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. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City is among more than 60 cities around the world that earned "Creative City" distinction from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on October 31. Along with cities in Cabo Verde, Chile, Czechia, India, Kazakhstan, Portugal, Sweden, Kansas City was recognized as a music city. 

Brandon Cale / Courtesy The MGDs

The sharp-dressed MGDs are one of Kansas City’s most accomplished party bands, strongly influenced by New Orleans groups such as the Radiators, the Iguanas and the Neville Brothers.

Much of the MGDs repertoire features vocals, but soulful grooves and joyous instrumental solos are the group’s strength.

Keyboardist and vocalist Damon Parker fronts the band, which also includes guitarist Scott Middleton, trumpeter Teddy Krulewich, saxophonist Rudy Vasquez, bassist Greg Bush and drummer Matt Davis.

Courtesy Kansas International Film Festival

Kansas Citians who know Bev Chapman from her days as a reporter at KMBC TV are likely to be impressed with her 14-minute documentary film "Soaring Back: Message to the Future." With spectacular footage, it chronicles Kansans’ successful efforts to revitalize the area’s population of bald eagles.

Courtesy Alcott Arts Center

If things had gone differently over the last two decades, the hulking old brick building near the 18th Street exit off of Interstate 70 in Kansas City, Kansas, might look more like the setting of a real-life horror story these days.

Instead, Chris Green expects the Alcott Arts Center's parking lot to be alive with a few hundred kids celebrating a family-friendly Halloween on Tuesday.

Joy / Flickr -- CC

It’s a great time of year for pie.

Whether you’re celebrating the holidays with a traditional pumpkin pie, or warding off the chill with a hearty chicken pot pie, it’s amazing what can go under, over or between flaky, golden crusts.

On KCUR’s Central Standard, our Food Critics searched out the best pies — both sweet and savory — in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Victor Raider-Wexler, a venerable actor with a voice as deep as magma, has never performed as a woman before. 

“It’s a brand new thing," he says of his role in Spinning Tree Theatre's newest production. "But last Christmas I was Marley, and I’d never been a ghost before either.”

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Update: The Kansas City Council approved this proposal on Thursday, October 26.

The Kansas City Council’s finance and governance committee on Wednesday approved a proposal for the city manager to take a closer look at the assets and management of the American Jazz Museum. The ordinance also requests a $250,000 boost for the museum, which faces an estimated $1 million shortfall. 

Courtesy Freight Train Rabbit Killer

Freight Train Rabbit Killer, the duo of Kris Bruders and Mark Smeltzer, is a unique presence on Kansas City’s music scene, performing theatrical gothic American roots music while wearing suits and masks.

Bruders is also known for his work in the roots-rock band Cadillac Flambé, while Smeltzer is one of Kansas City’s most prominent folk/old-timey musicians.

Jeff Ridenour

The opera Hansel and Gretel is based on a Grimm Brothers' fairy tale.

In this version of the story, the brother and sister are sent into the forest to gather strawberries. They get lost, encounter creatures like the Sandman and the Dew Fairy — and discover a mysterious gingerbread house where they're captured by a witch. 

A new University of Missouri-Kansas City production creates sets and costumes out of paper.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

On a recent Saturday morning, Michael Wickerson was tending a hot fire in his backyard on a hillside near Wyandotte County Lake. At temperatures reaching as high as 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, the fire was hot enough to melt iron.

Wickerson, an associate professor of sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute, said working with metal is a great joy for him.

“You catch it, you pour it, you can draw with it,” he said. “You can paint with it. You can sculpt with it. And you can certainly fill molds with it.”  

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Council member Jermaine Reed introduced a proposal on Thursday to turn oversight of the American Jazz Museum over to the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, including assets managed by American Jazz Museum, Inc., such as the Blue Room and the Gem Theater.

Council members Quinton Lucas and Scott Wagner co-sponsored the ordinance. It now goes to the Council’s finance and governance committee. 

Isaac Cates

The group: Isaac Cates and the Ordained

The song: "Hold On"

The story: Kansas City gospel singer Isaac Cates grew up hearing his grandparents hum to the traditional gospel song, "Hold On." 

"It's birthed out of the African experience of singing a story of encouragement," Cates says.

Courtesy Roman Numerals / Facebook

One of the region’s most notable indie-rock bands a decade ago, Roman Numerals were Ryan Shank on drums, Shawn Sherrill on keyboards and bass, Billy Smith on guitars and vocals, and Steve Tulipana on bass, guitars and vocals.

Tulipana and Sherrill went on to open the highly successful RecordBar in Westport. Their band's last recent performance was the penultimate show at the venue's original site on January 1, 2016. RecordBar has since re-opened at 1520 Grand Boulevard, which is where Roman Numerals reunite on Saturday.

Courtesy: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's grassy lawn has hosted many things through the decades. Picnics, puppet shows, soccer games, wedding photos, badminton tournaments and tai chi, to name a few. 

Coming in late spring of 2018: Nine holes of mini-golf. 

Aaron Leimkuehler

Restaurants come and go. On KCUR’s Central Standard, our Food Critics — Charles Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Jenny Vergara — have kept up with the latest goings-on in our local dining scene from over the past several months.

C.J. Janovy

As a kid, Andrew McKenzie had an unusual affinity for languages.

He took French in high school (because everyone else was taking Spanish). But that wasn't enough.

"I started to teach myself different languages, like Latin and Greek and Basque and Turkish," he remembers. "I would drive into the city to a bookstore, and they’d have a section with language books. I'd say, 'I'm just going to learn this language because the book has the prettiest font.'"

Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

The historic Attucks School building in the 18th & Vine Jazz District won’t be reused as a school after all.

Instead, the city has chosen a proposal by two internationally-renowned artists based in Chicago to convert the old building at 1815 Woodland Ave. into a hub for arts and culture.

The Zhou Brothers, ShanZuo and DaHuang, plan to create a Kansas City version of their Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. The plan includes gallery and exhibition space, live-work space for artists and other arts-related uses.

Todd Rosenberg

After a five-year fundraising campaign, the Kansas City Symphony announced Wednesday that it had accomplished its goal of raising $55 million for its endowment fund, which will now total more than $100 million.

In a news release, the Symphony reported that 1,000 donors had pledged gifts ranging from $10 to $10 million over the five-year period.

Courtesy Wick and the Tricks

Aligned with the riotgrrrl and queercore punk movements, Kansas City's Wick & the Tricks celebrate the release of a new four-song, 7-inch limited edition vinyl "Not Enough" at Davey’s Uptown Rambler’s Club on Saturday.

Courtesy Brad Norman

Lawrence once had a legendary punk club where bands like Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Fugazi played. But it was no CBGB or Whiskey a Go Go. It was east of downtown, tucked between a pumpkin patch and seemingly endless fields of crops, in a windowless, low-slung concrete building that sat back a bit from the road.

Fernando Leon/NBC

Commercials, TV shows and movies can provide an economic boost — if they're shot in your city or state. 

In the fall of 2013, when Gone Girl filmed in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, it contributed nearly $8 million to the state's economy, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. The production marked the last for Missouri's film production tax credit, which expired in November 2013.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Granted, people tend to think about dressing up this time of year. But even those who don't normally consider donning Cleopatra’s headdress, waltzing in Cinderella’s ball gown or vamping like a starlet might find something they need at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City Opera Costume Sale

Gordon C. James / Courtesy of Agate Publishing

Sometimes, a haircut isn’t just a haircut.

When he was growing up in Kansas City, author Derrick Barnes felt like a new kid after visiting his barber.

“Man, to get my haircut on Thursday means that when I showed up to school on Friday, I would look so fresh, and people would pay attention to me,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Courtesy Andrew Johnson

In his new book, Kansas City writer Andrew Johnson stares down the tiny occurrences that make up everyday life, using observations about small things, such as people's habits of speech and social media comments, to raise big questions about humanity.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Drive along U.S. Route 400 in western Kansas, and you’ll see hundreds of metal sculptures on tall poles, some as high as 20 feet. It’s the work of self-taught artist M.T. Liggett, who crafted signs and whirligigs out of scrap metal, tractor parts, and pipe. Whimsical - and politically provocative - art. 

Liggett died on August 21 at the age of 86. These outdoor sculptures are now in the care of four trustees, including one based in the Kansas City area. 

Courtesy The Sextet

The Sextet is a jazz group led by bassist Robert Castillo, with saxophonist Max Levy, trumpeter Teddy Krulewich, trombonist Trevor Turla, guitarist Peter Marten and drummer Fritz Hutchison. Their penchant for soulful grooves and elements of funk will appeal to fans of like-minded Kansas City jazz groups like the Project H and Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle.

Damron Russel Armstrong

People need space to talk about war these days, says Anne Gatschet.

“We live in a world that’s got a lot of war. I think all of us are dealing with how to talk-slash-not talk about a great deal of pain and injury, moral and physical,” says Gatschet, who is president of the board at The Writers Place.

Gatschet's grandfather was killed in World War II, but her parents and extended family won’t talk about it. She says that leaves a void.

Rob Bertholf / Flickr -- CC

It's one of the best times of the year to be outside. It's officially fall on the calendar, and after a hot September, it has finally cooled down.

In that spirit, KCUR’s Food Critics searched out the best outdoor dining spots on Friday's Central Standard. From a see-and-be-seen sidewalk café to something that's more secluded and romantic, they found a plethora of spots in and around KC to enjoy the outdoors with food and drink in hand.

Here are their recommendations:

Virginia State Parks / Flickr--CC

The familiar leanings of the fall season can take many forms, from pumpkin picking and chili cooking to spooks and scarecrows – and perhaps even a bit of pining for summer. It's been known to happen!

So, like a pile of leaves swirling in the wind, here's a flurry of things to do that could quite possibly make this the very best autumn ever.

Ramsey Mohsen / Flickr--CC

The “West” — once wild, now long-tamed — continues to symbolize both the benefits and the risks associated with aiming to achieve the greatest amount of personal freedom. 

Even if we can’t go back to a home on the range offering seemingly endless vistas and possibilities, we can still “go west” this weekend, whether witnessing gutsy cowpokes astride bucking broncos, learning cool stuff about the traditional cowboy life or allegorically exposing ourselves to the extraordinary individualism spurred by the notion of a wide-open frontier.

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