discovered that they qualified as folk musicians.

Jeff Evrard

As the second Folk Alliance International conference kicks off in Kansas City this week, Central Standard explored the question: “What is folk music today?” Listening to some examples with host Gina Kaufmann were three guests:

Paul Andrews

Folk Alliance International kicks off its annual conference —and a new Music Fair — Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo. The five-day event is expected to draw nearly 3,000 musicians from around the world. 

Local folk performers will also be in the spotlight, such as Kasey Rausch. The singer-songwriter's latest full-length album, her third, is called Guitar in Hand. It's her first CD since 2007. 

C.J. Janovy

Janet Banks has published two books of poetry, Stewed Soul and On the Edge of Urban, and is working on a third. She’s been a featured poet at New York City's Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village, as well as at venues around Kansas City.

For our series WORD, she read two poems. Here's “My Neo Soul Addiction”:

Local Listen: Bon Ton Soul Accordion Band

Feb 13, 2015
Bon Ton Soul Accordion Band / Facebook

The Bon Ton Soul Accordion Band was one of Kansas City’s preeminent party ensembles in the 1980s. The bawdy dance band recently reunited after a lengthy hiatus.

This week’s edition of Local Listen features “Steal Away,” a track from the group’s 1984 album “Ain’t No Zydeco… But It’s Something Else.”

The group will perform a combination Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras show at Kanza Hall, Saturday, Feb. 14 at 4 p.m.

Whether you want to celebrate Valentine's Day with dinner and a movie or distract yourself from the day of Cupid, Up to Date's indie, foreign, and documentary film critics have a few ideas of what you can see on the silver screen.

Cynthia Haines:  

  • Two Days, One Night
  • Mr. Turner 
  • Oscar-nominated short films

Steve Walker:

C.J. Janovy

The Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City is like an art museum unto itself, with its famous murals by Thomas Hart Benton and dramatic bronze statues everywhere. But when it comes to public funding for the arts, that’s at the bottom of lawmakers’ priority list.

On Wednesday, more than a hundred arts advocates from all over the state went to Jefferson City to try to change that. Here's a run-down of how it went.

The Day

Simon Mein / Sony Pictures Classics

Movies about artists typically stumble toward their most basic goal: to link the paint on the canvas to the psyche of the painter. Ed Harris’s Pollock worked masterfully, as does Mr. Turner, British director Mike Leigh’s complex portrait of the esteemed English landscape painter J.M.W. Turner.

Through beautiful cinematography (reflecting the artist's attention to light), Leigh’s learned script, and Timothy Spall’s robust performance, Mr. Turner presents a lush visual biography that’s strikingly relevant considering its subject died in 1851.

Jojo Whilden / Sony Pictures Classics

Dr. Alice Howland is at the top of her game as both a linguistics professor and a smart, sophisticated and sexy New York woman in her fifties, played by Julianne Moore in the wrenching new drama Still Alice.

At the family dinner that opens the movie, she carries herself like a bright and vibrant sunrise — until she has an uncharacteristic memory lapse so slight it goes unnoticed by her husband and adult children. Yet it is the first drop of the downpour about to wash away her faculties.

courtesy of the family

Organist John Obetz, of Leawood, Kan., died Thursday morning in hospice care. He suffered from a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Obetz was 81. 

The former dean of the Kansas City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, Obetz played what’s been called the king of instruments — the pipe organ. As an associate professor at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance for three decades, he taught countless students to do the same.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Flashing lights are sending a message from the windows of downtown Kansas City, Mo., buildings. In Morse code, a signal taps out "LUV U." The light installation, in eight locations from City Hall to the Central Library, is called Message Matters. 

The project by Nebraska-based artist Jamie Burmeister, first appeared at the Bemis Center of Contemporary Art in Omaha, Neb. 

Cupid's Undie Run KC

Woe to those who underestimate the power of Valentine’s Day.

You think all you need is love? You think love means never having to say you’re sorry? Well, you’ll need a quality apology for that special someone if you try avoiding Cupid on the calendar.

At the risk of over-functioning in this space: Be sure to give candy or flowers or whatever else says “I care” to your sweetie. Then do something unforgettable together, like taking in a romantic concert or running in the street in your underwear. Yes, love is strange. Go with it.

Courtesy Discovery Life Channel

Kansas City is about to be the setting for a new reality TV show – but it’s not about barbecue, fountains or jazz. The show, called New Girls On the Block, follows a group of transgender women. Shot in 50 locations around town at the end of last year, it debuts on the new Discovery Life Channel on April 2.

Discovery Life says New Girls on the Block is the first reality TV series about a group of friends in the transgender community. It focuses on four couples, all of them from Kansas City.

Days before the deadline for a clarinet and saxophone competition to win $1,000 and a trip to Paris, Gunnar Gidner could barely stand. A spinal injury had left him unable to walk, much less practice his tenor saxophone, for two and a half months.

Gidner had recovered enough to return to school at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance in December. His jazz combo was rehearsing on his first day back, and Gidner’s professor, Dan Thomas, heard the recording and thought it was good. Really good.

Don Ipock / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

"This is the story of two great fighters: Achilles and Hector," says the Poet, a storyteller played by Kyle Hatley in the Kansas City Repertory Theatre's production of An Iliad. "What drove them to fight? The gods." 

An Iliad, adapted for the stage by Lisa Peterson and Kansas City native Denis O'Hare, is based on "The Iliad," a nearly 3,ooo-year-old epic poem attributed to Homer. The story takes place in the final year of the 10-year war between the Greeks and the Trojans.

Cody Newill / KCUR

Los Angeles based performance and visual artist Tim Youd has taken up residence in Kansas City for the next three weeks to re-type two novels set in the city.

Youd is re-typing Evan Connell's novels "Mrs. Bridge" and "Mr. Bridge," two books that depict Kansas City's upper-middle class in the 1920s and 30s. The performance is part of a larger project where Youd visits a city and reproduces a book written or set there on just two pages of paper. 

Gayle Levy / courtesy of the author

In 2006, Whitney Terrell experienced the conflict in Iraq first-hand as an embedded reporter — and wrote about it for NPR, Slate, and The Washington Post. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

A three-day public planning charrette — a workshop exploring the potential of a new cultural district — wraps up on Saturday afternoon. For the last few months, community volunteers in work teams have met to generate ideas about what this district could look like. 

IFC Films

With the Academy Awards quickly approaching on Feb. 22, it may be just the weekend to head out to the theaters to see some of the nominees. Up To Date's Indie, Foreign, and Documentary film critics offer their Oscar nominated suggestions. 

Cynthia Haines:

  • Two Days, One Night
  • Oscar-Nominated Live Action Short Films
  • Boyhood 

Steve Walker:

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Oh the heat. Sometimes it hurts so good — too much can make it hurt so bad.

If you like the pain, there are a handful of restaurants across the metro that invite you to test your limits. For the rest of you spice lovers, there are even more places that try to strike a tolerable, yet delicious balance both in heat and flavor.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

1. Thai Place in Westport, Kansas City, Mo.: The "Demon Gapow" is made with 10 habanero peppers, 25 thai chili peppers, 10 fresh jalapeno peppers, 10 serrano peppers, and two large tablespoons of house-made dried chili.

Patrons must eat the entire plate in 30 minutes, and they get it for free, plus a t-shirt, a $50 gift certificate and a photo on the restaurant's "Wall of Fame." (Note: the Thai Place Hot Challenge has taken a winter hiatus and will return in the spring)

IFC Films

In Two Days, One Night, the new film from the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Marion Cotillard gives a complex, tough performance as a wife and mother scrambling to keep her job.

On a Friday, Cotillard's Sandra learns that sixteen of her co-workers at a solar panel factory have voted to take a bonus of 1,000 euros rather than keep her on the payroll. Devastated yet not defeated, she spends all Saturday and Sunday on a desperate and humble but hopeful campaign to personally convince each colleague to change his or her mind before a Monday-morning vote.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Theatre for Young America honors President's Day with the play Starring Abe Lincoln, written and directed by the company's co-founder Gene Mackey. The show is a biographical portrait of the 16th president told by the man himself, who happened to be attending another play the night in question.

Director Gene Mackey talked about the production as part of our monthly series, Director's Cuts.

Courtesy Linda Lighton

Linda Lighton makes ceramic sculptures revealing how closely lipsticks resemble bullets. And her white clay flowers bloom not with pistils but with pistols.

Sonie Joi Thompson-Ruffin’s mixed-media fabric print depicts a man-sized black leaf hanging lifelessly from a tree bereft of other leaves, against a blood-red background of squares evoking urban apartments.

Rain Harris makes flowers, some out of silk – but some out of ominous black clay, lending a sense of doom to the idea of traditional floral arrangements.

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