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 89.3FM

Down a winding road in Swope Park, on the other end of a short walk through the grass, there's an old, abandoned pool where, in the days before penicillin, sick children came for hydrotherapy. In recent weeks it's been re-filled — not with water but with silk flowers, teddy bears and candles for Ebony Patterson’s art installation.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

There's a new sign glowing on the side of the Boone Theater at the corner of East 18th Street and Highland Avenue, next door to the Gem Theater in the 18th and Vine Historic District. "I Adore Your Every Move" is a neon work by Los Angeles artist Nikita Gale.

The work was commissioned as part of the city's new, two-month Open Spaces arts festival, which kicked off this past weekend. The sign commemorates a letter written by Charlie Parker to his common-law wife, Chan Richardson.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Kansas City artist Allan Winkler's work is full of whimsy. It's often found in unexpected places: a mural in a school cafeteria, colorful mosaics in the bathroom of a theater.

Year-round, you can see his folksy metal cutouts on permanent display at the Marlborough Community Center, and The Gathering Place is hosting a show of his work during Open Spaces.

Winkler works out of a home that was built in the 1860s. Visitors to the Westside neighborhood will recognize it from the bottles decorating the fences and kinetic sculptures hanging from trees.

William P. Gottlieb

Mary Lou Williams only spent a dozen years in Kansas City during its first jazz heyday, but this is where she solidified her professional reputation, gaining the respect of leaders in the field.

“Mary Lou Williams is increasingly ranked as one of the most significant and influential composers to have ever made Kansas City their home base,” says Dan Cameron, artistic director of Open Spaces.

Among the ten-week festival's opening-weekend events is a free performance of Williams’ “Zodiac Suite” by the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra in Swope Park.

Jenny Wheat

When singer/songwriter Kelly Hunt arrived in Kansas City from Memphis three years ago, the relocation came with a surprise: There was already a well-known musician in town who had the same name — or practically the same. Kelley Hunt (who spells her name with just one more e than Kelly Hunt) is the R & B pianist who’s been rocking this region for a few decades.

Now, the newcomer says with a laugh, “I’m ‘Banjo Kelly Hunt’ in these parts.”

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City's first biennial Open Spaces launches this week. 

And, like the metropolitan area itself, Open Spaces is sprawling. It stretches 62 days, from August 25 to October 28, with more than 150 performing and visual artists.

Sharon Rodriguez

“I thought it was a Boy Scout weekend.”

That was photographer Sharon Rodriguez’s initial reaction when she encountered a homeless camp near her Olathe residence in 2014.

Once she realized that homeless individuals were living under the tarps, Rodriguez had a lot of questions.

“Who are they, and why are they homeless?” she remembers thinking. “That started the journey of me finding out more.”

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Sculptor Jacob Burmood stood on a high ladder beneath a large elm tree. The sound of his buffing tool mingled with the late-afternoon chorus of cicadas at his rural, open-air studio in Ottawa, Kansas.

“This tree is really my studio,” Burmood said. “It’s really peaceful and I love the cicadas. That’s my music.”

StoryCorps

StoryCorps' MobileBooth is in Kansas City until September to collect the stories and memories of residents. This is one in a series of stories KCUR has chosen to highlight.

Facing the end of life often brings hard choices. Diane Botwin decided to have her father, Dr. A. E. Botwin, move in with her family 20 years ago when his health began to fade.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Sculptor Tom Corbin might be best known in Kansas City for the Firefighter’s Memorial sculpture and fountain on West 31st St., but more than 1,000 of his pieces are sprinkled throughout private galleries around the globe.

Corbin founded his flagship studio in a sturdy brick fire house at Southwest Blvd. and Mission Road. Built in 1910, it is a fortress with walls 16 inches thick.

Two people standing in front of Broadway theater posters.
Theater League

Nearly 40 years ago, he abandoned a career in law for one in show business. And it worked out.

Mark Edelman is the long-time force behind the Theater League, an organization that brings in national tours of Broadway productions. Now, he's retiring.

He said the low cost of living and the local community helped him take the leap into the world of musical theater and, ultimately, have a successful life while working in a field that offers no guarantees.

"You can get it done in Kansas City," he told Steve Kraske during a conversation on KCUR's Up To Date.

Mo Dickens

Through late spring and into early summer, Kansas City artist Dylan Mortimer searched the trees in Swope Park for signs of death. He found a 40-footer that was dead for sure, but the park staff told him it was too close to the road and hazardous; they cut it down.

Smashing Pumpkins / Facebook

They come and they go, these things that put smiles on our faces and springs in our steps. And sometimes…they come back.

While I have no idea whatever happened to my childhood snow sled (sniff), this weekend proposes rewarding access to things that went away, but won't stay in the past.

Is it a miracle? Only if it’s my old sled – oh, Rosebud, I missed you!

1. The Smashing Pumpkins

File photo by Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Classical music doesn’t have to be an intellectual exercise. For composer Ingrid Stölzel, it's an accomplishment when the audience feels goosebumps.

“It’s such an amazing thing we can experience when listening to music. It’s just a physical reaction to what we’re experiencing,” Stölzel told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard. “It’s a phenomenal thing.”

The Before Columbus Foundation announced the winners of the 39th annual American Book Awards on Monday. And Bojan Louis's "Currents," a debut poetry collection published by BkMk Press at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is on the list. 

"I'm celebrating!" Ben Furnish, managing editor of BkMk Press, wrote to KCUR in an email.

Erin Johnson

The Berlin Wall was six years from falling when “The Day After” premiered on television in 1983. The film, shot in Lawrence, follows three Kansans as they fight to survive the immediate aftermath of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. 

Erin Johnson, a sound and video artist and a visiting assistant professor of art at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, revisited the film and its legacy for her video installation, “The Way Things Can Happen,” at the Lawrence Arts Center.

U People Improv

“Subversive minstrelsy.” That’s how Brandey Chandler describes the inspiration for an upcoming performance at the Kansas City Improv Festival.

Chandler is one of nine members of the troupe U People, which was formed in February by a group of Kansas City-based black improvisers.

Food Critics: The Best Sandwiches In Kansas City In 2018

Aug 11, 2018
A Reuben sandwich wrapped in white wax paper.
Stu_Spivak / Flickr

Sure, Kansas City is a food town when it comes to some dishes, but are we a sandwich city?

Yes, according to KCUR's food critic Charles Ferruzza. 

"It really is a meat and potato town — but it's sandwich meat and french fries."

That's because of the Stockyards and the people who spent time there.

"Cowboys could eat them with their hands and just wipe their hands on their jeans," he notes. "They were very easy that way."

Specifically, a "loose meat" (i.e., Sloppy Joe) was likely the most common one.

Focus Features

Director Spike Lee’s "BlacKkKlansman," which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in May, is finally opening in theaters nationwide. 

Lee's co-writer is University of Kansas film professor Kevin Willmott, who spoke with KCUR's Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann about the movie, which is based on a true story.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Artists Coalition Executive Director Janet Simpson this week announced her retirement after almost 30 years at the helm of the arts organization. 

"You know, it's time," said Simpson. "I wanted to leave before my assistant director felt the need to move on to find her next challenge. So I just felt like it was a good time."

Courtney Bierman / KCUR 89.3

Vampires and transgender people are similar in a number of ways, says anthology editor Bogi Takács. Members of each group are often outcasts on the fringe of society, have atypical bodies, and attract the fascination of the mainstream.

Trevor Hook / KCUR 89.3

Brown and Loe is an upscale bistro in the heart of the River Market, with a large, open interior with checkered black-and-white floors. They carry high-dollar wines and cocktails, but something on the non-alcoholic side of the menu jumps out: their phosphates.

Before I was assigned to this story, I had absolutely no idea what a phosphate was. Josh Eaton, assistant general manager at Brown and Loe, explained it me.

Jordana Sturaro

Imagine if a comic-con and a burlesque festival had a baby.

That’s how Annie-Mae Allure, the executive producer of this week’s Kansas City Nerdlesque Festival, describes the event, where performances will focus on themes such as science fiction and fantasy in what’s been billed as a “shame-free zone” at the Just Off Broadway Theatre.

Allure expects around 40 cast members, both local and touring, from as far away as Alaska and British Columbia.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

At first glance, the premise behind "Pink Collar Crimes" seems a little less heartwarming than the stories its co-creator, Overland Park-based filmmaker Sharon Liese, is known for.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

For more than half a century, the huge star on top of a neon sign above Fun House Pizza and Pub served as a glowing beacon to cars passing by on 350 Highway in Raytown. But one morning in April, a crane took it down.

The sign had been mostly dark since last December when owner Gary Graham served his last pizza.

Theater League / Warner Brothers Theatricals

People all over the world are obsessed with “The Wizard of Oz." But there is no place in the world where it has as much cultural value as in Kansas, where "Somewhere over the Rainbow" can be considered as much the state song as "Home on the Range."

“It's become synonymous with ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” says Mark Edelman, head of Theater League, which produced this latest version of the iconic story that opened Wednesday at Providence Amphitheater (formerly known as Sandstone) in Bonner Springs, Kansas.

Kevin Collison / CityScene KC

If anybody embraces the concept of Kismet, it’s David Ford and Adam Jones, two of Kansas City’s most free-spirited originals.

They have combined to find a new home for YJ’s Snack Bar in the former Sylvia’s Deli space at 1746 Washington, just a few blocks west of the old YJ’s location at 128 W. 18th.

“It was incredibly perfect timing,” Jones said. “It was the coolest home run we could ever hit. It all came together in about five seconds.”

UN/TUCK

The next time you're at the club, dancing to thumping, bass-heavy tracks, know that what you're hearing has roots in black and LGBTQ communities.

courtesy Historic Kansas City

Historic Kansas City released on Tuesday its annual "Most Endangered" list of buildings and places that could be torn down, altered, or crumble "into obscurity." 

This year's list contains at-risk closed schools, historic churches, and apartment buildings as well as sites such as baseball legend Buck O’Neil’s home, the Epperson House on the UMKC campus, and the Aladdin Theater in the historic Northeast.  

Melanie Rodriguez

The 2018 KC Fringe Festival's final performance lineup included a Greek myth, Cirque du Soleil homage, and a "Rugrats"-inspired story of loss of innocence — all of which were created by local artists.  

The 14th annual, 10-day celebration of visual and performing arts ended on Sunday with repeat performances of the best-selling shows at each of the festival's 14 venues.

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