Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Julie Denesha / KCUR

  For two decades, Henry W. Bloch, co-founder of H&R Block, and his wife Marion, collected what they described as "pretty pictures" — mostly French Impressionist works by the likes of Degas, Matisse, and Monet. Nearly 30 of these paintings filled the walls of their Mission Hills, Kansas home.

Although these masterworks are not there now — you wouldn't know it by looking. 

The Blochs started collecting art in the 1970s for a very practical reason. "My wife and I had a home and we needed pictures in it," he recalls. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Several dozen people representing neighborhoods, arts groups and the city of Kansas City, Missouri, assembled Tuesday night at the Kauffman Foundation to continue discussions about a proposed cultural district around the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

They broke into smaller work groups, then discussed and voted on three design concepts: 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Excitement enveloped a small band of foodies on Sunday as they feasted their way through a tour of Kansas City’s unique food offerings. 

Julián Zugazagoitia, director of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, helped organize the private tour for Spanish master chef Ferran Adrià, whose notes and sketches are on display at the museum in an exhibition called Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity. The tour started at the J. Rieger & Co. distillery.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

On this edition of Up To Date, we learn the latest on the proposed cultural district in Kansas City, after a three-day public planning charrette where community members offered ideas on how the district could be designed and operated. Joining us for the conversation is Julián Zugazagoitia, CEO and Director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

A three-day public planning charrette — a workshop exploring the potential of a new cultural district — wraps up on Saturday afternoon. For the last few months, community volunteers in work teams have met to generate ideas about what this district could look like. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Big Data – it’s a catch phrase these days. But museums in cities across the country, from New York to Dallas to Cleveland, are taking cues from corporations and shopping malls, and collecting data to track visitor behavior. It’s starting to shape what’s on view.

In December, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art hired Doug Allen as its first chief information officer, to help analyze data and map a technology strategy.

"Technology will allow us to enrich the experience of a visit, and also allow for a pre-visit," says director and CEO Julián Zugazagoitia.

Suzanne Opton / The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

In the photograph, a young soldier with a downy blond buzz-cut lies perfectly still, face down on the ground. On stage, an ancient Greek warrior goes through the four stages of events that lead to post-traumatic stress.

The arts community is asking big questions about the life of the soldier. What role does art play in public discourse around combat?

Guests: 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, many artists put their art-making on hold, leaving their studios for the battlefield. Some in the United States waited for years for their country to enter the conflict, and others forged a new path in neutral Switzerland. It was a time of radical approaches in music, visual arts and literature. And now, local arts organizations are marking the centennial of the Great War. 

Music reflects change

Before First Fridays took off, most people in Kansas City would have been hard-pressed to identify a local arts district. But the Crossroads district has since attracted attention from throughout the city and beyond. And other arts districts have popped up around it. How will the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's plans for a midtown cultural district fit into the bigger picture?

Guests:

Courtesy: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

"We're still here," says Gaylene Crouser of the Kansas City Indian Center. That's one of the many things she'd like people to understand about American Indians, a detail they might not pick up from mainstream movies. How have recurring characters on-screen shaped our perceptions of what it means to be indigenous in America? 

Guests:

Laura Spencer / KCUR

The new exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky, includes nearly 140 masterworks from private and public collections across North America and Europe. 

There’s a 2,000-year-old pipe, 18th century-painted robes and beaded designer shoes from 2011. 

Some curators might find it offensive if someone asked them to choose a few favorite works — well, actually, just two — from an exhibition they'd worked on for nearly five years. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The oldest, and longest-serving, employee at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art retired on Aug. 31.

Henry J. ("Hank") Raya studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and served in the U.S. Navy before working for two decades as an illustrator at The Kansas City Star. Then he stepped into a new career: as a security guard at the Nelson-Atkins, where he's helped the visitors and protected the art for 35 years. 

Courtesy Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art / Gift of the artist

The parody news site, The Onion, targeted the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., last week in a story with this headline: "Museum Proudly Exhibits Picasso Shitty Enough To Be In Kansas City."

The article poked fun at the museum and its fictional acquisition of a Picasso pencil sketch, a "forgettable piece-of-shit doodle" filling up an entire wall. 

Courtesy / Nelson-Atkins

Earlier this month, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art released its preliminary plans for a cultural district surrounding its Midtown Kansas City neighborhood through an article in the Kansas City Star. The vision was expansive, conceivably stretching as far north as Hyde Park, south to Brookside, west to the Country Club Plaza and east to the Paseo.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has unveiled plans for a bold expansion. The museum is talking about greater green spaces, walkways, and more sculptures as part of a gleaming cultural district. The new district would extend a mile in every direction from Oak Street and Emanuel Cleaver Boulevard. It’s a huge statement that could carry some pain as pieces of nearby historic neighborhoods would vanish to make way for this new vision.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Kansas City residents have been known to, as Michael Cross likes to say, “cuddle,” on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

What many of these lovers may not realize, is that there are always guards monitoring the museum and the lawn, both on foot and via video cameras.

Michael Cross, manager of security facilities and visitor services for the Nelson-Atkins, has been keeping an eye on the grounds for seven years.

“As long as nobody’s interfering with the artwork we try to leave people alone,” Cross says.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Robins hopped on the manicured lawn at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on Wednesday as New York-based artist Robert Morris and a small entourage previewed his new work, "Glass Labyrinth." The 7-foot-tall triangular sculpture consists of one-inch thick glass plate walls topped with bronze.

The official opening of "Glass Labyrinth" takes place Thursday in a public ceremony on the museum's south lawn. It marks the 25th anniversary of the 22-acre Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park.

Two museum exhibitions currently in Kansas City are using tomb relics to bring ancient times and faraway places to life.  These artifacts have survived journeys of thousands of miles and thousands of years.

Courtesy: Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA)

There are more than 200 works in the traveling exhibition, Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from the fourth millennium B.C. to the 1930s.

The exhibit, now at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., features prehistoric tools and figures sculpted by early inhabitants, as well as ceramic vessels, jewelry, coins, tombstones and sculptures — ranging in size from small to monumental.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Imagine spending a year – or more – restoring an artwork, trying to bring back the touch, or the brushstroke, of a master. That’s what Scott Heffley, senior conservator of paintings at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, has been doing with an El Greco painting (ca. 1580-1585) called The Penitent Magdalene

Art and science do mix

Josh Ferdinand / Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

If you’ve walked or driven by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art recently you’ve probably noticed a flurry of activity on the southeast corner of the grassy lawn. Work is underway to ready the site for the installation of a new sculpture, Glass Labyrinth, a triangular-shaped, glass-walled labyrinth designed by artist Robert Morris, a native of Kansas City, Mo.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

During World War II, nearly 350 men and women, known as the Monuments Men, worked to protect and restore millions of cultural artifacts. This group of art curators and historians recovered sculptures and paintings looted by the Nazis, from artists such as Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Leonardo da Vinci.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and The James A. Reeds Family

They were a group of soldiers with something in common — a knowledge of art and how to preserve it.

On Monday's Up to Date, we talk about the Monuments Men, a special division from the Allied forces during World War II who braved the battlefields to save priceless art and architecture from the ravages of war.

Gift of David Douglas Duncan

In October 2013, photographer David Douglas Duncan, a native of Kansas City, Mo., donated 161 photographs to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Some of these photographs document the Korean War, but most were taken over nearly two decades at the home of artist Pablo Picasso.

Courtesy: Saint Louis Art Museum

A new exhibition, Impressionist France: Visions of Nation from Le Gray to Monet, at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art examines the relationship between landscape and national identity. There are more than 100 paintings and photographs, from 1850 to 1880, including works by artists such as Manet, Monet and Le Gray, as well as artists well-known at the time but not today.

Photographers and painters construct "an idea of nation"

courtesy Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

How do you define portraiture today?

It’s a question posed by the exhibition About Face: Contemporary Portraiture at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art – and one explored by the nearly 40 photographers whose images are on display on the gallery walls. An online exhibition Making Pictures of People, keeps the conversation going outside the museum walls.

courtesy of the artist

There are probably certain images that come to mind when you remember the September 11th terrorist attacks: the approaching plane, the two towers of the World Trade Center in flames, clouds of smoke, and people walking en masse across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Photographer Philip Heying is now based in Lawrence, Kan., and works as an adjunct instructor in the photography department at Johnson Community College.

Kayti Doolittle

When we hear about the Middle East and the cradle of Islam, many will no doubt think of news or politics-- about a war  in Syria or civil unrest in Egypt. But that would be only a partial picture. There are major cultural and artistic elements that have been created within the region.

The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art. The Vergel Foundation. / Conaculta/INBA. © 2013 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

This summer, Kansas City is plastered with the iconic image of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Her face, with its dark braids, thick eyebrows and hint of a mustache, is on billboards and buses promoting the Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Masterpieces of Modern Mexico exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The centerpiece of the exhibit, which is based on the collection of Jacques and Natasha Gelman, is a set of paintings by Kahlo, and her husband, Diego Rivera. 

The relationship

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art celebrated the opening of "Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Masterpieces of Modern Mexico from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection" on May 31, 2013, with an opening reception for museum members.

The exhibition showcases more than 100 paintings, sculptures, photographs and drawings collected by the Gelmans in their adopted homeland of Mexico.

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