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. 

Ed Webster / Flickr - CC

Without imagination there would be no Picasso, no pyramids, no pantaloons – don’t ask me where I came up with that last example. Oh, that’s right, my imagination.

In any case, folks with enough faith in their minds’ eyes look to have the most fun this Labor Day holiday weekend, with offerings that include professional (as in pretend) wrestling, the ethereal promise of the spirit world and the area’s annual trip back to the 16th-century.

Don’t forget to wear your pantaloons!

1. Pops in the Park

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City theater audiences know Damron Russel Armstrong’s work – he’s been an actor and director in town for years. But Armstrong’s new role is his most challenging yet: He’s starting a new theater company.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Eddie Delahunt is Kansas City’s favorite Irish troubadour, and it's Irish Fest weekend in Kansas City. That's enough reason to spotlight Delahunt, but we'll get a bit more specific.

3 reasons we're listening to Eddie Delahunt this week:

1. Delahunt moved to the United States from his native Ireland in 1989. He’s been a mainstay of Kansas City’s music community for more than 20 years.

courtesy: Paul Andrews

Mesner Puppet Theater announced leadership changes to the organization Tuesday.

Founder Paul Mesner will be handing over the reins as artistic director to longtime puppeteer and associate artistic director Mike Horner. The company has also created the new position of Education Director, and artist, set designer and director Alex Espy will be taking on that role. 

KCUR 89.3

It was a rainy night in April in Lawrence, Kansas. 

Liberty Hall was hosting the twelfth stop on Jónsi Birgisson’s solo live experience tour of 2010. During Sigur Ros’ indefinite hiatus, lead singer Birgisson set out to craft an experience all his own.

Courtesy Eddie Moore

Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle
Kings & Queens (Ropeadope Records)

Eddie Moore is diligently pulling Kansas City’s jazz scene into the 21st century. Since moving here from Houston in 2010, the 30-year-old keyboardist has done as much as any jazz-oriented musician to bring Kansas City up to date.

Charlie Parker was born on Aug. 29, 1920. For three years now, Kansas City jazz organizations have marked his birthday week with a Charlie Parker Celebration, trying to increase hometown appreciation for the influential jazz saxophonist.

Paul Andrews / http://paulandrewsphotography.com/

For Mark Bedell, school was a safe haven.

“It gave me an opportunity to be a kid because I had to be an adult a lot sooner than most kids should have to be an adult,” he told guest host Brian Ellison on Central Standard.

Courtesy Two Tone Press

Color is an essential part of the lives of sisters Angie and Michelle Dreher, who run Two Tone Press, a letterpress print shop in midtown Kansas City, Missouri.

But after watching a short video on Facebook, lack of color recognition grabbed their attention.

"It's like, maybe, a 2-minute video. But I was like crying," says Angie Dreher, who watched the video as people tried on EnChroma glasses. They're designed to boost and improve color vision for those who are color blind. 

Pixabay / CC

Much in this life is about getting it and keeping it together.

Well, I’m no anarchist – contrary to what a biased babysitter or two may have reported back in the day. But it’s clear to me that if you don’t let it go every once in a while, you might blow. And who wants to spend the weekend cleaning up that mess?

Thank goodness for timely opportunities to be at least a little carefree. You know, just a smidge. Aw, c’mon, the babysitter’s not even looking.

1. Rhythm ’N Balloons Festival

Courtesy Soul Revival

Soul Revival is a Kansas City-based R&B band led by vocalist Derek Cunigan and keyboardist Desmond Mason, which has just released its debut single, “If You Ask Me Again (I Do).”

3 reasons we're listening to Soul Revival this week:

1. “If You Ask Me Again (I Do)” is a strong contender for best locally released song of 2016. It's a lovely affirmation of love written by Cunigan, whose delicate vocals evoke Luther Vandross. Mason is responsible for the silky arrangement.

Brian Paulette

Tennessee Williams' masterpiece A Streetcar Named Desire won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948, has been called the greatest play ever written by an American, and the character Blanche DuBois is at the center of nearly everything that happens in it. It's a daunting role that Kansas City actress Cinnamon Schultz has spent months preparing for. No pressure, right?

courtesy: Mid-America Arts Alliance

Mid-America Arts Alliance CEO Mary Kennedy has announced her resignation, effective Oct. 1. 

Kennedy is the third CEO of the regional nonprofit arts organization, having served in that role since 2000. Her connection to M-AAA dates back to 1989, when she joined the organization as curator of exhibitions for ExhibitsUSA, the national traveling exhibition program. 

"It has been an honor to work for an organization whose mission so closely emulates my own: more art for more people," Kennedy said in a news release. 

Matthew Long-Middleton / KCUR 89.3

It seems as if nearly every culture has some version of dumplings: a sweet or savory filling surrounded by dough and either fried, boiled, steamed or baked.

They’re inexpensive, tasty and versatile; they can be served on their own with a dipping sauce or in soup … or in some cases, with the soup inside the dumpling.

“Every culture really enjoys something doughy, and I think it’s that carb-y lift that we get from it,” Food Critic Jill Silva told guest host Brian Ellison on KCUR's Central Standard.

courtesy: Andy Collier

In late July, blues band Levee Town released its first recording in five years. Guitarist and vocalist Brandon Hudspeth has been with Levee Town since the beginning.

A transplant from Oklahoma, Hudspeth moved to the Kansas City area when he was 19. He played in bands, such as The MO City Jumpers, before co-founding The Cobalt Project — and some of the members of that group went on to create Levee Town. 

Though he's known for his blues playing, Hudspeth also has jazz chops.

Steven Depolo / Flickr--CC

This weekend is your chance to get into historic people, places and things – and perhaps even be part of history in the making.

Options include honoring the greatest saxophonist in the history of jazz; eyeing the precious personal effects of Major League Baseball legends and adulating the latest batch of teenybopper heartthrobs vying to be the biggest…band…ever.

How about you? Will you make the history books? First you’ve got to show up!

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The National Park Service has added the Kansas City, Missouri, parks and boulevard system to its National Register of Historic Places.

The historic district includes parks and boulevards dating from 1895 to 1965. Three parks are on the list: Kessler Park, Penn Valley Park, and The Parade, as well as seven boulevards: Gladstone, Linwood, Armour, The Paseo, Benton, and Broadway.

Danny Clinch Sax and Co.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear made a minor international splash in 2015. The mother-and-son folk duo from Independence plays a free outdoor concert at Johnson County Community College on Friday, which gives us an excuse to listen again this week.

3 reasons we're listening to Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear this week:

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Mark Hayes’s musical career started with a decision: piano lessons or band instrument?

He was going to grade school in Normal, Illinois, and his school offered lessons. Since he had three siblings, his parents said that they could afford to pay for either one or the other.

He chose the piano, and, as he said, he never looked back.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Robert and Karen Duncan are well-known art collectors in Lincoln, Nebraska – but they haven’t forgotten their hometown in southwest Iowa.

The couple moved to Lincoln in the 1960s, when Robert came to run the family business, Duncan Aviation, a massive airplane service business. They also started collecting art. Forty years later, they had amassed a significant collection, and built a home designed to display it, on forty acres landscaped for a sculpture garden.

Courtesy The Brad Cunningham Band

The Brad Cunningham Band
Every Inch of Texas

It’s too easy to forget that Kansas City’s traditional country music is still out there.

Part of the blind spot is the residual glow from the flash of contemporary country acts that, to their credit, regularly land in town. Some of the neglect comes from music so stratified that acts without a hyphen (i.e., not alt-country, bro-country, etc.) have trouble persuading audiences to bridge beyond their favorite sub-genres.

Ariana Brocious / NET News

Ord, Nebraska, with its population of 2,000, sits between corn fields and ranches on the North Loup River, in the middle of the state.

Downtown, its historic art deco theater boasts high ceilings, multicolor arches, and inlaid wooden decorations in the lobby, walls tiled in red and navy, and hexagonal lights. The building on Ord’s central square served as a movie theater for decades, but in 2011, it underwent extensive renovations to become a live performance space.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Kids in the Lyric’s Summer Opera Camp are getting some particularly timely lessons this year, and they don’t all have to do with vocal performance.

The opera they’re learning is She Never Lost a Passenger, which recounts the tale of Harriet Tubman, the slave who escaped to freedom and returned to guide some 70 slaves to freedom using the Underground Railroad network of safe houses.

Courtesy of Bruno Bessa

Story of a Song is a monthly segment on KCUR's Central Standard in which local musicians tell the story behind a song they have written or are performing.

The Song: "Sabiá"

The Songwriters: Chico Buarque and Antônio Carlos Jobim

Interpreted by: Vocalist Bruno Bessa and guitarist Beau Bledsoe with Ensemble Ibérica

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Miguel M. Morales has been a writer his whole life, but he began to make it more than a hobby after joining Kansas City's Latino Writers Collective seven years ago (he recently finished a two-year term as the organization's president).

Morales says this summer's shootings at the Pulse nightclub "disrupted" his life in ways that will probably always affect his writing.

"This summer, in particular, has been very troubling, very violent — just one instance after another of violence, shootings, and massacres," he says.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

A meeting of artists in the River Market four decades ago was the spark that ignited the Kansas City Artists Coalition, which brings visual artists together through curated exhibits and mentors them in their art practice.

On a recent Saturday morning, the organization's executive director, Janet Simpson, greeted artists as they dropped off their work for the fortieth anniversary show. Simpson has been working full-time at the Coalition since 1989.
 

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

The Buhs is an 11-piece pop group from Kansas City that fuses elements of hip hop and soul.

 

They formed in 2013 when trumpeter Hermon Mahari was corralling talent for a Michael Jackson tribute show. The band started with a vision of writing songs to be picked up by other artists, but has since changed its focus to keeping their own music and growing their online presence through videos.

 

Jacob Meyer / KCBMC

By the time the weekend arrives, a little comic relief is welcome. So how about more than a little?

You can begin with a comic book party, a comic beard contest and that funny little comic who made “makin’ copies” a catch phrase on “Saturday Night Live.”

I know, it’s never enough. How tragicomic.

1. Kansas City Comic Con

Courtesy Wendy Thompson

Longtime Kansas City film producer and director Rick Cowan died of a heart attack around 2 a.m. on Monday. Cowan’s wife, Wendy Thompson, announced the news on Facebook.

The two had shared a nice evening together before he started feeling poorly, Thompson tells KCUR.

Cowan had worked in Kansas City’s film industry since arriving in town in the late 1970s.

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