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. 

Courtesy of Hallmark Cards

Elle McKinney has seen the Black Panther movie nine times and taken all seven of her nephews — in shifts — to see the mega-hit since it came out in February.

So, lucky for McKinney, who is black, that her job as a greeting card writer at Hallmark Cards allowed her to be a writer on the creative team for the launch of Black Panther cards.

Clint Ashlock

Musicians have a lot at stake when it comes to the future of the American Jazz Museum.

"Please take the artist into consideration first, and foremost," bandleader and percussionist Pablo Sanhueza urged members of the Kansas City Council's finance and governance committee at an April 25 hearing to chart a course forward for the troubled museum.

Café Provence/Facebook

Many people consider French cuisine to be the ne plus ultra in the culinary world. And French culinary techniques are considered to be standard in many restaurant kitchens.

Whether it's hearty stews or delicate fish dishes, airy pastries or baguettes with crackling crusts, French-inspired dishes are on menus all over town.

On KCUR's Central Standard, our food critics searched out the best French food in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Anna Yakutenko / KCUR 89.3

Tatsuya Arai has been serving beef Bourguignon in Prairie Village in the suburbs of Kansas City for almost 40 years.

That’s when he opened his Tatsu’s French Restaurant in 1980. (Arai's nickname is Tatsu.)

Beef Bourguignon is classic French dish consisting of braised boneless short ribs with onions and mushrooms.

It takes more than five hours to braise the beef in the separate pot, and many more hours to make a special wine sauce that goes with the meat. Finally, when the dish is ready, Arai serves it with boiled beans, broccoli, and brings a loaf of the baguette.

E.G. Schempf

Western audiences have long been fascinated in the Balinese art form of gamelan, which honors tradition while embracing experimentation.

The music’s shimmering sound is instantaneously recognizable, a unique timbre resulting from pairs of detuned instruments after an entire ensemble has gone through an extensive tuning process. As the slightly different frequencies pulse against each other, it creates a beating effect called ombak.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

The young classical musicians who train at Park University's International Center for Music have been winning national and international awards, and going on to prestigious positions.

Tim Amundson / Turkey Creek Institute for Phenomenology

The Central Avenue Bridge, erected a century ago, is only 22 feet wide. The level that remains open to traffic sits in the shadow of the deck above, another 22 feet away. Driving across it, from Missouri into Kansas or Kansas into Missouri, feels like an act of loud levitation.

Lonny Quattlebaum

Kansas City blues and soul singer Danielle Nicole has a new release, her second solo album, called "Cry No More." For this latest recording, Nicole said she trusted herself and took some chances. She wrote nine of the 14 tracks, including a song about her late father, "Bobby." 

Before she fronted her own band, Nicole sang and played bass in Trampled Under Foot, a blues trio with her brothers, Kris and Nick Shnebelen. 

CJ Janovy / KCUR 89.3

More than 50 people, including artists, musicians, former American Jazz Museum employees and volunteers packed a Kansas City Council committee meeting on Wednesday to voice their concerns or support for the troubled museum.

The council's finance and governance committee had a lot of ground to cover during the three-hour session.

Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

When Alvin Brooks told his father that he wanted to be a police officer, his dad’s first response was, “Why do you want to get into that mess? You know how they treat us.”

Brooks was determined. He became one of Kansas City's few black officers in 1954.

Katie Moore/The Topeka Capital-Journal

Annette Billings says poetry isn’t about precious kittens and pretty flowers. Rather, she says, the form often calls for much harder, more controversial subject matter.

“Sometimes I feel compelled to write about a murder,” she says, “or a woman who’s living in a domestic violence environment.”

Mid-America Arts Alliance

Shortly before Nolen Bivens retired from 32 years of military service, he noticed something about the soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas, where he’d been serving as a Brigadier General over the Fourth Infantry Division.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

People don't often think about preserving the valuable things they own on paper until it's too late. But when that time comes, one Kansas City man is often able to help.

Mark Stevenson is used to seeing paper in every state of disrepair. A professional paper conservator, he has spent the past 25 years restoring prints for prestigious museums both large, such as the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and and small like The Fogg Art Museum at Harvard.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Two Kansas City Council members on Thursday introduced very different resolutions in response to a consultant's report suggesting drastic measures to address financial and other problems at the American Jazz Museum. 

Oh, sweet obsession.

Whatever it might be, many of us have a thing that preoccupies us, perhaps even prying us away from so-called reality. But what good is “reality” when it slaps you around or ignores your needs? That’s where a consuming collection, an ardent activity or some other ultra-fastidious expression of an inner ethos can assuage the soul – at least until the people in the white coats come to, well, you know.

This weekend, enjoy an obsession. It doesn’t even have to be yours – yet. Fortunately for newbies, fixation loves company.

Unicorn Theatre / Facebook

The Unicorn Theatre's staging of a play with an all-Asian-American cast is “a landmark event,” according to one member of that cast.

Speaking with Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard on Wednesday, Andi Meyer described "Vietgone" as a “sex comedy” about how playwright Qui Nguyen’s parents met at an Arkansas refugee camp.

Meyer said the Unicorn’s artistic director, Cynthia Levin, had been thinking about featuring an all-Asian-American cast for several years.

One More Cup / Facebook

Kansas City's coffee shop scene has really blossomed over the past few years.

In addition to coffee and tea drinks, a number of shops have also been serving great food: pastries made in-house, breakfast, light lunches and grab-and-go snacks.

From quiet spots to linger to more convivial spaces to meet up with friends, KCUR's food critics searched out the best coffee shops in and around Kansas City.

 

Here are their recommendations:

 

Open Spaces, a two-month citywide celebration of visual and performing arts, is slated to launch in August.

Artistic director Dan Cameron announced the names of the 42 local, national and international exhibiting artists Friday. Some artists were invited, but others were selected out of a pool of more than 400 applicants. 

Sean Chen

Pianist Sean Chen connects his role as performing artist with that of teacher, approaching piano's vast repertoire with humility and fun.

Chen, who is now an artist-in-residence at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, moved to Kansas City from New Haven, Connecticut, two years ago, when his wife Betty, a violinist, joined the Kansas City Symphony. That gave him an instant local connection, and he's collaborated with some Symphony musicians for chamber concerts around town.

Denny Ilic

Strange Music, the record empire that's home to the rapper Tech N9ne, has entered a whole new realm with Friday's release of Mackenzie Nicole's debut album "The Edge." The pop record, by the teenage daughter of Strange Music co-founder Travis O'Guin, is a dramatic departure from the label's abrasive and hugely successful hip-hop.

It seems Nicole was raised for this moment.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The co-working space in south Overland Park where Neelima Parasker has set up shop includes the amenities young, energetic and collaborative workers want: a coffee bar, stadium-like seating with oversized comfy chairs, offices next to windows and a ping-pong table where two 20-somethings are joking around. 

"Right now, this is my office and then my team starts here. The senior staff sits here," says Parasker, president and CEO of SnapIT Solutions. Parasker started the company in May 2016, and moved into this collaborative space in 2017. 

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A day after a consultants' report suggested that the American Jazz Museum is "in need of complete rethinking, akin to starting a new museum" and suggested a temporary closure, the museum's board of directors met at the Gem Theater to parse the critical assessment of the museum's finances, leadership and exhibits.

Jacqee Gafford / Facebook

The widows may have bonded so strongly because their husbands had been murdered within five years of each other. Or perhaps they were drawn together by the weight of tending to their husbands’ legacies.

Whatever speculation yields, only Coretta Scott King, Myrlie Evers and Betty Shabazz knew why they became and remained friends long after their children were grown.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Consultants hired by the city of Kansas City, Missouri, to assess the wellbeing of the American Jazz Museum on Monday recommended closing the museum temporarily.

The museum, according to the consultants' report, is "in need of complete rethinking, akin to starting a new museum." The report called for a "complete rebirth, starting with its leadership, but continuing with a revamped financial model, visitor experience, and operational infrastructure."

Tanner Martine

In 2016, Simon Fink and his band, Under the Big Oak Tree, performed a holiday concert in their hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri.

One of the songs they played was “The Little Drummer Boy,” which was composed by Katherine K. Davis. As it turned out, she was born and raised in St. Joseph.

H.C. Palmer

H.C. Palmer had graduated from medical school but hadn't yet finished his residency when the Army drafted him in the mid-1960s.

President Lyndon Johnson's administration took 1,500 men from medical training programs across the country and sent them to Vietnam as surgeons.

By August 1965, Palmer found himself in a war zone as part of the First Infantry Division. All these years later, he says he’ll never completely find his way out — nor will others who’ve been similarly exposed to the “many horrific things that happen in war,” he told me in a recent interview.

Maj Lindström / Music Box Films

Early on in the documentary “Chavela,” a cabaret owner describes the voice of Chavela Vargas: “She wasn’t a little fountain. She was more like a tremendous canyon.… She sounded as if she’d been born with the wounds of life and death.”

Vargas was born in Costa Rica and moved to Mexico at 17 to pursue music. At first, she presented herself as a traditional, feminine cabaret and ranchera singer, but found the style unnatural and uncomfortable.

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Though it's firmly rooted in jazz, The Project H also appeals to fans of rock and R&B.

At the end of March, a flurry of sales briefly placed their new record, "Everyday, Forever" in the top ten of iTunes' jazz album chart; they celebrate its official release on Wednesday.

Channy Chhi Laux

Channy Chhi Laux is an American. She earned two undergraduate degrees from the University of Nebraska and a master’s from the University of Santa Clara in California. Laux’s son is an Eagle Scout, and her daughter has nearly finished a doctorate at the University of Southern California.

Her list of American-sounding accomplishments is long, including working as an engineer in Silicon Valley for 30 years and starting a specialty foods company called Apsara.

Elizabeth Stehling / Kansas City Ballet

When the Kansas City Ballet performs George Balanchine's “Diamonds” for its 60th Anniversary Dance Festival next weekend, Elysa Hotchkiss will be in one of 17 couples on stage.  

"You feel a lot of breath and a lot of movement, and see the stage moving as a whole in this ballet because there’s so many of us on stage moving as one," she recently said of Balanchine's choreography.

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