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. 

courtesy of the artist

For the past 35 years, artist and YJ’s Snackbar owner David Ford has been traveling to Guatemala.

His interests in the area have ranged from local foods and recipes to indigenous festivals and politics. But recently, his focus has narrowed — he’s become totally obsessed with broken doll heads, called muñecas, used in bustling marketplaces to advertise hair-braiding and hair-wrapping services to white tourists.

“It’s an advertising thing,” Ford explains.

GisleHaa / Wikimedia Commons

Want to have a rootsy weekend? It might take some digging. Don’t worry — no tools are required, only the desire to drill down into your pleasure zone.

If you’re into rock music, why not experience a new take on the world’s first hippie rock musical? Is rhythm and blues your deal? Then one of its vital purveyors could be at your disposal. Or maybe you enjoy the sheer spectacle of expert female impersonation. There’s a way to make that happen, too.

In 2013, fairy homes — with doors custom-built for the hollows of trees and tiny furniture nestled inside — cropped up on a wooded trail in Overland Park. Firefly Forest, as it was called, appeared as if by magic. People tucked hundreds of notes into these small abodes, listing their struggles and dreams. And, to their surprise, the fairies answered.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Poet Marcus Myers says he started to get serious about his writing about a decade ago, when he turned 30 — and set his sights on publishing in literary magazines. Myers and poet Brian Clifton now co-edit Bear Review, an online journal of poetry and micro prose.

Paul Andrews

 

Paul Mesner has never been bored. 

"I was a pretty shy kid, but I also was and still am very content to be by myself,"' he says. "There's tons I can do to entertain myself."

In that sense, Kansas City's master puppeteer was his own first audience.

It started with a teddy bear.

Early beginnings

It's starting to feel like spring, and if you want to celebrate the warmer weather, Up to Date's indie, foreign, and documentary film critics have some ideas for you.

Cynthia Haines:

  • Diplomacy
  • Mr. Turner
  • Red Army

Steve Walker:

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Balancing the responsibilities of raising children with the demands of work is a challenge for any parent. For many artists, the pressure is intensified by the need to create. As part of our series, Artists As Parents, two local artists talk about their latest collaboration — their son Sam.     

Working though a lack of sleep

Several months ago, KCUR asked “artist types” to tell us how parenting changed their art. Artists from across the region shared their stories about trying to find the time to be creative, while also juggling careers and the responsibilities of parenthood. 

It's clear from the responses that becoming a parent can dramatically change how artists commit to their craft.

Johnson County Board of County Commissioners on Thursday narrowly approved a plan to repurpose the 1960s-era King Louie building in Overland Park, Kan. as the county’s new Arts & Heritage Center.

The vote was 4-3.

Courtesy Nuwayv

Earlier this year when the Folk Alliance International conference was underway in Kansas City, Central Standard interviewed local musicians from different genres about how they write songs. That inspired us to launch a new series: "Story of a Song."

For this installment, Hannah Copeland spoke with members of the Kansas City band, Nuwayv, which defines its music as "rugged soul." Hannah explains how the four artists collaborated to write their new album’s final track, “We Shinin.”

Kevin Dooley / Flickr--CC

  What does it take to be considered truly super? True believers.

Without fantastic fans, how would talented singers get their chartbusters? Rising comedians their hit shows? World-saving superheroes their blockbuster movies?

It’s no superlative to suggest that this weekend should please devotees of many different pop-culture persuasions, including fans of increasingly pervasive comic book culture, classic rock, stand-up comedy and the most awesome figure of them all – which, surprisingly, doesn’t belong to Wonder Woman. But I wouldn’t tell her that.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Musicologist John Lomax set out to do field recordings in the early 1930s of African-American songs in the southern United States. With the help of his son, Alan, he recorded ballads, reels, work songs, and the blues – some were recorded in prisons. That’s where John Lomax met the guitar player Huddie Ledbetter, better known as "Lead Belly."

A version of this story – with two women as the lead characters – is the focus of the play Black Pearl Sings! written by prolific Kansas City playwright Frank Higgins.

Patrick Quick / KCUR

When Kansas City comedians tour nationally, it almost feels like cheating. Used to small crowds and tough audiences in KC, they’re surprised by the raucous applause and packed houses on the road.

“All around the country, Kansas City comics have a reputation of just coming in and shattering the crowd. They’re like, man, you guys are really good,” according to Mike Smith, a Kansas City-based stand-up comedian. “And we’re like, could you email our city and tell them that?”

Don Ipock / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Angels in America is Tony Kushner’s two-part epic now playing at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Set in New York in the 1980s, it’s a commentary on AIDS, religion, politics, and love in the Reagan era.

Michael Schmidt / Confluence

In downtown Kansas City, Mo., the stretch along 18th Street between the Crossroads Arts District and the 18th and Vine Jazz District is roughly a little over a mile — but this span includes 52.5 acres of paved surface lots. That's more than at Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Stadium combined.

Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 is joyful and romantic — fitting for the season, as we bid adieu to the bitter winter weather.

“It was written when Dvorak was at a resort, and this symphony sounds like that,” Kansas City Symphony executive director Frank Byrne told Steve Kraske on Up To Date.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Anne Kniggendorf is a freelance writer from Shawnee, Kan. When she was 24, Kniggendorf was working on her master’s degree in linguistics. With hopes of attending the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Cal., she enlisted in the Navy.

"Enlisting was a strange move for me, one my family and friends were horrified about," she says. "I promised myself that one day I would write the story of boot camp for all those who have never been through it on their own."

juttazeisset / Pixabay

On the face of it, bread is such a simple thing. But the difference between an ordinary, ho-hum slice of bread and a lovingly-prepared morsel with a crunchy crust and a melty middle … there’s just no comparison.

Whether it’s hard and crusty or soft and spongy, bread is more than just a delivery mechanism for sandwich fillings.

On this week’s Central Standard, our Food Critics Charles Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Lou Jane Temple weigh in on the best bread in Kansas City.

Charles Ferruzza:

This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year’s True/False Fest.  Find the rest of them here or download the podcast on iTunes.

Back in 2008 filmmaker Ed Cunningham heard a strange story on the news about a man who bought a barbecue smoker at an auction and found a severed human leg inside. A legal battle ensued between the finder of the foot and the man it once belonged to.


The Man who is ‘Almost There’

Mar 6, 2015

This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year’s True/False Festival.  Find the rest of them here or download the podcast on iTunes.

83-year-old artist Peter Anton was only known in his community of East Chicago before filmmakers Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden stumbled into his life. The film “Almost There” follows Anton as the filmmakers become his caretakers and advocates for his art exhibit, which quickly becomes controversial.


Jerome Prebois / Courtesy Zeitgeist Films.

Before the end of Volker Schlondorff’s Diplomacy, two men are embedded in a clipped war of words fraught with horror. German General Dietrich von Choltitz (Niels Arestrup) is holed up in a luxurious yet besieged Paris hotel in 1944 as Allied forces close in on recapturing the city. On the day the Germans have scheduled a series of devastating explosions that would leave Paris in ruins, the General has a fortuitous visitor: Consul Raoul Nordling (Andre Dussollier), who has the inside scoop about the planned attacks as well as the kind of negotiating skills that could stop them.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

On First Fridays, the Crossroads Arts District attracts a crowd to an area transformed into a mecca for artist studios, galleries, restaurants, and shops. Just about a mile away, it’s a little quieter. But the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District has cultural amenities of its own, such as the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Efforts are underway to link the two districts along 18th Street.

There’s a storytelling renaissance going on, and Kansas City’s about to be at the heart of it.

To understand what's happening, the first thing you need to know is this: There is such a thing as an official storyteller. We’re not talking about your average barstool raconteur. We’re talking about people who hone a craft. Who practice an art. Who carefully structure their yarns with slow reveals and escalating tension, all in an effort to convey deep meaning. For many of these people, it's a career.

Tony Alter / Flickr-CC

Eschew the same ole same ole this weekend by embracing an alternative. You can begin by saying “eschew” with me. Ooh, that was different.

Try something novel, such as exploring the fascinating artistic world of tattoo culture, viewing female Hamlets in existential action or appreciating this month’s full moon in a whole new way.

You don’t have to reinvent your leisure-time wheel. Just steer it in a new direction. The unusually rewarding is right around the corner.

courtesy: Akshay Dinakar

Akshay Dinakar, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kan., has been invited to play with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA).

Carnegie Hall on Tuesday announced the 144 musicians, ages 16-19, chosen after an extensive audition process. They're considered to be some of the finest players in the country. 

Catherine Browder is an associate in the Creative Writing program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a member of the Dramatist Guild of America, whose one-act and full-length plays have been produced regionally and in New York City. She is the author of three fiction collections.

Local Listen: Maps For Travelers

Feb 27, 2015
mapsfortravelersband.com/music/

Even before forming Maps For Travelers in 2010, the four men in the ensemble had been adding to Kansas City's notable tradition of fostering brawny post-punk bands.This edition of Local Listen features “Static,” a bracing single the band released in 2011.

Hear More: Maps For Travelers performs Friday at the RecordBar. Doors open at 9:30.

The weather may be cold, but area theaters are showing some movies that are red hot. Up to Date's indie, foreign, and documentary film critics have some ideas that might chase that chill away.

Cynthia Haines:

  • Leviathan
  • What We Do In The Shadows
  • Song of the Sea

Steve Walker:

Sony Pictures Classics

What starts as a seemingly benign spat over less than an acre of land turns toxic and deadly in Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev's masterfully crafted Leviathan. A nominee for this year's Best Foreign Language Oscar, it focuses an intense gaze on a civil suit and the discordant parties whose lives are either pointlessly enriched or irrevocably destroyed.

courtesy: flickr user Kelly Garbato

Cultural organizations in Kansas City, Mo., such as the American Jazz Museum and the Kansas City Zoo, could be facing budget cuts.

The city’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year calls for the following reductions: 

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