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. 

Olivia Clanton/Brandon Forrest Frederick

Sometimes, a work of art is just what its creator says it is. And sometimes, an art gallery is exactly the offbeat destination intended by its design.

Rarely do these two phenomena play together as though they were made for each other, but that’s what’s happening this month at Open House, a quasi-guerrilla space in a West Plaza house.

On display is an amusing and provocative project by Kansas City Art Institute graduate Paul Shortt, titled “How to Loiter” and made to encourage just that.

Wikimedia Commons

People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City doesn’t intend to inspire a revolution with their upcoming performance. They’re not even aiming for civil unrest.

No, the band’s leader, Brad Cox (piano and accordion) says they just wanted to compose a new score for a really beautiful old film, “Battleship Potemkin,” but in the band’s own style, what Cox describes as “modern freaky jazz.”

Karen Almond / KC Rep/Facebook

In his new play, Nathan Louis Jackson draws on his own life to tackle the issue of gun violence.

Brother Toad” tells the story of two men who are related but going down different paths.

“Each path ends with the decision of ‘how do I protect myself and the ones I love?’” Jackson told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Segment 1: A new play about gun violence in Kansas.

Nathan Louis Jackson's new play, "Brother Toad," is set in Wyandotte County and Johnson County. It's about two men who are going down different paths when it comes to protecting their families. Hear more about the play and about Jackson's changing views on guns.

Kansas City Civic Orchestra

When the Kansas City Civic Orchestra decided to call its first performance in Helzberg Hall – Kansas City’s premiere concert hall – its "Surround Sound" concert, they didn’t realize they would end up literally surrounded.

In keeping with Civic's 59-year mission, the tickets were free. But even so, the organization had not anticipated the fervor that ensued.

Tickets for the May 11 performance went live April 3 and sold out within a week. (The last person to sell out the hall was internationally renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.)

Alex Nivens

Stephonne Singleton has been making music for as long as he can remember, and it’s all been building up to this moment.

He’s on the verge of releasing his first solo album.

“I’m so excited!” Singleton says. “I’ve never worked harder on anything in my entire life. It’s my heart. And I get to finally share that.”

He describes his music as a marriage of Prince and Billie Holiday, and it’s got elements of grunge and folk.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Lola Loquacious slides up through the audience, sashaying a multi-colored pastel tulle skirt as she stops at a few lucky spectators to seductively pull lollipops from her bejeweled cotton-candy pink corset.

Cameo’s 1986 hit (or synth-pop monstrosity) “Candy” blares as Loquacious hits the stage. Her tulle skirt is the first to go in a swirl of ethereal fluff. She’s carrying an oversized rainbow lollipop, which she licks with deliberate, confident glances at the audience.

Courtesy of Una Walkenhorst

The artist: Una Walkenhorst

The song: No Man Like the City

The story: Four years ago, Una Walkenhorst quit her job, got in her two-door Honda Civic and kicked off on a road trip across North America for a year and a half.

The reason was simple: she wanted establish herself as a musician. But she wanted to do it on her own – without help from her father.

In her new album, "Dirty Computer," Janelle Monáe reveals more of herself than ever before. And, in recent weeks, she has been sharing more of her story, from her background in Kansas City, Kansas, to her sexuality. A look at the music, life and persona of Janelle Monáe ... and what her story means to Kansas Citians.

UMKC Theatre

The last Saturday in April was bright and warm, and the students walking around campus at the University of Missouri-Kansas City wore, along with their shorts, the confident expressions of the just-about-done. It was almost summer.

Inside the school’s Spencer Theatre, the season had already arrived, but the young people onstage were about to start something.

Cue Martha and the Vandellas: It's an invitation across the nation, a chance for folks to meet/They'll be laughing and singing, music swinging/Dancing in the street.

Jen Chen / KCUR 89.3

Dana Tippin Cutler and Keith Cutler aren’t your typical Kansas City couple. The two practicing lawyers are the hosts of “Couples Court with the Cutlers,” a reality TV show.

“(The show) combines our experience as a couple for 35 years now along with our legal experience,” Keith told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard. On the show, the Cutlers said they preside over real cases with real people in real situations. All of the featured couples have some element of alleged infidelity. 

Image from the National Register of Historic Places application.

First off, breathe easy Kansas City history buffs.

The inner sanctum of the Savoy Grill, that 1903 time-capsule of dark oak woodwork, terrazzo floor, Old West murals and Harry Truman’s Booth No. 4, returns when the $47.5 million renovation of the Savoy Hotel is completed this summer.

Yes, the adjoining dining room — a 1960s addition, by the way — is getting a contemporary upgrade, although the original columns, ceiling and floor will remain.

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. 

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