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 89.3

Art fairs don't seem like a place of fierce competition — but getting a booth at one can be.

More than 1,400 artists apply each year for the Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City. Participants are selected by a jury, a group of curators, gallery owners and educators. This year, 240 artists got in, including about 40 from Kansas and Missouri.

KCUR's Band Of The Week: Molly Hammer

Sep 20, 2017
Kevin Morgan

Molly Hammer is a prominent Kansas City actress and vocalist whose debut album, "Out of This World," was released on September 15. Produced and arranged by pianist Joe Cartwright, the 11-song album also features saxophonist Brad Gregory, bassist Steve Rigazzi, drummer Todd Strait and backing vocalists Molly Denninghoff and Jessalyn Kincaid.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

Julián Zugazagoitia came to Kansas City in 2010, to take a job as CEO and director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The new guy from Mexico by way of New York and Paris made a fast impression as a lanky intellectual with a worldly resume and a lot of energy.

The Midwest made an equally large impression on him.

"Coming to the Midwest definitely was as foreign a country as I have ever been," he jokes.

Kansas City initially felt like a tiny village.

Courtesy Kansas City 48-Hour Film Project

You’re making a film and there are some constraints. You have to include a hat as a prop (not a baseball cap!). You have to have a character named Alex (or Alexis) Brownstone who must be a restaurant server. Your script has to include the line “she should be here any minute.” Your film must be between 4 and 7 minutes long.

The final catch: You don’t get to choose the genre.

Could you do it?

Could you do it in 48 hours?

Mike Tsai / Kansas City Actors Theatre

It was a year ago when the Kansas City Actors Theatre decided to produce Sam Shepard's play “A Lie of the Mind” this season. When Shepard died in July, company members were shocked at first, but then their feelings evolved.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Tiny works by 68 artists from around the world, on display this weekend at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, can help us understand "what defines us as humans,” according to the museum's director.

To host this special exhibit celebrating all things small, the museum partnered with the International Guild of Miniature Artisans for a juried showcase of fine-scale miniatures.

Kevin Morgan

When Molly Hammer takes the stage in front of people who haven’t seen her, their first reaction may be curiosity.

Hammer is small, with a shock of bright red hair styled into a pageboy, her face serene under glaring white stage lights. In a venue where people know her, such as the Green Lady Lounge, her commanding presence creates an air you could manducate, and everyone in the cozy, dark booths seems to perk up a titch in anticipation.

Karen Almond / Dallas Opera

Young Friends of Art, a networking group for The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, has been around for more than two decades. Then there are a few upstarts, like Kansas City Symphony's new Maestro KC, which "connects people to the music they love and the musicians who make it possible." 

Tory Garcia / Courtesy of Kemet Coleman

The Phantastics describe themselves as “dance floor activators.”

For the last six years, they’ve been activating local dance floors with songs that meld rap, jazz, gospel, funk and more.

“We definitely try to incorporate as many genres as possible to create not chaos, but a winding river of music,” rapper Kemet Coleman told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Leslie Many

The new book “Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation" includes contributions from 36 "major contemporary writers" including Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Russo and Roxane Gay.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

At dusk on Friday, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art celebrates the Bloch Building's 10th anniversary with dance, sound sculpture and light. The free, outdoor event features around 40 dancers, musicians and technicians from the performance art collective Quixotic

courtesy: Kansas City Repertory Theatre

The musical Between the Lines has been in development for the past three years. This weekend marks its debut at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre.

The show is based on the bestselling book, co-written by Jodi Picoult and her (then teenage) daughter, Samantha van Leer. In the novel, a teenager, Delilah, gets a crush on a fairytale character, Prince Oliver — and the lines blur between fantasy and reality. 

Courtesy Ryan Heinlein

Individual jazz musicians regularly hit multiple spots in a single night, but it’s far less common for an entire band to play three venues in a 12-hour span. But that's what The Project H, led by trombonist Ryan Heinlein, is doing in different parts of town on Saturday.

Missouri Valley Special Collections / Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri

While many eyes remain on recovery and damage assessment in Texas and Louisiana in the literal wake of Hurricane Harvey, some residents of the Kansas  City metro — who've seen unusual amounts of rainfall and dangerous flooding this summer — are growing more concerned about the possibility of unprecedented floods.

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.

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