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. 

Amber Deery

At a factory in Kansas City's East Bottoms, a conveyor belt spits out roughly 2,500 warm tortillas an hour. They're made from yellow, blue and red corn.

The yellow corn tortilla is so flavorful, says Marissa Gencarelli, it’s like, “corn punching you in the face.”

Marissa and her husband, Mark Gencarelli, launched their Yoli Tortilleria business about eight months ago. Marissa, who is originally from Mexico, wanted corn tortillas that were close to what she grew up eating.

Scott's Kitchen and Catering / Facebook

Burritos and wraps are glorious things.

Just about anything can go in a tortilla. And voila, a complete meal that's portable and ready to go.

But what's the difference between a wrap and a burrito?

"A burrito is typically warm or hot, and a wrap is generally cold, in my experience," food critic Carlton Logan told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard.

Logan, along with fellow food critics Jenny Vergara and Charles Ferruzza, searched out the best burritos and wraps in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Anna-Julia Granber / BLUNDERBUSS

This is a love story, of sorts, between a middle-aged, but still-famous, Kansas City rock band and an ancient Norwegian women’s chorus.

Kansas City roots rockers The Rainmakers, who hit their recording apex in the late 1980s, are still enormously popular in Norway — after all, their first live album, in 1990, was titled "Oslo-Wichita Live," with half recorded in each city.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Once a month, a recording studio in the basement of the Lawrence, Kansas, public library opens for a jam session.

There are no guitars or drum sets, though.

The players make music with motion-detecting computers that allow anyone – regardless of physical or developmental ability – to become composers.

The jams are an opportunity for creativity and healing, organizers say.

Te Deum

Kansas City choral conductor Matthew Shepard has wanted to perform “Seven Last Words from the Cross” for more than a decade.

A modern choral masterwork, it tackles the Bible's dramatic story of the reflective moments leading up to Christ’s crucifixion.

Shepard was attracted to Scottish composer James MacMillan’s strong, clear use of musical metaphor, which adds a cinematic element to the sacred work. Words are whispered, strained, proclaimed, set against gnarly chords and frenzied, fidgety strings.

Anne Boyer

Kansas City poet and essayist Anne Boyer, who teaches writing at the Kansas City Art Institute, is among this year's winners of the Whiting Award, a prestigious honor that comes with $50,000.

The awards, presented to emerging writers, "are based on the criteria of early-career achievement and the promise of superior literary work to come," according to the Whiting Foundation. Boyer is one of ten winners announced Wednesday evening at a ceremony in New York City.

Reggie and the Full Effect / Facebook

The clown prince of pop-punk and emo-rock, and the pride of Liberty, Missouri, James Dewees is the founder and primary artistic force in Reggie and the Full Effect.

Dewees began drumming for the seminal Kansas City punk band Coalesce in the 1990s; at the end of that decade, he joined the beloved Kansas City emo-rock band the Get Up Kids. He's also been hired as a ringer by prominent bands including My Chemical Romance.

LaBudde Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library / UMKC

The photographs tell a story in themselves: images that feel familiar because we recognize our city in the background, and all too familiar because we still see agitated people, most of them black, fleeing through clouds of tear gas or standing alone in front of police lines.

But the photographs don't tell nearly enough of the story. That's because the images in the 1968 Riot Collection at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Library don't have enough information.

Paul Andrews / http://paulandrewsphotography.com/

A little over a year ago, Sunayana Dumala’s husband, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was shot and killed at an Olathe bar by a man who questioned whether he was in the country legally.

Back then, Dumala wondered whether she should stay in the United States. In a Facebook post, she wrote: “To answer the question that is in every immigrant’s mind, DO WE BELONG HERE? Is this the same country we dreamed of and is it still secure to raise our families and children here?”

Florian Kalotay

Even Kansas City sports fans love the elite opera star Joyce DiDonato, who grew up in the area and graduated from Bishop Miege High School in 1987.

DiDonato returns this weekend to perform with the Kansas City Symphony, interpreting works by Leonard Bernstein and Hector Berlioz while Michael Stern conducts.

Since becoming a star, DiDonato has used her prominent platform to advocate for social causes, including support for the LGBTQ community.

Jon Demlar

Francis Sommer had planned a vacation to Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain to visit an Army buddy. The friendship arose from a particularly fraught 2006 deployment to Afghanistan, and the two looked forward to reconnecting in a peaceful, beautiful place.

But it was Robert Sommer, Francis’ father, who spent the day with the friend.

Francis was killed in 2011.

Facebook

A lot has been going on in Kansas City's food scene over the last few months.

KCUR food critics Charles Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Jenny Vergara brought their seasonal roundup of the biggest local restaurant news to Friday’s Central Standard.

Kansas City trumpeter and tap dancer Lonnie McFadden has been performing since he was in grade school.

He's known as half of the act called The McFadden Brothers; Lonnie and his brother Ronald play music, sing and tap dance — carrying on a family tradition started by their father, dancer and performer Smilin' Jimmy McFadden.  

courtesy: Helix Architecture + HGA Architects

The Missouri Legislature might once again consider funding for a proposed downtown campus of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Jen Chen / KCUR 89.3

In her Twitter bio, Julia Good Fox says she’s “unapologetically tribalist.”

“I love tribalism, and that might be shocking,” she told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

People have been taught that it’s a negative word, she added, “which is very interesting, considering how many American Indian tribes we have here, and considering that this is an indigenous area.”

Brewer and Shipley

The Midwestern natives Michael Brewer and Tom Shipley — known to rock fans of a certain age everywhere as Brewer & Shipley — relocated to Kansas City from Los Angeles in 1968, soon after their debut album "Down in L.A." was released by A&M Records in 1968.

The duo is best known for their 1970 hippie anthem “One Toke Over the Line.” It's an enduring cultural touchstone, as are Brewer and Shipley themselves, who celebrate their 50th anniversary with a concert at the Uptown Theater on Friday.

courtesy: Robert Stewart

Robert Stewart has nurtured a lot of up-and-coming writers over the decades he's spent as an editor at New Letters magazine and as a writing instructor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

In December, Stewart released a new book of his own poetry. He called it "Working Class" in recognition of his roots as well as the blue-collar ethos he brings to writing.  

Nelson Pereira

When two trained and industrious young artists, each exhibiting a set of arresting photos, understand themselves less as notable new photographers than as people with serious questions who happen to have cameras – just like everyone else with an iPhone and an Instagram – the message is a striking indication of where the form is headed now.

Jen Chen / KCUR 89.3

A new theater troupe in Kansas City is staging monthly play readings in an unlikely venue: a bar.

That’s part of the Kansas City Public Theatre’s mission. The group hopes to make theater more accessible by offering free shows in non-traditional venues.

Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Carmen, Mimi, Norma, Tosca, Violetta, Cio-Cio-San, Medea, Liù, Aida, Lulu: Being an opera heroine is harrowing work.

For hundreds of years, opera's women have suffered: on stage from dishonor, ruination, madness and death; off stage from harassment, abuse, degradation, threats, and coercion.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Two times every year, a group of admittedly obsessive collectors gets together for a "show and tell." And sometimes, what the members of the The Print Society of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art are most excited about can end up on the walls of area museums.

Super/Typical

Everybody pees, but who spends time thinking about it?

Anyone who plans their outings in consideration of public restroom locations thinks about it. Wheelchair users, pregnant women, or parents of small children, for instance. And, of course, trans and gender noncomforming folks who are continually warned by policymakers to unzip it only in the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificates.

Scott Stacy

It’s taken a long time for people to be able watch the documentary Kansas City filmmaker Kevin McKinney released in 2012. But he’s at peace with that.

After all, the problems he explored in "Corporate FM" – the corporatization and consolidation of local commercial radio – still exist. And he’s OK with the fact that audiences can watch it now because it’s streaming through Amazon Prime.

Jen Chen / KCUR 89.3

As you may have heard by now, Shake Shack is opening on the Plaza.

The New York-based burger chain has a devoted following, and the news of its fall opening sent many Kansas Citians into a tizzy. There’s been so much buzz about Shake Shack that the moderator of a local food group on Facebook had to tell people to stop posting about it.

“I can taste the Shake Shack burger without actually tasting it,” said Elizabeth Paradise. “I crave it that much.”

The DLC / Flickr -- CC

Burgers are a classic KC menu item.

"As a steak town, Kansas City has always had a lot of good burgers, too," Charles Ferruzza told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard.

Whether diners prefer a thin or thick patty — or something meatless — local menus have plenty of options.

Ferruzza, along with fellow Food Critics Mary Bloch and Jenny Vergara, searched out the best burgers in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Aaron Brown

Brian Daldorph, who teaches English at the University of Kansas, published his sixth book of poetry late last year. “Ice Age/Edad de Hielo” is both a celebration of his late father’s life and a glimpse into losing a parent to Alzheimer’s, which Daldorph did in 2012.

Nodaway County Historical Society

On January 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, millions of people around the world gathered to promote women’s rights in one of the largest international displays of solidarity for a sisterhood still battling for equality and equity.

Paul Andrews

David George is a veteran Kansas City rocker.

Heidi Van

Kansas City has a wide range of theater venues, from tiny spaces that seat only a couple dozen people to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. And now, two newcomers are opening another one.

LaBudde Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library / University of Missouri-Kansas City

He was murdered almost 50 years ago, so fewer Kansas Citians these days might know the name Leon Jordan. But he was one of Kansas City's most important civil rights leaders, and at one point his homicide was the Kansas City Police Department's oldest cold case.

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