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. 

Cynthia Levin / Unicorn Theatre

Hollywood super agent Sue Mengers was never a household name. But, in the 1970s, she was considered the most powerful woman in show business. The play, I'll Eat You Last, opening this weekend at the Unicorn Theatre, shows that Mengers could be as vulnerable as she was cut-throat. 

Sidonie Garrett, the show's director, answered some questions about the show as part of our monthly series, Director's Cuts

Doug / Flickr--CC

The line between radio show and podcast is pretty blurry.

After all, a podcast is just audio that you can stream or download on your own time. (You can subscribe to KCUR podcasts here.)

Many of our own staff at KCUR are also big consumers of podcasts, whether produced by public radio or not.

Here are some picks from our staff and interns:

Maria Carter, news director/newscaster

Courtesy / Theater League

What comprises a revue? Technically, it’s a show consisting of music, dancing and/or skits, often with a lively or sometimes lampooning tone.

More loosely — and we like to keep it loose around here — it’s any entertainment that evokes the essence of a variety show, where a succession of engaging bits makes up the whole.

If you remember The Ed Sullivan Show, then you’re with me. If you don’t, something tells me you’re still with me because you’re curious to see what revue-centric amusements the weekend has in store. Still there? I knew it!

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In the 1720s, after studying in Spain, a young priest returned home to Ireland. He started writing Christmas carols influenced by Spanish liturgical music. Now known as the Kilmore Carols, these carols are still performed during the holidays in the small Irish village of Kilmore —and this year, in Kansas City. 

courtesy of Artist INC.

Kansas City, Mo., officials announced the first director of creative services Wednesday. 

Megan Crigger is an arts professional with nearly 20 years of experience in Austin, Texas. Most recently, she served as that city's cultural arts division manager with a focus on tourism, arts and culture. 

"Things that are my priority so align with what Kansas City is focused on that it just feels like a great natural fit," Crigger says. 

Ayah Abdul-Rauf / Kansas City Art Institute

Film and animation students at the Kansas City Art Institute get some big-screen time – and a chance to see how their work goes over with a live audience – at their end-of-semester show on Wednesday at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in downtown Kansas City, Mo.

Courtesy photo / KCUR

 

The whodunnit treatment of a real-life murder mystery in "Serial" the podcast, from the producers of "This American Life" has captivated millions of listeners.

The podcasting medium's first "breakout hit" — as dubbed by the New York Times — has us wondering about other podcasts that are on  your radar.

Eric Williams / Kansas City Symphony

It’s not often that tuba players get to be the ones on melody.

That changes once a year, though, when the Kansas City Symphony puts on Tuba Christmas, where hundreds of tuba players from all around the metro gather to play traditional holiday songs. Because of popular demand, there are now two Tuba Christmases.

courtesy: National Churchill Museum

It's been away for nearly 70 years, but this week, a Thomas Hart Benton painting called "The New Fence" returned to Missouri. 

In 1946, Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., gifted the Benton painting to Sir Winston Churchill. It was Churchill’s request, in lieu of payment, for a college lecture that later became known as the historic “Iron Curtain” speech.

The KCUR Arts team asked for submissions on December 5, 2014. Since then we’ve received more than 200 poems, essays, and short stories to consider. From those, we’ve already selected the first few months of Word episodes.

But we still have a lot of submissions to read, and because we want to give all of them a thoughtful review, we’re hitting “Pause” and closing submissions for now. More information is here.

Thank you for your interest in WORD.

Paul Andrews

"A hundred years ago, if you told people that they would have something in their pocket that would make an image that would go all over the world immediately, they would think it was witchcraft."

So says internationally recognized Kansas City artist and provocateur Peregrine Honig. 

If that's the case, then Honig's been up to a whole lot of witchcraft in her artwork lately.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Frames have been used for centuries as decoration or to heighten the drama of a piece of artwork.

As part of an occasional KCUR series called Tools of the Trade — about artists and their relationships to the tools that make their work possible — we'll take a look at the complex creation of a very large frame.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In the depths of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, small herds of children passed racks of snowflake and flower costumes Wednesday night as they made their way to dressing rooms just before Kansas City Ballet’s final dress rehearsal of The Nutcracker.

Wikimedia -- CC

To tread or not to tread the boards is rarely the question for devoted stage performers.

The more urgent query for such folks is, “When do I get to hit the stage?” And this weekend offers a potpourri of opportunities.

Artists will press their existential envelopes in theater, music and comedy when they tackle plays, concerts and perhaps the most daring thing of all: Standing alone onstage while trying to make people laugh.

Thank goodness for the live platform of creative tension. Where would our weekend entertainment be without it?

John Bigelow Taylor

As U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and then the first female Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright often signaled her mood or opinions with the brooch she had pinned to her suit. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

The bronze figures on horseback and children riding fish that are part of the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain near the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., will be removed Wednesday for an extensive renovation.

"This is the iconic fountain for Kansas City," says Jocelyn Ball-Edson, landscape architect for the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department. "We have a lot of fountains. We love them all, but this is probably the one that gets the most photography and the most visibility."

Don Ipock / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

For generations of Kansas City families attending big shows such as A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker and The Messiah is a holiday tradition. But these shows are equally important traditions for the organizations that produce them.

courtesy of the artist

Ferguson, Mo., has been a site of civil unrest since August when Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson. Tensions flared again last week when a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson.

A new exhibition at the Johnson County Museum in Shawnee, Kan., attempts to answer a tough question: What is modernism?

After World War II, architecture across the United States went through a radical, modern transformation. And Johnson County, Kan. was no exception. It was a time when North Americans believed "the future was bright and possibilities were endless."

chocolatsombre / Flickr--CC

Out of town guests visiting for the holiday need stuff to do.

As do hometown family and friends who might crack if someone doesn’t eventually put the kibosh on one more game of charades.

The solution: Show off what’s happening in the city that may not be as familiar to others as it is to you. Share iconic local attractions, traditional holiday extravaganzas and maybe even something completely different – would you believe Santa goes diving with penguins?

1. 85th Annual Plaza Lighting Ceremony

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

A word of advice to everyone who ventures into the new photography exhibition at Avila University’s Thornhill Gallery: Charge your devices. Also, you’ll need to download an app called Layar

Experiencing “augmented reality,” it turns out, requires a bit of pre-planning.

Thanksgiving Breakfast Dance Facebook Page

On Thanksgiving morning, when people all over the nation express their gratitude by sleeping in or toiling away in the kitchen, several hundred Kansas Citians step out in their finest attire to head to a giant party — with live music, dancing, and heaping helpings of Louisiana gumbo.

For breakfast.

Sean Starowitz / Courtesy photo

Bread can serve as an important connector between people.

It can fuel discussions, break through social barriers and institute change. 

A 2014 Charlotte Street Foundation award winner, Sean Starowitz is an artist whose work is hard to place on the walls of galleries. As the artist-in-residence at Farm to Market Bread Co., his projects often focus on bread and community. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

For the past 20 years, Ah'Lee Robinson has helped young people find their own voices as executive director of the Kansas City Boys Choir and the Kansas City Girls Choir

Robinson is an accomplished gospel singer himself. On Friday, he’ll sing in a concert of "praise and thanksgiving.”

With Thanksgiving approaching, lots of movies are opening. If you're looking for an alternative to the latest blockbuster,  check out these suggestions from Up to Date's independent, foreign, and documentary film critics:

Cynthia Haines:

  • Birdman
  • Skeleton Twins
  • Citizenfour

Steve Walker:

Magnolia Pictures

A potentially devastating mishap on a family vacation in the French Alps chills a marriage in Swedish filmmaker Ruben D. Ostlund's gripping and beautiful Force Majeure. The event — an ultimately benign avalanche at a ski resort — stops short of being catastrophic. But a fight-or-flight response by the husband and father buries the family in something less tangible than snow.

James Prinz / Courtesy: Kansas City Art Institute

The Kansas City Art Institute Thursday announced new leadership — at least for the next 18 months. Starting Dec. 3, Tony Jones, chancellor and president emeritus of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, will step in as interim president. 

Stephen Metzler, chair of the KCAI board of trustees, has served this role since August, when former president Jacqueline Chanda retired. 

Although the Pulitzer Arts Foundation has been closed since August, a swarm of activity has been taking place inside the Grand Center institution.

Construction crews are renovating the Pulitzer’s basement area to create two new galleries. When they’re done in May 2015, the Foundation will have one-third more exhibition space, totaling 104,000 square feet. The work is being done in cooperation with a representative of the original architect, Tadao Ando.

courtesy: The Numero Group

It was described as "one of the strangest recording studios ever built."

In the 1960s and 1970s, musicians found their way to Cavern Sound, a studio in an underground cave in Independence, Mo. James Brown and Brewer and Shipley recorded there. But so did garage bands, school choirs, gospel groups, and folk duos at a rate of $300 a day.

Nick Harris / Flickr--CC

The big holidays are almost here. But there’s still time to do something that’s little before having a momentous bite of turkey or ceremonial cup of cheer.

This weekend may be your last chance to enjoy a tinier activity compared to family gatherings and parties that can be consuming and more than a tad crazy – “OK, Uncle Phil, it’s time to take off the lampshade now.”

So before it all gets larger and nuttier – “Now means now, Uncle Phil!” – do something smaller. From insects and puppets to marbles and more, take a walk on the little side.

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