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 Dogwoof Pictures

Prior to 1990, scientists had unearthed only twelve Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons, none of them more than 40 percent complete. In August of that year, Sue – the titular T. rex in the riveting new documentary Dinosaur 13 – changed everything.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Now that it's in its fourth season, Spinning Tree Theatre is proud to be Kansas City's youngest Equity theater company. Though it doesn't always do musicals, it has built a reputation with them, including its current production, Violet, with a title character unlike any musical theater heroine audiences have ever seen.

Here’s the cast on the night of a recent rehearsal:

pocolover1957 / Flickr--CC

Shocking as it may seem, everyone can’t be famous.

No matter how many technologically driven opportunities are being created to enlarge one’s legend on this channel or that screen, true fame lasts longer than whatever fleeting bit of time the modern news cycle allows for instant renown.

But have no fear, fame junkies. Even if most of us are doomed to be left at the fame altar, the persistent distinction of other people, places and things can be accessed and even reveled in this weekend in Kansas City. Prepare to share the spotlight!

C.J. Janovy

Grant Snider, 29, is hunched over a creaky light box in his sunroom. His sunroom isn’t sunny — it’s dark, because Snider draws cartoons early in the morning while his wife and two small children are asleep.

Gavin Snider

Gavin Snider’s Kansas City Reconstructed illustration project started with a billboard in the Crossroads neighborhood of downtown Kansas City, Mo., and has grown to more than 50 drawings of the city’s sometimes iconic, sometimes not-that-noticeable buildings.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In the play The Who & The What and the novel American Dervish, Ayad Akhtar explores some of the challenges of being a Muslim in America.

The Who & The What — a family drama currently at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre — reveals the tensions that surface when Zarina, the daughter of a Pakistani immigrant named Afzal, writes a novel that challenges traditional notions about women and Islam. The play premiered in February at La Jolla Playhouse in Los Angeles and was also staged this year at Lincoln Center in New York. 

courtesy: Johnson County Public Library

Johnson County is the largest and fastest-growing county in Kansas.

And it’s becoming more diverse. But if you take a quick look at the latest census numbers, the population is still more than 80 percent white. It’s also about 7 percent Hispanic or Latino, 5 percent Asian, and 5 percent African-American.

This fall, the library launched a series of programs called Beyond Skin

Local Listen: White Girl

Oct 31, 2014
whitegirl.bandcamp.com/

In one of the most striking transformations on the Kansas City music scene in recent memory ... Martin Bush has completely reinvented himself.  Once a prominent metallic punk rocker, Bush is now a dance music guru.  Operating under the moniker White Girl, Bush makes industrial electronic music. 

This week's edition of Local Listen features the A-side of the new 7-inch single "M.E.T.R.O.R.O.C.K."

Feeling festive with the Halloween weekend? Up to Date's independent, foreign, and documentary film critics share their favorite films showing on area screens:

Cynthia Haines: 

  • Birdman
  • St. Vincent
  • Rudderless

Steve Walker: 

Greg Boege / Flickr-CC

“All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” wrote William Shakespeare, suggesting that life may be a theatrical work in progress.

Whether humanity comprises the cast of a cosmic play – heavy stuff – this weekend does offer genuine opportunities to embrace the drama, both onstage and off.

But wait: If the entire planet is really a proscenium arch, how can anyone ever be truly offstage? Oh, Shakespeare, you rascal!

1. Union Station’s Open House Celebration

Magnolia Pictures

In the sordid world of cult novelist Patricia Highsmith, everyone who isn’t an outright villain still manages to harbor dark secrets. Movies made from her books include Alfred Hitchcock’s twisted and campy Strangers on a Train and Anthony Minghella’s gloriously decadent The Talented Mr. Ripley. The latest is called The Two Faces of January. Though it's not as successful as its predecessors, it is stylish, suspenseful and awfully pretty to look at.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Camera phones were snapping Friday night with the opening of Peregrine Honig's latest exhibition at Haw Contemporary, a gallery in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Mo. While many artists discourage photographs of their work, Honig openly invited viewers to use her large-scale oil paintings as backdrops for selfies, or self-portraits. 

Lillian Elaine Wilson

Kansas City can be inspiring in surprising ways. A walk in the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art did the trick for Georgia College’s poet-in-residence, Alice Friman, who reads Thursday evening at Rockhurst University. 

courtesy: Joyce DiDonato

After a social media campaign with the twitter hashtag #LetJoyceSing, a Change.org petition, an invitation from Major League Baseball to sing in Game 7 of the World Series -- and the Royals victory that assured there would be a Game 7, Prairie Village, Kan. native Joyce DiDonato is ready to sing the National Anthem in the final game.

courtesy: Carnegie Hall

Classical musicians will be taking center stage during the final games of the World Series at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

About 20, or as many as 60, members of the Kansas City Symphony, decked out in blue suits with blue accents, are scheduled to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" in the pre-game ceremonies of Game 6 on Tuesday night. Music director Michael Stern is flying back Tuesday afternoon in time to conduct. 

Unicorn Theatre

Bad Jews, which opened this week at the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, Mo., is a comedy.

Still, some potential funders weren’t amused. Cynthia Levin, the Unicorn’s producing artistic director, says some philanthropic organizations that have sponsored the Unicorn’s shows declined this time because of the show’s title.

“I understand that,” Levin says. Arts philanthropy is a competitive arena with intensely interested boards of directors, so the name of a production can sometimes work in the Unicorn’s favor – or not.

courtesy: the artist

Making art requires dedication and time – lots of it. Add a child to the mix and having a career as an artist can be a challenge. Some put their art practice on hold to raise a family; others adapt to making art when they can. And, sometimes, a child can lead to inspiration. 

Artwork changes from edgy to uplifting 

Chris Murphy / Flickr--CC

What’s scarier than Halloween?

Actually, the macabre cluster of events taking place the weekend before All Hallows’ Eve might put more hair on your chest – which is great, especially if you’re the ghost of Lon Chaney, Jr. (And if you are the ghost of Lon Chaney Jr., please keep it to yourself, because that’s too scary.)

The spooky bottom line: Why put all of your Halloween frights into Oct. 31, when you can frontload a quality howl at the moon this weekend? Sound good? Hey, just going my job. You don’t have to fang me for it.

Local Listen: The Architects

Oct 22, 2014

The Architects have been Kansas City's sturdiest punk band for a decade. The quartet is barnstorming the country with the California skate-punk legends Agent Orange. Their tour stops at the Bottleneck in Lawrence, Kan. on Friday, October 24.

This week's edition of Local Listen features "Kickswaggerboom," a song from the latest installment of The Architect's "Border Wars" song cycle that reveals the band's affection for vintage American pop.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In our Beyond Our Borders story on arts and the state line in the Kansas City area, artists and leaders of arts organizations said they believed that the boundary isn't much of a barrier when it comes to the metro's cultural landscape — artists and audiences enthusiastically cross the state line for all sorts of cultural events.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Richard Gibson, 33, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps just after high school and was stationed in Iraq. When his service ended in 2003, and he returned to Kansas City, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

With a love for singing and performance, Gibson turned to opera. For the past eight years, he's been a member of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City chorus. He's also taking on a new role, as conductor of a Veteran's Chorus

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Alvin Ailey was a choreographer who was born in Texas in 1931. He spent his pioneering dance career in New York City, touring internationally and transforming ideas about dance and race on the world stage throughout his life. He died in 1989, and yet, Kansas City dancers live and breathe Alvin Ailey in the 21st century. 

In recognition of the 30th anniversary of Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey (KCFAA), Central Standard explores the dance philosophy of Alvin Ailey and his relationship with Kansas City. 

courtesy: Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Vying for attention with the red hot Royals this week, Kansas City arts organizations say the show must go on.

“There’s no reason you can’t love sports and art both – and I do,” Rocco Landesman, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts told KCUR on a visit to Kansas City a few years ago.

Still, arts advocates understand that the Royals' first World Series bid in nearly 30 years has made the city a bit sports-crazy.

Aaron Lage

Among the many non-team winners of the Kansas City Royals' improbable World Series run are Kansas City musician John Long and his friend Aaron Lage, who created what's now known by 243,290 (and counting) YouTube viewers as simply "Lorde - 'Royals' Parody|Kansas City 'Royals.'"

courtesy: American Jazz Museum

The American Jazz Museum is reporting the death of musician Horace Washington, 62, posting this today on the museum's Facebook page: “The Board and Staff of the American Jazz Museum are saddened to pass along the news that HORACE WASHINGTON has passed away.”

Washington, a saxophonist and flute player who grew up in Kansas City, Kan., had been dealing with some health issues for the past couple of years, says Chris Burnett, marketing and communications manager for the museum.

Paul Andrews

When Central Standard thought about asking Jeffrey Ruckman to create new theme music for the show, one of the things that made him appealing was his masterfully offbeat, genre-bending tendency.

The World Series doesn't start until Tuesday, but area theaters have movies ready now. Up to Date's independent, foreign, and documentary film critics share their favorite films showing on area screens:

Cynthia Haines:

  • The Skeleton Twins
  • The Drop
  • The Green Prince

Steve Walker: 

courtesy: Joyce DiDonato

Update Monday, 4:45 pm: 

Kansas City’s homegrown opera diva Joyce DiDonato won’t be singing the National Anthem during the World Series, at least during the first four games.

A vigorous social media campaign, including an online petition signed by more than 3,000, lobbied Major League Baseball to #letjoycesing.  

Courtesy / Nelson-Atkins and Nerman Museum

Harlan Brownlee wishes he could just erase the state line dividing Missouri and Kansas.

In fact, Brownlee knows how he’d do it. He’s the president of ArtsKC, a non-profit that makes grants and provides other resources to artists throughout the five-county metropolitan region. So, in his vivid imagination, he gets his hands on one of the giant Typewriter Erasers by Shuttlecocks sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen and rolls it down State Line Road.

Music Box Films

Is selling one’s soul to a parent’s worst enemy justified if it means avoiding torture, prison, or much worse? Such is the quandary at the crux of Nadav Schirman’s documentary The Green Prince, a tense and dense examination into how Mosab Hassan Yousef, a young Palestinian whose father was a founder of Hamas, ended up an informant for the Israeli security force known as Shin Bet. By the time viewers reach its bittersweet climax, prior documentaries about guarded family secrets will seem like Saturday-morning cartoons.

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