Arts & Culture | KCUR

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. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

For 25 years, Kansas City’s newEar contemporary chamber music ensemble has been performing brand new music — some of it by composers who live here — in what has become a long and productive conversation between area musicians and composers. 

courtesy photo / The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

Let me just say it: Nothing lasts forever.

And yet…the human heart yearns for permanence, an assurance from somewhere that somehow our hopeful expectations that the things that matter most to us just might endure.

Leave it the ironically fleeting weekend to potentially deliver on that longstanding front, from holiday traditions and dreams of worldwide freedom to an unforgettable tale of miraculously durable love and purpose. Will it stick with you? Cross your fingers.

 

Courtesy Ami Ayars

In a town like Kansas City, no one has an excuse for sending anything but locally crafted, one-of-a-kind gifts to their relatives in less creative parts of the world.

The artisans who'll be selling their wares at the events below have created something for every person on your list, and buying from them will give you a warm, fuzzy feeling because you’re buying local.

Courtesy Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear

Madisen Ward and his mother Ruth Ward of Independence went from complete obscurity to a modicum of international celebrity in 2015. Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear were playing at open-mic nights in area coffeehouses when they signed with Glassnote Records, home of superstar acts including Mumford & Sons.

Courtesy Joe Darling

Remember sitting by the Christmas tree, peeling back the wrapping on what could only be an LP – but which one? And by which of your favorite bands? Then listening for days, flipping that record from the A side to the B side, memorizing the lyrics on the liner notes, devouring the graphics.

Admittedly, some of you might be too young for those kinds of memories. But take it from someone who’s collected John Denver records since she was seven: A new album pressed on vinyl is a gift you receive several times over, every time the music plays.

Joe Darling agrees.

courtesy: Reference Recordings

The nominees for the 60th annual Grammy Awards were announced on Tuesday, and the Kansas City Symphony performs on a record nominated in two categories.

The recording is Adam Schoenberg: American Symphony; Finding Rothko; Picture Studies, and it features the Kansas City Symphony conducted by music director Michael Stern

Courtesy Edison Lights

The history of rock and roll is littered with lurid stories about the abhorrent behavior of male musicians. Chris Doolittle, who set aside a promising music career to help provide for his wife and children, is one of the good guys.

City and arts leaders on Monday announced a new two-month city-wide arts festival called Open Spaces 2018: A Kansas City Arts Experience

"It’s 60 days of city-wide visual and performing arts debuts on a scale previously unseen in the city," Mayor Sly James said at a press conference at the KCAI Crossroads Gallery in the Crossroads Arts District.

James said he expects the event will foster the city's reputation as an arts destination. 

Erwin E. Smith Collection of the Library of Congress / On Deposit at the Amon Carter Museum

The worn-slick saddle encased in Plexiglas is not a standard fixture of the Kansas City Public Library’s grand, marbled entry hall. But it's not out of place, either, considering that the stately former First National Bank building, which opened in 1886, is a monument to how cosmopolitan the cattle industry once made our town.

Courtesy Randy Michael Signor

In Randy Michael Signor’s new novel “Osawatomie,” homesteaders settle near the titular Kansas town just before the Civil War. This turns out to be problematic in ways that reverberate for generations (it might as well be a metaphor for America).

YouTube

Son of the blues legend Johnnie Taylor, the Kansas City-based T.J. Hooker-Taylor performs at the annual Thanksgiving breakfast dance at the National Guard Armory in Kansas City, Kansas.

Organizers claim this year's party is the 68th annual Thanksgiving blues dance in Kansas City. Many of the revelers wear their holiday finest and sip on premium liquor (libations are B.Y.O.B.; a breakfast buffet is included with the price of admission).

Cory Weaver / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Ten years ago, when Eric Rosen was angling for the job as artistic director of Kansas City Repertory Theatre, he pitched a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol. It was something he'd wanted to do for years while running a theater company in Chicago. Now he's finally bringing it to the stage.

"It's sort of a dream project in the sense of having a scope and a cast and a capacity to make something huge that we don't often get to do," Rosen says. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

On Wednesday, the Kansas City Ballet opens the first of seven prestigious performances of “The Nutcracker” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., capping a year and a half of planning and meeting a massive logistical challenge.

Moving the entire production required four 52-foot semi trucks. Besides 30 company dancers, the Ballet brought along 12 second-company members and around 20 crew members and artistic and administrative staff.

Courtesy Michael McClintock

When Michael McClintock and Dálida Pupo Barrios met, it was not love at first sight.

Pupo Barrios was doing her job, working for the Cuban minister of culture, accompanying McClintock's tour group when he first visited the country.

Courtesy Tom Stroik

"One thing that a poet needs more than anything else — well, you need a sense of language — but you need people who love you. And I have that," the poet Michelle Boisseau told New Letters on the Air host Angela Elam earlier this year. "I have incredible colleagues, and of course my husband Tom [Stroik], and people who believe in your work. Just keep doing it."

Courtesy Stevie Stone / Facebook

Stevie Stone, a Kansas City-based rapper signed to the Strange Music label, is a regular presence at Tech N9ne concerts. But his show on Saturday is the final date of a 28-city tour he headlines in support of his new album "Level Up."

courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

Editor's note: After this story was published on November 14, 2017, the Nelson-Atkins Museum expressed concerns to KCUR about how the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation had reported financial information cited in the article. Based on additional information, this story was updated on December 11, 2017. 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on Monday announced to employees that 23 staffers would be leaving, taking advantage of an "enhanced benefit option for retirement."

Bonnie Bolling remembers when she first stepped on Middle Eastern soil. A writer, Bolling was in an airport in Dubai and the call to prayer came over the loudspeakers.

She’d never heard the call, and while she definitely felt reverence, she also panicked because she didn’t know what to expect or what her own response should be. Her heart beat hard as she stopped and awaited the reactions of her fellow travelers.

“I realized I was going to experience it in a way I was going to need to write about,” Bolling says of the Middle East.

Courtesy Truck Stop Love / Black Site Records

For Truck Stop Love, the early ‘90s were a magical rock and roll blur.

Some things the band does remember: recording their major label debut for Scotti Brothers records in Santa Monica, California, just down the hall from Weird Al Yankovic, who was working on Alapalooza; and making a record produced by Jody Stephens of Big Star at Ardent Studios in Memphis, playing in the same room where The Replacements once recorded.

ilaria / Flickr -- CC

Italian food. Those two words may bring up images of a pasta dish with red sauce, or perhaps a thick square of lasagna. Throw in a glass of wine, and you're set for a cold winter night.

Some local chefs are also putting a creative spin on the cuisine. From old-school favorites to some new takes, our food critics on KCUR’s Central Standard searched out the best Italian food in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

courtesy: Mulvane Art Museum

Artist Rita Blitt made a significant gift to the Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, Kansas — a bulk of her life’s work, an estimated 2,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures and film, as well as archival material. It represents preserving a legacy and a lifetime of giving. 

Phil Prater / Public Domain

On KCUR’s Central Standard, host Gina Kaufmann spoke to Reverend Debbie Buchholz, co-founder of Deaf International, and William Ennis, assistant professor of history at Gallaudet University, about the history of persecution against people with deafness in this country — and the milestones along the path to equal rights.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum campus with an illuminated Bloch Building on right.
Charvex / Public Domain

It's been a decade since the Bloch Building began illuminating the east side of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and its architect, Steven Holl, says it remains one of his most important works.

The sentiment was echoed by Time magazine in 2007, when it dubbed the structure that year's top "architectural marvel."

Look at Vincent Van Gogh's Olive Trees closely enough, and you'll find the subtle intricacies of his play with color, his brushstrokes, perhaps even his precise layers of paint atop the canvas.

You'll also find a grasshopper. Well, parts of one, anyway.

Courtesy The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art announced on Wednesday that it had acquired more than 800 photographs thanks to a $10 million grant made two years ago by the Hall Family Foundation.

Courtesy Katy Giullen and The Girls / Facebook

By adding a contemporary twist to the straightforward blues-rock that’s long resonated among area audiences, guitarist Katy Guillen, bassist Claire Adams and drummer Stephanie Williams have become one of the most reliably entertaining groups in Kansas City.

On Saturday, Katy Guillen & The Girls celebrate the release of their third album, "Remember What You Knew Before." It's not simply more barroom boogie.

Courtesy Tina Packer

Although he wrote one of the greatest romances of all time, William Shakespeare isn’t generally known as a sexy playwright. But a Shakespeare expert plans to explore that side of him in Kansas City this week.

“I’m going to talk on sex. I think it promises to be fun,” says Tina Packer, who speaks of his work in a way that leaves little doubt she’d crown him “most sensual writer to have ever lived” if given the chance.

Since the 1970s, Packer has directed all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays (excluding a few she is certain he did not write).

Courtesy Wick and the Tricks

It’s a Saturday night at Davey’s Uptown, and a white sheet is tacked on the north wall, catty-corner to the stage, a makeshift projection screen. The crowd is busy at the bar fending for the bartender’s attention as the night’s third band clears out. Next up are Wick and the Tricks, celebrating the release of their first record with a music video premiere.

courtesy of the artist

The Johnson County, Kansas, Board of County Commissioners this week voted to reduce funding for proposed public art projects and for the county's public art program itself. 

In addition to public art programs in six cities, Johnson County has a One Percent for Art Program, established in 2006 to include art in major building projects.

Arts advocates, including Kansas Representative Jerry Stogsdill of Prairie Village, asked the commission to continue support for the program. 

Kelly Paratore

In her new book Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, Kansas City-based investigative journalist Carey Gillam makes the argument that the chemical industry — particularly Monsanto — has spent decades deceiving the public about the dangers of Roundup, the popular weed killer.

“Everyone who eats is impacted by this chemical,” Gillam says.

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