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. 

Get some vicarious adrenaline with a group of mountaineers and take a road trip with an unusual grandma in Up to Date's indie, foreign and documentary film critics' choices this weekend.

Cynthia Haines

Meru, R

  • It is visually stunning. It is incredibly intense, suspenseful— it’s got everything going for it. I would put Meru on the top of any list that has to do with mountaineering.

Phoenix, PG-13



When you think of Greek life, do you have fond memories or are there things you'd rather forget?

Or maybe there's a reason you never rushed a fraternity or sorority at all.

With fraternities and sororities making headlines in Kansas — a task force's recommendations for the University of Kansas to make changes to freshmen recruitment have been rejected — we want to know more about your experiences with  this part of college.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Eighth Street Tap Room, a bar at 8th and New Hampshire in Lawrence, Kansas, hosts poetry readings each month in a dimly lit basement. As poets take the stage, they're cast in a reddish light, with gold streamers as backdrop.

Sunday's event started with a short open mic session, and then three featured poets. The final reader of the night: Hadara Bar-Nadav, an associate professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

Kristina D.C. Hoeppner / Flickr-CC

In the minds of many, humans supposedly behaving like animals is a bad thing, as if all primal proclivities are something to be avoided.

But taking the obviously awful stuff off the table – like killing without conscience or not washing your hands before dinner – acting like a critter can be quite freeing.

Be – or at least think like – an animal this weekend. You can do it. But you already know that, don’t you?

1. Cheetah Run

Making Movies, one of Kansas City most notable bands for the past five years, is committed to giving back to the community. The annual family-friendly Carnaval is a fundraiser for Making Movies' after-school music education program.

This week's edition of Local Listen features “Cuna de Vida,” the lead track from Making Movies’ most recent album “A La Deriva.” Making Movies’ Carnaval starts at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at Knuckleheads


Hallmark Cards Inc. announced a reorganization plan on Tuesday to create three new — and separate — businesses out of Hallmark North America. 

According to company officials, it's time to move beyond operating as "one big organization."

The move comes after hundreds of layoffs during the summer.

Courtesy of Sky Smeed

Sky Smeed
Drive All Night (Sky Smeed Music)

Drive All Night, the fifth album from Sky Smeed of Chanute, Kansas, is a troubadour’s lament to the helplessness everyone feels.

Knowing that Smeed’s core backing band is Lawrence’s wonderfully irreverent Truckstop Honeymoon may prepare listeners for “Smoke N’ Spice,” a tribute to Kansas City barbeque in the form of a personal ad. But that irreverence makes for a deceptive opening, and even the darker “Blue Highways,” about a touring musician beginning to see two-lane blacktops as bars on a jail cell, isn’t likely to prepare anyone for the rest of the record’s quiet desperation.

Courtesy Mexican Consulate in Kansas City

English-only speakers might not be able to read Spanish, but they'll likely recognize the emotions, situations and imaginary worlds created by children's book illustrators from Mexico on display at the Kansas City Public Library. 

Courtesy of Xanath Caraza

Kansas City poet Xánath Caraza’s most recent book, Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind, received the 2015 International Book Award for Best Book of Poetry. Here she reads a piece from her next book, Ocelocíhuatl due in December 2015 from Mouthfeel Press. This poem is for the 43 students in Mexico who’ve been missing since last year.

@greghall24 / Twitter

Apparently, blogging about bathrooms is a thing in Kansas City.

We spoke with two people who write about the Kansas City bathroom scene this week on Central Standard.

"A Bathroom Site" blogger Kayla Regan judges local water closets on privacy and cleanliness. For "Pee Party" blogger David Hudnall of The Pitch, he knows he's found a good bathroom when the room has some sort of odd flourish.

flickr user Justin Waits

Kansas City will host the national convention for Shriners International in 2020.

Shriners International, Visit KC, and Mayor Sly James announced the news on Thursday.

An estimated 20,000 visitors are expected to attend, staying in thousands of hotel rooms. An expected financial boost is nearly $18 million. 

"Kansas City has all the facilities we need and a first-class convention center," said Jeff Sowder, imperial potentate with Shriners International, in a release.

For much of the 20th century, the clothes that Middle America wore came from Kansas City factories.

Scores of clothing manufacturers, many of them headquartered near Broadway in the northern part of downtown, produced work clothes for laborers and farmers, house dresses for homemakers and uniforms for industry and the military.

Lou Eisenbrandt / Courtesy Photo

When 21 year-old Louise Eisenbrandt signed up for the U.S. Army in May 1967, she had no idea what she had gotten herself into.

Eisenbrandt, who now lives in Kansas City, went from nursing school in Alton, Illinois, to South Vietnam in the middle of one of the most dangerous wars in U.S. history — for adventure's sake.

“I saw the Army as my way of seeing the world. I got more than I bargained for,” Eisenbrandt told host Steve Kraske on Up To Date.

An Irish dance hall stands for so much more, a group of mountaineers makes a hazardous trek and a woman confronts ghosts of her past in post-war Germany in Up to Date's indie, foreign and documentary film critics' choices this weekend.

Cynthia Haines

Meru, R

  • It is visually stunning. It is incredibly intense, suspenseful— it’s got everything going for it. I would put Meru on the top of any list that has to do with mountaineering.

Phoenix, PG-13

Courtesy photo / Belger Crane Yard Studios

Kansas City artist Peregrine Honig spent time this year in artist residencies — one in China, and, an unofficial one, closer to home at the Hotel Phillips. 

Some of the drawings and prints she created will soon be on display in a replica hotel suite — inside the Belger Crane Yard gallery. Sexuality and vulnerability, power and luxury — and privacy all collide in a new multimedia installation called Suites

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The grass was still damp from overnight rains in Washington Square Park Tuesday morning as sculptor Will Vannerson stepped away from a section of the galvanized sculptural work called "Moon Garden."

After Vannerson lifted the work from the bed of a pickup truck, he said wanted to get a broader view of the large, silvery tubes in the context of the park’s landscape.

Chris Murphy / Flickr-CC

There’s a first time for everything, right? Like your first kiss. Or your first job. Or your first kiss on the job – hold it now!

What things can you experience for the first time this weekend? There are some brand new events, familiar entertainers in fresh contexts and popular attractions that you may have overlooked or even avoided for some silly reason.

  Joe Stanziola, the Kansas City man behind Second Hand King, doesn’t make run-of-the-mill hip-hop. Elements of doo-wop and an unusually sentimental perspective of love inform his thoughtful music. “The Right Way,” a track from Second Hand King’s new album “Before the Bomb Drops,” is inspired by vintage R&B.

Second Hand King performs on the patio of the Riot Room at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 12.

courtesy Kansas City Irish Center

The luck of the Irish was with two arts organizations this past weekend at the 13th annual Kansas City Irish Fest at Crown Center.

The Irish Center of Kansas City kicked off a $3.5 million capital campaign for a new home. Festival officials matched on-site donations with a check for $125,000 for the non-profit, which has been housed in the lower level of Union Station since 2007. Also at the festival, a new company, Irish Repertory Theatre, announced its inaugural season. 

Jeff Tigchelaar
Certain Streets at an Uncertain Hour (Woodley Press, 2015)

Writing free verse is playing tennis with the net down, Robert Frost famously said, and yet in the decades since his dismissal of the form many poets have ventured to win that game. Frost also once wrote to a friend that irony is a kind of guardedness, that at bottom the world isn’t a joke and humor is the most engaging cowardice — dour, almost dictatorial pronouncements.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

William Trowbridge is Missouri’s third poet laureate. He was appointed to a two-year term, and that was three years ago. But, he says, he continues to serve because he hasn’t been told to stop — yet.

When Trowbridge first took on the role, he was asked to write a poem about Missouri. He didn’t want to write a typical “I love my state poem,” so he came up with something else: "Unofficial Missouri Poem."

From a beautiful but treacherous mountaintop to post-World War II Germany to a contemporary senior home, Up to Date's indie, foreign and documentary film critics' choices will take you far and wide on your holiday weekend.

Cynthia Haines

Meru, R

  • It is visually stunning. It is incredibly intense, suspenseful— it’s got everything going for it. I would put Meru on the top of any list that has to do with mountaineering.

Phoenix, PG-13

It's that in-between time when the summer blockbusters are winding down, but the holiday movie machine hasn't fired up yet — and that makes the perfect opening for independent, foreign and documentary films to fill the theaters. Up to Date's critics have numerous suggestions from this glut of possibilities to cover your whole holiday weekend.

Meru, R, Glenwood Arts

Julie Denesha / KCUR

T’khara Jones and her younger sister KhaTera Jones wanted to take dance lessons.

Their older sister won gymnastics and dance trophies, and they had an aunt whose dancing mesmerized them.

"I just thought, 'Wow that looks so much fun, it just looks beautiful," says T'khara. "I always wanted to do it."

Same went for KhaTera, a year behind her in school.

"One of my friends took dance classes and I thought it was really cool. When I first started wanting to take dance classes, it was maybe fourth or fifth grade."

brent flanders / Flickr-CC

The looming wonders of weekend diversions can lure this enthusiastic messenger away from mere explication to attempt airy and alliterative turns of phrase in pursuit of apprising the public as appealingly as possible.

In other words: I can get carried away with this stuff, especially when it comes to a three-day weekend. But exaggerate? That’s never the plan.

Take this weekend’s arguably provocative promise of “wet and wild” things to do – really? Without a doubt. Pretty much. Mostly. Oh, well, let’s give it a whirl.

1. Kansas City Irish Fest

Courtesy Wabaunsee County Historical Society

It's a familiar sight around rural Kansas: Some old, falling-down building, obviously abandoned long ago.

One of those buildings was in Volland, which can’t be even be considered a town — it's just four houses (three of which are empty), a boarded-up white building and an old brick store about an hour and a half west of Kansas City, just beyond the town of Alma (population 800).

courtesy Grand Arts

After a 20-year run in the Crossroads Arts District, this First Friday will be the last for Grand Arts. The closing reception for the exhibition "Universe of Collisions," by The Propeller Group, a collective based in Vietnam and California, marks the end of the non-profit arts residency venue.

Founder Margaret Silva announced plans last year to donate the Grand Arts building, a former auto shop at 1819 Grand Boulevard, to the Kansas City Art Institute for its graduate program.

Courtesy of Victor & Penny

Victor & Penny and their Loose Change Orchestra
"Live at the Living Room Theatre"

Many a young band could learn a thing or two about rocking from the uke, acoustic guitar, clarinet and bass combo featured on this live set.

courtesy of A to Z Theatrical Supply and Service

After five decades in the Waldo neighborhood of Kansas City, A to Z Theatrical Supply and Service has moved to a long-vacant building in east Brookside. 

Bill Brownlee / Plastic Sax

For decades, Kansas City's jazz community has celebrated Charlie Parker's birthday with a musical tribute at his grave site in Lincoln Cemetery.  In recent years that's taken the form of a "21 Sax Salute" — only with a lot of instruments besides saxophones, and a lot more than 21.