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. 

Brian Collins

Back in William Shakespeare's day, outdoor theaters like the Globe in London could accommodate about 3,000 people. More than 400 years later in Kansas City, crowds in June and July hauled blankets and lawn chairs to pack into Southmoreland Park for the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival's production of Hamlet

Anonymous / AP

Half a century ago war, protests, and political scandal rocked the United States. Sound familiar? But, out of all that a small-time hoodlum from Butte, Montana rocketed into national prominence, on a motorbike. Evel Knievel's career took off like a rocket, but crashed even faster. Now a new museum celebrates all that is Evel.

Courtesy Blair Bryant

Blair Bryant is a young contemporary jazz bassist who says he's mastered more than 14 instruments.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

As families prepare to pile into cars for summer vacations, one new play takes a trip back in time to explore the experience of black travelers in Jim Crow-era America.

Chad Onianwa / KCUR 89.3

At some point, everyone dreams of being a rock star. But even for people who aren't musicians and don't aspire to be rock stars, there can be something attractive about being in front of an audience and having a voice that's heard.

For girls and people who don't fit gender norms, that's a bit harder to achieve.

Lawrence musicians Angie Schoenherr and Monica George recognize this issue. Wanting to see more women and trans people in the city's music scene and fewer "bro-fests," as George puts it, they decided to do something about it.

CJ Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Update: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include a city funding update. 

After experiencing "a cash flow issue" following the inaugural Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival over Memorial Day weekend, officials with the American Jazz Museum say all performers have been paid — after some musicians complained on social media earlier this week.

A. Hagerman Photography

Blues musician Patrick Recob has played with lots of touring bands, and recorded with some of them, over the last 25 years. And, for nearly a decade, he was the bassist for Lee McBee and The Confessors. 

Last month marked the release of Recob's debut solo album. Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix talked to Recob about the new release called Perpetual Luau

CHUCK HADDIX: "Well, how did the luau theme come in?"

Copyright 2017 KSMU. To see more, visit KSMU.

Courtesy The Philistines

A seasoned collective of Kansas City musicians who make psychedelic rock together as The Philistines perform at one of Kansas City's most interesting bars, a hidden West Bottoms gem called The Ship, on Saturday.

University of Missouri-Kansas City

Update: This story was updated at 4:00 p.m. to include Missouri Governor Eric Greitens' veto statement.

Despite gaining approval from the Missouri House and Senate for $48 million in state bond funding for its proposed Downtown Campus for the Arts, the University of Missouri Board of Curators announced today that it would instead "develop plans for an alternative funding match ... rather than seek funding from the state under the 50-50 matching program for capital projects."

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

A scene of vegetable carnage awaits visitors at Powell Gardens this summer — goblins raiding a patch of squash and onions in the Heartland Harvest Garden, and other mythological beasts rampaging through plots of edible plants.

It's exactly what artist Kendall R. Hart was aiming for when he designed the "Gardens of Myth" exhibit.

Courtesy Lindsay Adams

When did we stop telling folk tales? The days of white-haired elders sitting by fires under the stars recounting local legends might be over, but storytelling and oral traditions aren't. 

In fact, Kansas City playwright Lindsay Adams has created her own folk tale.

"I just had this image of the woman crying and the river flowing and keeping all the wheat alive. I wrote it down in a notebook," she says. "And then I came back to it, started writing and it just sort of came. It was pretty magical."

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

The poet Mbembe Milton Smith wrote some provocative words about a Kansas City suburb:

“There are uncharted places like Overland Park, Kansas or Greenwich Connecticut where they lock their back door if they heard black power was coming cause black folk wouldn’t dare come round the front.”

For a person of color, those words might articulate a vague feeling of uneasiness that accompanies a visit to Johnson County even today. But they come from the poem "Allegory of the Bebop Walk," written decades ago.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

Rachel Arato-Hrabko

It takes a special kind of mid-life Midwestern songwriter to transform the tale of Ann Boleyn, Henry VIII’s famous second wife, and Thomas Cromwell, the king’s lesser-known chief minister, into a cheatin’ song.

Brian Slater / Courtesy Making Movies

One of Kansas City’s most accomplished rock bands, Making Movies tours extensively and collaborates with prominent artists — but this weekend they're part of a free concert in downtown Lawrence.

That free show comes as the band — brothers Diego and Enrique Chi, who are Panamanian immigrants; and brothers Juan-Carlos and Andres Chaurand — is enjoying a wave of national attention.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Kansas City-based photographer Dan White has won a Pulitzer Prize and traveled the world photographing people and places. From his home and studio in the West Bottoms, he's preparing to set out on his next trip into the field.

But his latest trip isn’t taking him off to some far-flung location. White is headed to his troubled hometown of Flint, Michigan.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

Courtesy Oleta Adams

Fireworks lit the sky behind Oleta Adams as she headlined 18th and Vine's Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend — but they were intended for the audience a couple of miles away at Union Station, where the Kansas City Symphony was performing its annual Celebration at the Station.

Anne Kniggendorf

People around here know Oz.

“Being in Kansas — holy crap — we just get inundated," says Matt Hawkins, the puppet designer for Paul Mesner Puppet Theater’s production of The Wizard of Oz. "Every truck stop is full of Wizard of Oz.”

So why would Mike Horner, the company's artistic director, bother with yet another production of the story?

Courtesy Mid-America Arts Alliance

Todd Stein will continue leading the Kansas City-based Mid-America Arts Alliance, where he has been interim chief executive officer since longtime director Mary Kennedy retired last August.

In an announcement Friday, Mid-America Arts Alliance board chair Ed Clifford said Stein is "the right person to lead our team as the arts world faces challenges securing federal funding for the cultural organizations we support in six states."

Courtesy Tom Shawver

Some people contend that James Joyce's Ulysses is the best novel of the 20th century. I'm not jumping into that debate. But as the annual worldwide literary holiday known as Bloomsday celebrating Ulysses rolls around again, I've made one more attempt to understand the book.

Not by reading it, but by speaking to some local experts.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR 89.3

When Makeda Peterson was growing up, history was personal to her.

Her father, Horace Peterson III, founded the Black Archives of Mid-America. He also started Kansas City’s Juneteenth celebration in 1980.

As a current organizer and coordinator of Juneteenth KC, she is continuing his legacy.

Jolynne_martinez--Flickr CC / photo circa 1962

I think we all know that Father’s Day is the second most important day of the year devoted to honoring a parent.

History suggests as much: President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day an official U.S. holiday in 1914, yet it wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon did the same for Father’s Day, which failed to save him from the Watergate scandal. Nice try, Dick.

That said, playing second fiddle is important – just ask the guy playing second fiddle. So go and do something fun with your favorite paternal figure this Father’s Day weekend. No, not Mom! Good grief.

Marla Keown

Twenty-two years is a long time for any band, even a bluegrass band, to stay together.

Split Lip Rayfield has made it that far.

To put their career in perspective, Bill Monroe and the most famous versions of his Bluegrass Boys only made it about half that long, and not without several important line-up changes along the way.

Vicky Diaz-Camacho / KCUR 89.3

A team of Lawrence and Kansas City artists have “revived” a lost mural in downtown Lawrence.

Figures painted in vibrant purples, blues and greens are shown gesturing, singing and gardening in “Pollinators,” which decorates the side of the relatively new loft building on the 800 block of New Hampshire.

“It's historic isn't it?” said Saralyn Reece Hardy, director of the Spencer Museum of Art, to a crowd of about 50 people who gathered at a celebration on Friday, June 9.

Paul Andrews

My Brothers & Sisters is a large Kansas City collective that adds psychedelic flourishes to rock, funk and soul. In characteristically purple prose, the band refers to itself as “the ascetic bloodhounds of immortal sonic ecstasy.”

They deliver a powerful live performance. The nine or more musicians who squeeze onto stages during My Brothers & Sisters shows induce wide smiles and uninhibited dancing.

Brian Collins / Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

So what's it like going from a blockbuster hit like Netflix's House of Cards to returning to your hometown to perform outdoors in a Shakespeare play?

That was Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann's question for actor Nathan Darrow on the day Hamlet opened in Southmoreland Park, presented by the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.

Brian Collins

Presumably, everyone knows that "To be, or not to be" is a phrase from Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Same goes for "something is rotten in the state of Denmark." And many people might correctly guess that "Get thee to a nunnery" is from Hamlet as well.

But what about "the lady doth protest too much"?

"To thine own self be true"?

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be"?

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