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. 

Cameron Wiley

Painter Melissa McCracken says ugly music does exist, but nothing that looks so bad she has to turn it off. It really only gets as homely as some brown around the edges of a twangy country song. Funk and soul are vibrant. Jazz is sparkly. Radiohead has a lot of layers.

Courtesy Kartez Marcel

Four kids are writing intently, their heads buried in paper. If it weren't a Saturday night and a hip-hop instrumental wasn't drowning out all other sounds, you might think school is in session at the Gregg/Klice Community Center.

surtr / Flickr -- CC

We’ve been eating out of bowls for thousands of years.

However, the idea of serving meals in bowls has become trendy in the United States. And it's not for people who don't like their food to touch.

“I think the bowl trend comes out of an idea of more healthy, mindful eating,” Jenny Vergara told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Bowl meals are also portable and convenient — and they’re also Instagrammable.

Courtesy Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Land-locked Kansas City might not have obvious connections with the Caribbean Sea. But in creating her new wall-sized installation at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, an artist based in New York – by way of Haiti and the Dominican Republic – found connections that run deep.

Courtesy Lisa Cordes

Cementing the relationship between two Kansas City organizations that have worked together to help artists develop their careers, the Mid-America Arts Alliance announced on Thursday that it had acquired Artist INC.

Creative Commons-Flickr / Nikonian Novice

Startups create thousands of new jobs each year in the Kansas City area. That's according to a new report released Wednesday by KCSourceLink. A program of UMKC's Innovation Center, KCSourceLink provides a network for area entrepreneurs. 

"We're talking retail, we're talking restaurants, we're talking small manufacturers, we're talking tech companies," says special projects manager Kate Hodel. "All of those are important to our Kansas City metro area."

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Micah Herman is a fine Kansas City jazz bassist. Although he’s not as recognized as other area jazz bassists Bob Bowman, Jeff Harshbarger, Dominique Sanders and Gerald Spaits, Herman is a similarly formidable player.

On Thursday night at The Ship, Herman leads what he promises will be “one big bebop jam session” as part of Kansas City's annual Charlie Parker Celebration, a series of performances intended to honor the legacy of the late genius from Kansas City.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR 89.3 FM

Getting the pipe organ Opus 22 installed and settled in its new Prairie Village home at Village Presbyterian Church was no small task.

It's a massive instrument. Standing 24 feet tall, it takes up the whole back wall of the church. It weighs 17 tons, and has 3,600 pipes inside. Some of the pipes are as tall as 16 feet, while others are just a few inches. And each pipe has been carefully voiced so it sounds just right, a process that took 40,000 hours of labor.

Courtesy Zachary Stevenson

Outside a Small Circle of Friends,” by Phil Ochs, is not a typical protest song.

The song tells the biting, sardonic tale of all-too-normal people walking away from tragedies without helping — because, after all, “outside a small circle of friends,” who would care? The message is simple: just help.

courtesy: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

This Monday, August 21, the moon will cover the sun in a rare total solar eclipse across a 70-mile path of the United States.

The eclipse starts at 11:40 a.m. and reaches totality around 1:06 p.m. in parts of Kansas and Missouri. 

Jack Hummel, Western Music Association

On a sunny summer afternoon, a group of cowboys took to the outdoor stage in front of the Raphael Hotel on the Plaza and started singing in four-part harmonies.

That band, 3 Trails West, is one of the only practitioners of cowboy music in Kansas City — and has been named the band of the year by the Academy of Western Artists and the Western Music Association.

But what exactly is cowboy music? It isn’t country music. Or country-western.

Netflix

Who else is watching "Ozark"?

The Netflix show set in Missouri provoked lively conversation on a recent edition of KCUR’s Central Standard, where host Gina Kaufmann’s guests included one of the program’s showrunners, Chris Mundy, along with Lake of the Ozarks native Michael Duggan and myself.

We were interested in how the show represents Missouri — and the larger urban-rural divide in the Midwest.

Archives of American Art / Smithsonian Institution

Joe Jones doesn’t sound like the name of a great artist – it sounds like the name of a house painter, which is what Jones was during his early days in St. Louis. But an exhibition at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum in St. Joseph argues that Jones' name deserves to be as well known as his regionalist contemporaries: Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry and "American Gothic" painter Grant Wood.

Danielle Hogerty / KCUR 89.3

The lunch crowd boarded the streetcar at Union Station on a busy Wednesday afternoon. Every seat was taken and people were standing shoulder-to-shoulder. The doors shut, but instead of taking off, the train idled. Four mysterious riders in dress coats and fedoras approached the car. The doors opened again, and, with one uniform step, they boarded the train.

These mysterious travelers were actually dancers. They remained fairly still for the first minute, but as soon as someone signaled for a stop, the dancers broke out in random movements.

Courtesy Soul Revival

Soul Revival is a Kansas City group that performs a sophisticated form of contemporary R&B. Desmond Mason, an accomplished keyboardist, composes and orchestrates their music, while Derick Jolliff-Cunigan is the primary vocalist.

After a series of performances at out-of-the-way venues, Soul Revival graduates to the prestigious RecordBar on Saturday, where, in addition to performing original compositions, they'll cover hits by the likes of Musiq Soulchild and Luther Vandross.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Amid its ultramodern lecture halls, the University of Kansas Medical Center's new health education building is also a showcase for several Kansas City artists.

Francis Bourgouin / Flickr -- CC

What sets a truly great happy hour apart?

Well, delicious food and drinks, for one. There’s also the vibe of the place.

“The social aspect of this cannot be discounted, even in the discounted world of happy hour,” Jenny Vergara told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Plus, she added, it’s just good way to get to familiarize yourself with a new cuisine or try a restaurant that might normally be out of your price range.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

When the best Irish musicians get together to practice, it might as well be a concert. And some of Kansas City’s most talented players now have a regular place to do that in front of an audience.

On a recent Sunday night at Prospero’s Books, while customers thumbed through used paperbacks and lounged in armchairs, the sound of music drifted down from the second floor, where a couple dozen people were watching flute player Turlach Boylan and guitar player Davey Mathias.

Jon Blumb / Courtesy of Richard Klocke

His paintings have been called “exuberantly cheerless.”

Artist Mike Hartung loves that description.

The 73-year-old painter, who lives in Lindsborg, Kansas, has made around 700 paintings over his career.

His first exhibit, “Gas Stations, Laundromats and the Spaces Between,” opens this month in three venues across Kansas.

Hartung has also been described as a recluse, which he disputes, pointing to his recent exhibit openings in Salina and Lindsborg.

Courtesy Bloodstone

Bloodstone, a silky soul band that rose to prominence in the 1970s, is one of the most commercially successful groups to emerge from Kansas City.

Their classic R&B slow jam “Natural High” peaked at #10 on Billboard’s pop chart on July 21, 1973. Bloodstone was so popular that the band starred in the 1975 blaxploitation movie Train Ride to Hollywood.

Courtesy CLIC Abroad Foundation

Fewer than 750,000 elephants are left in the world, according to conservationists’ estimates. And the average American drinks more than 1,100 cups of coffee very year, according to a Harvard School of Public Health study.

These statistics might seem unrelated, but D.K. Bhaskar, a Lenexa photographer, author and now filmmaker, shows they are crucially connected.

Jen Chen / KCUR 89.3

Last fall, after he was laid off from The Kansas City Star, Yael Abouhalkah did what many journalists do: he started a blog and continued to cover local and national politics.

That is, until couple of weeks ago, when he announced that he and his wife are heading to Namibia to be Peace Corps volunteers.

They’re leaving mid-August for a 27-month stint in southwest Africa.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

El Dean Holthus knows what people might think of a town like Smith Center, Kansas.

At nearly the exact geographic center of the contiguous United States, it's an hour from the nearest Interstate. It's home to about 1,600 people, but that population is declining like most of rural America's.

They probably think, he says, that "it's just a little hole in the ground."

Courtesy Jason Harrington

Jason Harrington, aka muralist Rif Raf Giraffe, thinks that in the near future, Kansas City will be home to perhaps the densest mural park in the nation.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

It's been a year since the Kansas City Council approved $7 million in funding for projects in the 18th and Vine district, such as stabilizing historic buildings and adding new streetscaping. On Wednesday, city officials provided a progress report. 

Jack Williams / NET News

In the middle of a cornfield in south-central Nebraska, an oasis of art is growing.

Art Farm, situated off a long dirt road outside the small town of Marquette, started back in 1993 as an artist residency program. Since then, it’s become a one-of-a-kind experience many artists can’t resist.

Courtesy Mac Lethal / Facebook

A hip-hop wisenheimer, Mac Lethal has successfully toggled between dual careers as a sardonic rapper and as a social media and television personality.

Ryan Welch / KSMU

Springfield, in southwest Missouri, is the state’s third most populous city. Its business districts are filled with historic buildings and gathering spaces that serve as platforms for artistic expression. But it’s a predominantly residential neighborhood on the city’s north side that’s becoming a new destination for artists.

If you were to stand in the middle of Lafayette Park and turn a full circle, you’d find at least one constant: the base of every utility pole is painted.

Hickok Cole Architects

What do artists in the Kansas City metropolitan area want when it comes to space? What are the top creative space priorities? 

To find out, Artspace, a nonprofit real estate developer, conducted a regional arts market study from October 2016 to January 2017. A total of 515 artists and 101 arts organizations or creative businesses responded to the online survey. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Fringe Festival is now officially a teenager. Organizers this year are making a push to reach performers and audiences about that same age, or a little older. 

The 13th annual festival kicked off on July 20, and runs for 11 days — more than 400 performances across 16 venues. The KC Fringe is teaming up with Kansas City Young Audiences to provide more opportunities for teenage actors, singers and dancers.

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