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. 

Fally Afani

If you went out in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you probably heard Matt Pryor in venues around town.

He was the lead singer of the indie pop-punk band, The Get Up Kids, and he was also the front man for its spin-off, The New Amsterdams.

Now, the Lawrence-based musician is making solo records, and his new album, Memento Mori, takes a different turn.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

When Folk Alliance International decided last spring on "a clenched fist of resistance against the struggle," as executive director Aengus Finnan described the poster art for its 2017 conference, organizers couldn't have predicted how relevant the theme Forbidden Folk, "celebrating activism in art," would resonate almost a year later. 

Wikipedia Commons

The Ozark Mountain Daredevils started playing together 45 years ago in Springfield, Missouri, but Kansas City has always been the band’s secondary base.

3 reasons we're listening to the Ozark Mountain Daredevils this week:

1. On Friday, the Daredevils play a concert with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band that's a benefit for the Medicine Cabinet, a charity that provides "short-term emergency medical assistance for those in need in the metropolitan Kansas City area."

T. Charles Erickson

Three years of work for Kansas City actors, set designers, stage managers and students at four universities culminates this week and next when New York's The Acting Company presents William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Marcus Gardley’s X: Or, Betty Shabazz vs. The Nation in repertory.

Courtesy John Goolsby

John Goolsby
The Midwest

For the past few years, John Goolsby’s performances at places like Knuckleheads' Gospel Lounge have generally been solo — a singer-songwriter with country leanings, carrying shows with his pure-but-burly voice, a guitar, and a growing stack of songs with heartfelt, honest stories behind them.

Michael Korcuska / Flickr -- CC

From the old classics to “interactive” cocktails — and don't forget mocktails — there’s a drink for everyone in KC.

Whether you like your drinks fancy (made with local spirits, fresh herbs and juices and more) or something more simple (usually involving just one type of liquor), KCUR's Food Critics searched out the best cocktails in and around Kansas City in our annual look at libations.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

Courtesy National Orphan Train Complex

There’s only one train line left in Concordia, Kansas (population just over 5,000), and it hauls grain. But more than a hundred years ago there were four train lines. Some of them were passenger trains, and in the 1880s, one carried a group of unaccompanied children from New York.

It stopped in nearby Wayne, Kansas, where strangers were waiting to choose the children.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City artist Nedra Bonds has just endured months of chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy to treat breast cancer.

Given all she's been through, the fact that she's opening a retrospective exhibition of her life's work (to date) might carry extra poignancy.

"That had not occurred to me," says Bonds, who appears to focus her energies more outward than inward, such as when she responded to her diagnosis last year with a community art project.

Courtesy Friends of Arrow Rock

On a bitterly cold afternoon early this winter, Patrick Overton was standing outside the historic Federated Church of Arrow Rock, Missouri, greeting people for the town’s annual folk sing-along. As visitors made their way through the afternoon cold to the warm glow of the church, Overton welcomed old friends, introduced himself to new ones, and joked that it was safe for all to enter because he would not be singing.

courtesy of Kansas City Art Institute

Many college students experience living in a dorm, especially their freshman year. But residence halls built decades ago aren't always able to meet the needs of today's digital-native students. 

On Thursday, the Kansas City Art Institute announced a $10 million gift from an anonymous donor via the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The donation will allow the four-year college of art and design to build a new residence hall. 

Courtesy Museum Of Nebraska Art / Collection of the Artist

The Museum of Nebraska Art — or MONA — sits on the main drag of the small, central Nebraska town of Kearney. This winter, it has featured work by the state's Latina artists in the first show of its kind.

Strange Music

Big Scoob
H.O.G. (Strange Music)

Years before Tech N9ne became internationally known, before his Strange Music empire dominated Kansas City hip-hop — and the hip-hop label world in general — there were the 57th Street Rogue Dog Villains. Big Scoob was the group's “street-hustler,” his fellow rapper Txx Will told The Pitch in 2002.

Reconsider Films / New York City

When Kansas Citian Mike Lundgren saw the film Disturbing the Peace, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he knew he wanted to screen it in Kansas City. As curator of TEDxKC, he thought the film would fit into his interest in trying to offer people a new look at old issues.

"It's bringing in alternative points of view or fresh perspectives — something that has the ability to snap you up a little bit: Wait a second, I never thought of it that way," Lundgren says.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

E.G. Schempf has photographed the artwork of some of Kansas City’s best-known artists. Alongside the commissioned work he undertakes for artists, galleries and museums, Schempf takes personal photographs around the edges.

His new exhibit, E.G. Schempf — Pedestal View at Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, showcases a selection of behind-the-scenes images of darkened galleries and test photographs he has taken over the years. Sherry Leedy says Schempf is humble and sees himself as merely supporting artists, but that without Schempf those artists would go unseen.
 

Courtney Williams

Julie Bennett Hume knows her voice is unusual.

She describes it as gravely, brassy at times. It can go low. Sometimes, she says, it's almost a yodel.

"It can do a lot of things, but it isn't as if people say, 'Oh, that's so beautiful.' But I can do justice to a song, and that's what I like about it," she says. "That's what folk music is about."

Courtesy Kansas City Chinese American Association

Forest Rong of Overland Park has succeeded in convincing China to allow one of its most elite performance companies to launch a tour of the United States in Kansas City.

Rong grew up in Zhenghou, China, but he’s called Overland Park home for 16 years.

“This is the only place I’ve stayed and this is the only job I’ve had,” Rong says during a conversation in the conference room at Black & Veatch, where he has worked as an engineer for his entire adult life.

Andrew Birgensmith / Kansas City Symphony

The day before Donald Trump's presidential inauguration, reports surfaced that his administration might cut funding for, or eliminate, federal arts agencies.

3 Reasons We're Listening To Erica Joy This Week

Feb 1, 2017
Courtesy Erica Joy

Erica Joy plays her first high-profile show on Friday to celebrate the release of her debut record, a five-song EP called Erica Joy, Introduction.

3 reasons we're listening to Erica Joy this week:

1. Whether by accident or design, Joy is a mysterious figure. The artist from Springfield, Missouri, hasn't released much biographical information, which adds a layer of intrigue to her music.

Courtesy of Mid-America Arts Alliance

Two young children look toward a mother figure, her face turned to the side facing the American flag.

“For in thee the oppressed find justice and mercy,” reads the accompanying text.

The image is from a World War II poster created by Polish artist Wladyslaw Teodor “W.T.” Benda.

“Isn’t that beautiful?” asks Hal Wert, a professor at the Kansas City Art Institute.

Paul Andrews

The Grisly Hand
Hearts & Stars

Since 2009, The Grisly Hand has been a band that’s comfortable in its own skin, equally content and holding its own whether it’s the next band up in a punk rock lineup, showcasing at the Folk Alliance conference, or opening for Lee Ann Womack. It’s not that the band doesn’t fit anywhere: Its musicians keep pushing their own limits, so they fit everywhere.

Lara604 / Flickr -- CC

Many Kansas Citians are familiar with hummus by now. Available at Costco and other area grocery stores, this chickpea puree has become as ubiquitous as guacamole.

But what are some other Middle Eastern dishes that are on local menus?

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Co-working is a growing trend for freelancers, small businesses, and startups. It provides a place to work, interact with others and share expenses. But artists, and makers of all kinds, often have specialized needs, when it comes to light, space, or tools. 

Courtesy A La Mode

A La Mode is a Kansas City hot jazz ensemble led by guitarist Clayton DeLong and vocalist Jesica “Baby J” Poell, with performances this weekend.

3 reasons we're listening to A La Mode this week:

Courtesy Through A Glass Productions

In 1949, Langston Hughes wrote,

Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

Langston’s Lawrence, a new short documentary directed by University of Kansas Film and Media Studies Professor Madison Davis Lacy, explores how Hughes’ lifelong rejection of compromise and fear grew partly out of his experiences as a young boy in Kansas.

Born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902, Hughes lived in Lawrence until his mid-teens.

Edward C. Robinson III / ECR3.com

A filmmaker from Poland and a former journalist from Kansas hope a combination essay-contest-and-documentary-film-project will help bridge the state's (and the country's) well-documented divides.

That's what happened in Europe and New York state, says Ewa Zadrzynska, the filmmaker who started Poetry Unites in Poland in 2006. 

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"

www.facebook.com

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.

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