Anne Kniggendorf | KCUR

Anne Kniggendorf

Contributor

Anne Kniggendorf is a freelance writer based in Kansas City, whose work has appeared in local media outlets as well as in the Smithsonian Magazine, Saturday Evening Post, Electric Literature, Publishers Weekly, Ploughshares, and several literary reviews, including two as far away as India and Scotland.

She’s a graduate of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she did not study journalism but Western philosophy and historical mathematics. She holds an MFA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in creative writing, which she thinks is close enough to journalism the way she does it. Anne is a Navy veteran.

Suzanne Hogan and Crysta Henthorne / KCUR 89.3

Listen to this episode of A People's History Of Kansas City, a new podcast from KCUR 89.3. For more stories like this one, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyGoogle Play and Stitcher.

It was 1956 in Kansas City. Leila Cohoon had just left her job at a salon to find some new shoes for Easter on the Country Club Plaza.

And then she saw an object in the window of an antique store that would change her life. A little woven wreath in a gold frame — hair art.

Randy Brown

Randy Brown was barely talking yet when his father shipped out for Vietnam. To close the distance over the course of that deployment, Brown's parents made recordings for each other.

"The first time that he heard my tiny, little voice was probably on one of those little three-inch audio reels," says Brown, who is now retired from the Iowa Army National Guard.

Anne Kniggendorf / KCUR 89.3

Cynthia Hardeman, a playwright, knew that families along the Troost Corridor enjoyed the Drama Time children's program that she and performer Victoria Barbee created in 2017.

The 10-week program, where kids could show up, slip into character and act out a story completely different from their own, was popular. But until a few months ago, she didn’t have a permanent address for that project, and worked out a borrowed temporary space at Just Off Broadway Theatre.

Courtesy of the Missouri Valley Room / Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
Gordon Parks / Gordon Parks Foundation

Before Cassius Clay took the name Muhammad Ali, he was a 22-year-old who’d been rechristened “the champ,” the greatest boxer in the world.

Long-time Life magazine photojournalist and renaissance man Gordon Parks was assigned to cover the young man twice, once in 1966 and again in 1970. What Parks found after many meetings was a 24-year-old with bruised fists looking for approval — a side of the superstar the public hadn't seen.

J.E. Miller / Courtesy of Missouri Valley Room, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri.
Mike Viglione / Instagram

Kansas City hip hop artist and producer Justin "Info Gates" Gillespie, 39, died unexpectedly at the end of January. Those who loved him are reeling but not at a loss when explaining how Gillespie will live on.

"He was not shy about uplifting people in whatever way possible," says Kemet Coleman, a member of the Phantastics and a friend of Gillespie.

Vladimir Sainte

As a teenager in Queens, New York, Vladimir Sainte often didn't want to go home after school. So he didn't. His parents, Haitian immigrants, worked several jobs, and Sainte had become a defiant and anxious boy.

When his parents decided they could no longer manage him, they shipped him to Kansas City to live with his uncle. He was 16 then. But now, years later in his career as a social worker, he sees he could have been taught to manage his emotions better.

Children, he notes, don't have the "verbal literacy" of adults.

Paul Andrews / KCUR 89.3

Caitlin Corcoran has been a fixture in Kansas City's hospitality industry for about 20 years. She started as a barista on the Plaza as a 15-year-old and went on to tend bar, serve, manage and finally own a restaurant, Ça Va in Westport.

Now she's taking a break — possibly a long or permanent break — from this city's restaurant scene.

For a good chunk of her career, she figured, as many women do, that a hostile work environment came with the territory.

Lisa Choules

A dancer who hears "elevé" knows to push herself up onto her toes. In 2010, when retired ballerina Lisa Choules needed an apt name for her fledgling dancewear company, the term sounded just right.

Everyone needed a lift: She was a single mom scouting for a new career; ballerinas needed a better-fitting leotard.

Jeffrey Hall

Jeffrey Hall is worried about our well-being.

"I think this is a really serious social concern. I think there are a lot of reasons to believe that loneliness is on the rise," says Hall, a communications professor at the University of Kansas.

Transit isn't about vehicles. It's about people.

When Robbie Makinen lost his vision in 2013 and suddenly had to get around town without his sight, he came to understand that more clearly than ever. Here's his story.

  • Robbie Makinen, CEO, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority

Anne Kniggendorf / KCUR 89.3

Organist Jacob Hofeling started working at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Christmas Eve.

He'd moved to Lawrence to get a doctorate in organ performance at the University of Kansas and was looking for a job.

"As I was applying, St. Luke’s really needed somebody on Christmas Eve specifically," he says. "So, I worked my schedule around to make that happen." He's now the music director.

Karen Craigo

Karen Craigo is Missouri's new poet laureate. Gov. Mike Parson announced the decision last month that the "Marshfield Mail" editor and general manager will have the two-year position, replacing Aliki Barnstone.

courtesy of Charlie Mylie

Gift-giving can be challenging enough when you're human. But when you're a mouse, it's really tough. Kansas City artist Charlie Mylie has just released his first children's book about this difficulty.

"Something for You" is about a mouse who delivers a cake to a friend and finds her unwell, not in cake-eating spirits at all. He must find something to cheer her up, so he takes to the surrounding streets, meadows and mountains.

Megan Phelps-Roper

The cover of Megan Phelps-Roper's book "Unfollow" gives away the ending. We know the hero leaps far beyond her old confines and goes on to live a healthy, happy life reaching out to others in need.

But in this case, the ending isn't as captivating as the middle of the story.

"A lot of people had these very personal experiences with Westboro and there's a lot of confusion, I think, people don't understand why we were doing what we were doing," Phelps-Roper says of Topeka's infamous  Westboro Baptist Church.

Kansas City Fire Department

Donna Maize, who has recently been promoted to serve as the first female fire chief in Kansas City's 150-year history, says the role of the fire department has changed since she joined the force in 1992.

Recently, she said, their service has been morphing into the areas of social service and emergency healthcare.

"In Kansas City, unfortunately, we do have a certain amount of homeless population and kind of those transient people who really don’t have other resources or there's a lot of people that live without healthcare," Maize said.

Steven Molina / Contreras/NBC

Saturday Night Live cast member Heidi Gardner understands that times are hard. The native Kansas Citian says she’s regularly approached and thanked for a funny line or the tackling of a tough issue, even when she wasn’t directly involved with the bit.

“People really need to laugh, because the current political climate is so crazy,” she said.

Kim Horgan

Kim Horgan is known as Kansas City's biking Instagrammer.

The freelance photographer had already done a lot of adventuring — and Instagram-posting — but after winning Amtrak's "Take Me There" contest in April, she had a chance to take travel to a new level and discover some unexpected similarities between biking and train travel.

Museo Egizio, Turin

There's a bit of Indiana Jones in everyone, which is why people continue to be fascinated by ancient Egyptians and their tombs, says Julián Zugazagoitia, the Director and CEO of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

That, he says, and "we all search for immortality in some way or another."

At its core, Zugazagoitia says, Egyptian art is about preserving the "life presence" of a person. Egyptians believed that for the soul to live in the other world, the person needed to have her depiction in sculpture form.

Farooq Ahmed

News about border wars in other nations can feel so distant that it's easy to tune out. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has raged for decades and so has the Kurdish-Turkish conflict, though that one has recently escalated.

But writer Farooq Ahmed asks everyone to hold up for a minute and recall that the years leading to the United States' Civil War offered much the same sort of fighting. In his novel "Kansastan," Ahmed adds a twist to that part of Kansas-Missouri history.

Segment 1: New paintings by a Kansas City artist examine the 'brash volume' of public discourse.

Rodeo clowns, talkshow hosts, preachers. To Michael Schliefke, they're symbols for what public discourse has become. 

Segment 2: A Kansas-born author creates literary buzz with 'halal fiction.'

B.A. Van Sise / One Second

A little boy in traditional Italian clothing twirls while hanging onto the skirt of his mother's 18th century peasant dress. The two are in a Columbus Day parade in New York City, and photographer B.A. Van Sise figured it was the best shot he'd get that day.

After receiving a box of 35 mm film as a gift, Van Sise, who shoots for Atlas Obscura and Buzzfeed, set a challenge for himself: Take one photo a day with real film. The box contained enough for one year.

Steve Willis Photography

In her telling of Kansas City history, writer Karla Deel made room for people and topics she says wouldn't have a place in other history books — "vulnerable voices that are often hushed," she calls them.

Natasha El-Scari is out with a new book, Mama Sutra: Love and Lovemaking Advice to My Son.  She wrote it for anyone who needs understanding going into intimate relationships that they did not receive, with a focus on respect for oneself and others. In this conversation, El-Scari shares the experiences with intellect, womanhood, motherhood and community that led her to this project, and others to come.

Don Christensen / American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

By the time he was 14, David Steinberg had been constructing crossword puzzles for two years. He thought they were pretty good, so he began sending them to New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz.

Attempts one through 16 received a hard no.

"Then the 17th one came back as a 'maybe,' instead of a 'no,'" Steinberg said. "It was a code-related puzzle, it had kind of a coded message, and he wanted the message to be related to code somehow. I had to rethink the theme a little bit."

Leanna Bales / Many States of Coffee

After seeing national "best of" coffee lists skipping the entire Midwest, coffee blogger Leanna Bales started a website Many States of Coffee.

Those lists, she said, "didn't really reflect what I was seeing in Kansas City, which was just this really beautiful coffee culture where I think there's a lot of movement between coffee shops and community."

Segment 1: A Kansas City avocado toast tutorial.

Avocado toast is very popular. We get explanations, tips and recommendations from a local fan, who also happens to be a nutrition expert.

Segment 2: A search for great neighborhood coffee shops.

Scott Thomas

Kansas native Scott Thomas' writing style has been described as Midwestern Gothic. His new book "Violet" easily fits the definition of gothic horror, even if it doesn't match the genre's usual characteristics.

European gothic tales involve castles, wherein lie the sins and dark secrets of the aristocracy — beheadings and betrayals. In Southern gothic, Spanish moss-obscured plantation mansions hide the secrets of the slave owners. The Midwest isn't exactly famous for a particular style of structure that would lend itself to the gothic.

Nicole Bissey / Nicole Bissey Photography

Performer Christopher Barksdale has given it a lot of thought, and has come to the conclusion that it's quite possible Jesus lived in a "cancel culture" just like we do. 

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