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: 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.

Park University

Laurel Gagnon, a graduate student at Park University's International Center for Music, placed fourth at the Singapore International Violin Competition earlier this month. This distinction comes with a cash prize and a loan of a rare violin. 

Only 34 musicians, and just five from the United States, were invited to perform in the competition, which is open to violinists under the age of 30. And only six musicians advanced to the finals of the contest, which ran from Jan. 28 through Feb. 8. 

Paul Andrews / http://paulandrewsphotography.com/

Enrique Chi, frontman of the Kansas City-based band Making Movies, has had a busy year.

The band released its second album, “I Am Another You,” last spring. Produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, the record made it to #3 on Billboard's Latin Album chart.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City singer Jim Cosgrove has spent the past two decades performing songs about dancing dinosaurs and other kid-friendly topics all over Kansas City. His youngest fans know him as “Mr. Stinky Feet.”

Which makes him a perfect act for the family stage at this weekend's Kansas City Folk Festival.

Courtesy of Charles Xavier Conley / PlanetComicon.com

How big is too big? There's no such thing this weekend, with entertainments whose sheer size and/or towering reputation can’t help but elicit extraordinary appreciation.

From the awesomely planetary to the impressively encyclopedic, the intensely grand to the entirely over the top – here’s your list of lofty events to absolutely lose yourself in before life returns to normal on Monday.

Go big or go home? Nonsense. Just go bigger!

courtesy Ragtag Film Society

A committee of budget-controlling Missouri Senators recommends continuing to fund the arts at current levels through the ongoing use of a tax on out-of-state performers. 

On Tuesday, the Ways and Means committee advanced Senate Bill 773 by a 6 to 1 vote. This legislation extends a 2 percent tax on non-resident professional athletes and entertainers for another 10 years. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

OK, so we're not Hershey, Pennsylvania.

But Kansas City has a respectable history of candy-making. We all know about Russell Stover, but several other vintage candies are, or have been, made in the area, and there's no better time than Valentine's Day for making note of that legacy. 

Love them or hate them, these are confectionary standards that your great-grandparents might have bought (for a nickel).

Olivia Fox

Olivia Fox is the Kansas City-based folk-pop trio of Aubrey Callahan, Lauren Flynn and Tiffany Smith. Formed in 2016, it's one of the most fully realized musical acts in Kansas City. The polished group is radio-ready and eminently marketable.

That's clear on “Play the Game,” the lead track of the group’s self-titled 2017 EP. As synthetic beats contrast with traditional folk harmonies, the hushed song becomes a wondrous combination of tension and tranquility — as enticing as a romantic whisper.

Elizabeth Stehling / Kansas City Ballet

In an art form as brutal as it is beautiful, breaking through the tried-and-true blockbusters of classic ballet and strict company structure is difficult. New work and new talent is a risk. Creating new work not only requires learning new steps, but also changing perspectives, generating curiosity and challenging expectations.

Katherine Lim / Flickr -- CC

Breakfast: is it the most important meal of the day or the most tasty meal of the day? Whatever your thoughts, the breakfast scene is changing in Kansas City, offering more interesting options.

"I think people are going out more for breakfast," said KCUR Food Critic Mary Bloch. "I think part of the reason it's changing is because coffee is such a big thing now. And you have to have something to eat with your coffee."

On Friday's Central Standard, Bloch, along with Food Critic Bonjwing Lee, searched out the best breakfast spots in and around Kansas City.

Marco Verch / Google Images -- CC

From Twinkies to smoothies: If you grew up in Kansas City, you may remember the Wonder Hostess Thrift Shop Bakery on Troost. We visit Ruby Jean's Juicery, which has opened in that spot. Then, hear about some of the other new restaurants opening on Troost.

Plus: the Food Critics search out the best breakfast dishes in and around Kansas City.

Guests:

Courtesy Stan Kessler

Anyone who's stepped inside a Kansas City jazz club during the past several decades has probably run into Stan Kessler, the impish trumpeter known for amusing pranks and soulful solos.

Kessler has played music in Kansas City for 40 years, serving as the jazz scene's crafty institutional memory and passionate conscience. He's seen a lot of ups and downs, but his new album, "Skywatcher," makes a career-defining statement, showcasing his formidable talent at the same time as it demonstrates the vitality of the regional scene.

Peggy Clark / Washburn University

Nell Johnson Doerr’s husband rolled her up in a carpet so she’d survive Quantrill’s 1863 raid on Lawrence. Lying alongside the limestone foundation of her house, she hears her husband’s murder but is powerless to help him.

Kansas writer Thomas Fox Averill’s entirely fictitious book, “Found Documents from the Life of Nell Johnson Doerr,” is rooted in the abolitionist movement, but the character of Nell begins to live and breathe while trapped in the carpet.Readers familiar with Averill’s work might recall that the protagonists of his novel “rode,” found a baby in a raided house near her dead parents. Nell Johnson Doerr is that baby.

J.E. Milles Studio, LaBudde Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library / UMKC

Kansas City blues and jazz lover Dawayne Gilley, who calls himself a "music activist," has some business he's needed to finish for almost a decade.

On Monday, when he gives away hundreds of posters at a free jam session, he hopes it’ll be the end of a long and tortured project that started with the best of intentions.

James T. Lundie

Julia Othmer is an art-rock musician in the vein of Tori Amos and Peter Gabriel. Although she currently lives in Los Angeles, Othmer claims Kansas City as her hometown and returns to visit her parents and friends several times a year.

Othmer says she intends to "be on the road a lot" in 2018 to promote her forthcoming album "Sound. That includes a stop at Knuckleheads this weekend.

Courtesy of the Kansas City Public Library

Henry Fortunato, a charismatic shaper of Kansas City's intellectual and history communities, died on Monday. He was 62.

Fortunato's most high-profile role was as public affairs director at the Kansas City Public Library from 2006 to 2015. During his nine-year career, the library said in a statement, Fortunato "revolutionized library programming" and, working with Library Director Crosby Kemper III, helped the library earn local, regional, and national attention.

J. Robert Schraeder / Courtesy of The Coterie Theatre

Playwright Laurie Brooks has tackled challenging subjects for young adults — from the Salem witch trials to bullying. Her latest play, The Secret of Courage, explores a teenager facing a health crisis ... with a little help from a magical world.

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