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. 

Terry Evans / terryevansphotography.com

Kansas City native Terry Evans has seen things firsthand that most of us never will: a melting glacier crumbling into the waters of Greenland, the breakage of land at fracking sites in North Dakota

But Evans keeps returning to her pioneering work documenting the Kansas prairie, even though she never intended to become a landscape photographer at all.

Cory Weaver

With her stoic beauty, her uni-brow and her dark hair braided with flowers, the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo has an iconic face. Kahlo died in the 1950s, but she continues to fascinate people world-wide — including this spring in Kansas City. 

"She's unapologetic. She's angry and she's hurt and she's putting it in this portrait. I like that honesty and that rawness," says actor and writer Vanessa Severo, who stars in a play about Kahlo at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre.

Tom Corbin

Missouri lawmakers have talked about placing a statue of President Harry S. Truman in the United States Capitol for nearly two decades. Now, a Kansas City artist has won the commission to sculpt one. 

Sculptor Tom Corbin has been selected by a committee of Truman family members, along with current and former board members at the Truman Library Institute.

The Kansas City Ballet recently earned national recognition — backed up with significant financial support — when the Hearst Foundations awarded $100,000 to a program that introduces third and fourth-grade students to dance fundamentals. 

Ross family

Kansas City filmmaker Brian Rose spent six years working on his new movie, even after he realized there would be no answers to the problem he was trying to solve.

His feature-length documentary, "When I Last Saw Jesse," details the events surrounding the 2006 disappearance of Belton teenager Jesse Ross and what's happened in the years since. It's among the 174 entries in this week's Kansas City FilmFest International.

Tivoli Cinemas

After nearly 40 years in business in Westport, the Tivoli Cinemas will close on Friday, April 12, according to its owner, Jerry Harrington.

Harrington made the announcement in an email addressed to patrons on Sunday night, noting that he'd opened the original Tivoli on Westport Road in 1983.

"Over the past thirty-six years, as we expanded into the 3 screen theater in 1992, we have brought you thousands of films that I hope have been worth your time and enjoyment," Harrington wrote.

Tim Hursley / Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

Google says Kansas City will be the first city in the United States to have its own place on the search engine's Arts & Culture platform.

"So all in one place, you're going to see over 2,000 artworks and artifacts, over 40 online stories, all telling the history of Kansas City and its art scene today," said project manager Jamie Burchfield. "And you can see that content through online exhibits, through virtual reality tours, through ultra-high resolution photographs of artwork." 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Roger Shimomura says he's found "the deeper meaning of life in Pop Art."

Shimomura is one of the area's most esteemed painters. He taught for decades at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and his work is in the permanent collections of more than 100 museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian.

Vashti Kern

David Bird never gets bored with his plants. Orchids, he notes, are the largest family of blooming plants on Earth, with almost 30,000 species. He's been hooked ever since a family trip to Hawaii in 1978, when he bought five Dendrobium orchids.

In 2001, he began growing orchids in a cave on East 23rd Street near I-435 at the Interstate Underground Warehouse. Bird's Botanicals had 10,000 plants in five rooms.

Poetic Kinetic

Union Station is set to add a shape-shifting display to the downtown skyline this summer with a huge floating sculpture described as jaw-dropping by one observer who knows a bit about art.

"When you see this sculpture fly, you’ll believe in magic," said Tony Jones, the president of the Kansas City Art Institute, who saw a similar work by the artist in downtown Los Angeles.

Phil Morgan delights in showing visitors around the oldest corn cob pipe factory in the world — the 150-year-old Missouri Meerschaum Company in Washington, Missouri.

“I mean, it's a corn cob pipe, so it’s definitely a fun business to be part of,’’ said Morgan, the company’s general manager.

The factory is still housed in its original red-brick hulk of a building sprawled along Front Street, above the Missouri River. It produces about 700,000 corn cob pipes a year — “handcrafted and made in the USA” — and ships them to customers across the United States and 70 countries.

Mike Strong

Creating high quality art for kids is no easy task. As an audience, they’re pure in their responses: If the work engages them, they’ll roar in approval; if not, they’ll (at best) stare glaze-eyed or (at worst) rumble with disinterest as they turn their attention elsewhere.

The 800 middle- and high school students who whooped and chattered excitedly at the world premiere of a sophisticated new dance theater concept apparently approved of the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey's performances at the Folly Theater on Wednesday and Thursday.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

In early March, a new wall started snaking its way through the grass just east of the Bloch Building at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

British artist Andy Goldsworthy’s "Walking Wall" begins with this section. In a few weeks, it will start to move across Rockhill Road, forcing the street to be closed from May 12 to June 3.

Susan Kiefer

In your average art museum collection, which often displays the female form in various states of undress, less than 10 percent of the work was created by women.

A show at the InterUrban ArtHouse changes that ratio, at least for one month in Kansas City.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

For 15 years, travelers in each of the three terminals at the Kansas City International Airport have walked on the sparkly deep blue art installation "Polarities" by New York artists Andrew Ginzel and Kristin Jones. Parking garage customers have stared up at stair-tower installations by various artists.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Some of the pieces in Clarissa Knighten's jewelry lines are over the top, and she knows it. But over-the-top is good for a couple of things: the runway, which she’ll hit during Kansas City Fashion Week, and temporarily taking on a new persona.

"Sometimes — I know from battling depression and bulimia — you have to step out of who you normally are, change things up," Knighten says.

Sky Smeed

When Lawrence songwriter Sky Smeed starts his new album lamenting that he’s leaving yet again, he sounds sad, like we're about to hear a story of one more time when things just didn’t work out.

In reality, it's just the opposite.

"I'm the happiest I've ever been right now in my life, which is pretty amazing for me," Smeed says. "I got married in May of last year, and everything's just really clicking."

Kansas City Symphony Hires New Executive Director

Mar 19, 2019
Randall Baughn

The Kansas City Symphony wrapped up its seven-month national search for a new executive director and hired Daniel Beckley, the Kansas City Business Journal reports.

Beckley most recently was vice president and general manager of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Beckley succeeds Frank Byrne, who's retiring this year after a 19-year tenure.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Several hundred coffee lovers and coffee experts converged on Kansas City, Missouri, over the weekend for the U.S. Coffee Championships.

The baristas who competed were looking to win a trip to the world championships in Boston next month. And a local woman did just that: Kaley Gann with Messenger Coffee won the 2019 Brewer's Cup category.

Raytown Rocks

Karen Houck referred to her grief as a "bag of rocks" for years before she ever painted one or lived in a Lee's Summit house landscaped with a hundred tons of them.

R.L. Brooks

If you’ve been to a rock show and bought a T-shirt, there’s a chance it was made in a non-descript factory on Merriam Drive just off of I-35.

That’s the site of R.L. Brooks's  Seen Merch, where high-speed screen-printing machines can turn out more than a thousand rock-and-roll T-shirts an hour.

Brooks doesn’t like to brag, but his clients include some of the world’s biggest stars.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

When vandals spray-painted anti-immigrant graffiti on Browne’s Irish Market last June, it was front page news in Ireland. Seeing the phrase “Immigrants Not Welcome” painted on a wall at the historic Irish deli, grocery and retail shop at 33rd and Pennsylvania shocked people in Kansas City, too.

Logan Action

When Hugh Merrill was growing up in the 1950s and '60s, he says a lot of things were simply true. Grandparents and parents were heroes, as was the United States. As he aged, those particular true things stopped being true.

"There was a very well-established truth about who we were, how we got here, what we did, how we saved the world in WWII, and all was good," he says.

Parlophone Records Ltd

When opera singer Joyce DiDonato decided to try her hand at singing jazz, the idea wasn't as much of a stretch as it might seem. She says the two genres have one key thing in common: improvisation. 

"The expectation (in Italian Baroque music) is that the singer and the orchestra would come and improvise the harmonies and the vocal style," DiDonato told Kansas Public Radio's Michael Keelan. "So in that element, it's exactly what happens in the world of jazz, it's just the chord structure is a little different."

Jason Dailey

Danny Caine is in an awkward position. On the one hand, as owner of The Raven Bookstore, he really loves all the independent shops that define downtown Lawrence. On the other hand, those big box stores and chains that threaten local businesses like his feel an awful lot like home.

So, he wrote some poems to try to sort it all out. That became "Continental Breakfast," his first collection.

courtesy Peter Caster

The historic mansion that was once home to the Rockhill Tennis Club has new owners. Peter and Heather Caster of Kansas City, Missouri, have bought the house built in 1910 for the daughter of Kansas City Star founder William Rockhill Nelson.

"It's a beautiful home," says Peter Caster. "We're going to do everything in our power to do it the right way and bring it back to its former glory." 

Terry Teachout

Terry Teachout, who writes for the "Wall Street Journal," sees at least 100 plays a year—about half of them are in New York City, and the other half are all over the United States.

He's the only drama critic working for a national publication who regularly travels for work. Over the past couple of decades, this has afforded him a unique bird's eye view of the American arts scene: He sees that exceptional art is created even where only locals normally find it.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Paul Seiwald, who is now 89, painted in his basement studio for more than 60 years, following his own unique vision. A chemist by day, he created a surrealistic vision of Midwestern life by night.

Lately, his work has been getting some attention.

Amelia Nelson / The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

A quick Google search of Kansas City author and artist Shane Evans, who has illustrated more than 30 children's books, brings up his professional website, his author page on Scholastic and his Facebook page. What doesn’t show up is a Wikipedia entry.

Evans isn't alone. Other African-American artists in Kansas City are also missing from Wikipedia, which a recent edit-a-thon attempted to fix.

File photo by Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Luminaries such as Langston Hughes, John Singer Sargent and Frank Lloyd Wright have all been members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In May, when the Academy inducts 11 new members, one of them will be from Kansas City: Chen Yi, professor of Composition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Conservatory of Music and Dance.

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