Open Spaces | KCUR

Open Spaces

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City's big Open Spaces arts festival last summer was supposed to be a temporary, biennial event. But seven pieces of art are still on view.

For ten weeks last August through October, Open Spaces featured visual arts as well as performing arts across the city, including 40 public art installations in Swope Park and inside and outside cultural venues such as the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

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Rather than just publishing a list of our most-read stories this year at KCUR.org, we've decided to make some observations about what a few of our most popular stories tell us about the communities we cover.

Paul Andrews

Artist and pastor Dylan Mortimer had just moved with his family from Kansas City to Brooklyn, New York, for an adventure the last time he spoke to KCUR. Mortimer, who was born with cystic fibrosis, said he had never had so much freedom of movement.

“I feel the best I’ve felt in my life,” he said in an August conversation about his installation at the Open Spaces arts festival. He was happy to be travelling, riding bikes and climbing mountains with his sons.

Segment 1: Turning a life of cystic fibrosis into art.

Last time we spoke with artist Dylan Mortimer, he was coming off of a seemingly successful lung transplant and breathing freely for the first time in his life. Now his body is rejecting those donor lungs. Hear insights into his artistic, emotional, and physical journey as he awaits a second transplant and continues to exceed his life expectancy. 

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

For 62 days this fall, Kansas City was blanketed in the arts. The citywide Open Spaces festival included 200 artists, local and national, who shared paintings, sculptures, photography, music, theatrical performances, choreographed pieces and installations of all sizes.

The first event of its kind in Kansas City, Open Spaces was intended to be a biennial event, putting the city on a larger map, for visitors from all over to see, experience and buy art.

Segment 1: Why is predicting Kansas City weather so hard?

In Kansas City, you can regularly experience three seasons in one day. We talk with local meteorologists about how different elements of Kansas City such as altitude, latitude and longitude combine to create our signature weather, once named most unpredictable among major US cities

Ted Riederer

Ted Riederer’s art makes him part of strangers’ intimate moments for three hours at a time. But he’s not so much a voyeur as a cultural witness.

He records people on vinyl, doing or saying whatever they’d like, for free. Over the years, he’s recorded amateur and professional musicians, people talking in person and over the phone, and even skateboarders riding around whatever space he's using.

The Battery Tour

Oct 17, 2018

AY Young is a local musician who's making a name for himself across the country with solar-powered, community-centered concerts. We hear the story of how he learned to rap without ever having heard rap music, and he fills us in on what to expect from his Open Spaces show this Sunday. Plus, a look at the latest episode of My Fellow Kansans.

Kevin Collison / CityScene KC

The bland exterior of the new Crossroads Hotel at 2101 Central may fool you, but once inside the historic brick shell you’ll discover and enjoy a post-industrial chic vibe that’s right out of New York’s famed SoHo District.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Trumpeter Hermon Mehari, 31, is a Missouri native, who’s now based in Paris.

In 2010, Mehari graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance where, as a student, he earned early acclaim as one of the founders of Diverse. The jazz group released two CDs, and toured the U.S. and Europe. 

Mehari released his own debut album, "Bleu," in 2017. He spoke with Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix about his career and his ties to Kansas City: 

Courtesy of Open Spaces

Pop star and actress Janelle Monae is returning to her hometown this weekend to headline the October 13 concert of the Open Spaces Festival. Monae, a graduate of Schlagle High School, talks about how being from Wyandotte County influences her music and her personal and professional aesthetic.

A photo of a man from the shoulders up.
Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: CBS News veteran on Trump's impact: "Washington is still, on a day-to-day basis, knocked off balance."

Few journalists have the depth of experience in covering presidents and presidential campaigns as Major Garrett, but even he admits covering President Donald J. Trump is a whole new playing field. Today, Garrett recalled some of the confrontations he's had with the chief executive who "just loves to be the one who is churning the waters."

Segment 1: Growing up poor in the Heartland.

Local journalist and author Sarah Smarsh has been getting a lot of national attention for her new book, Heartland. On this episode, we chat with Smarsh about the forces that shaped her Kansas childhood.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Among the many art installations in Kansas City's Open Spaces arts festival, one in Swope Park explores John Milton's "Paradise Lost." It's the Biblical story of Adam and Eve's temptation by the fallen angel Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

New Orleans, Louisiana-based artist Dawn DeDeaux admits that it’s not go-to reading for everyone. The epic poem in blank verse dates back to the 17th century.  

How Kansas City Inspires Artist Sanford Biggers

Sep 26, 2018

Sanford Biggers is not a Kansas City native, but the city's history and culture has inspired a few of his multi-media works. As a part of Open Spaces, he has another installation coming up on October 5th. We'll hear about how he's getting ready for that performance, the ways he encourages viewers to take a second look at his art, and how he found a love of painting after a run-in with the law. 

Segment 1: Recent study by KU finds gun owners are more politically active.

In the past few decades, American gun owners have become increasingly more involved in politics than non-gun owners. On this episode, we discuss the cultural shift in gun ownership and how that change influences the political climate.

Anne Kniggendorf / KCUR 89.3

What if the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 failed to detonate?

A writer and an artist ask that question at the Truman Library and Museum as part of Kansas City’s Open Spaces arts festival, which has a roomy-enough sphere of exhibitions for various thought experiments, both the viewers’ and the artists’. 

Vicki and Randy Regier

Randy Regier creates fiction with his art. Not in the sense that a painting of a scene that never took place is fiction, but in the way a teenage boy might get a kick out of placing an odd object in his house to make his mom pause.

When pressed about the mysterious item, that teenager might say, “But, Mom, the garden gnome has always been next to the coffee mugs. Don’t you remember?”

Seg. 1: Feminism In A Word. Seg. 2: Never Records

Sep 13, 2018

Segment 1: Millennials are largely for gender equality, but they aren't so crazy about the term 'feminism.' We discuss Dr. Cathy Cohen's study with her as well as with an activist and local Kansas Citians. 

Chris Lee

No one who lives in the United States today is removed from the coal industry.

Composer Julia Wolfe makes that point in the final movement of her 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio “Anthracite Fields,” listing various everyday activities that require energy — baking a cake, drilling a hole, washing clothes — energy powered, at least in part, by the coal industry.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

“You can choose to share your secrets or not share your secrets,” David Hanson tells his audiences.

For several years, Hanson has led those audiences through “immersive theater” experiences in Kansas City, and he will do so again at Open Spaces with a free performance of his play “Bird in the Hand.”

Immersive theater differs from traditional theater in that audience members are active, not passive, observers. Hanson gives the example many people are familiar with: murder mystery dinner theater, where it’s up to audience members to solve a mystery.

Segment 1: The history behind Brush Creek and where it is today.

On this episode, we find out how Brush Creek, a once natural body of water, became a dual-purpose sewage system and recreation area. Hint: it starts with Pendergast and cement.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Down a winding road in Swope Park, on the other end of a short walk through the grass, there's an old, abandoned pool where, in the days before penicillin, sick children came for hydrotherapy. In recent weeks it's been re-filled — not with water but with silk flowers, teddy bears and candles for Ebony Patterson’s art installation.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Will Kansas City's new months-long arts festival draw a crowd and make a buck?

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

There's a new sign glowing on the side of the Boone Theater at the corner of East 18th Street and Highland Avenue, next door to the Gem Theater in the 18th and Vine Historic District. "I Adore Your Every Move" is a neon work by Los Angeles artist Nikita Gale.

The work was commissioned as part of the city's new, two-month Open Spaces arts festival, which kicked off this past weekend. The sign commemorates a letter written by Charlie Parker to his common-law wife, Chan Richardson.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Kansas City artist Allan Winkler's work is full of whimsy. It's often found in unexpected places: a mural in a school cafeteria, colorful mosaics in the bathroom of a theater.

Year-round, you can see his folksy metal cutouts on permanent display at the Marlborough Community Center, and The Gathering Place is hosting a show of his work during Open Spaces.

Winkler works out of a home that was built in the 1860s. Visitors to the Westside neighborhood will recognize it from the bottles decorating the fences and kinetic sculptures hanging from trees.

Grecian-style columns wrapped in colorful banners. A sign that reads "Open Spaces" hangs below.
Kathleen Pointer / KCUR 89.3

For a while now, much of Kansas City's arts community has been abuzz about Open Spaces, the 62-day arts festival that's giving a platform to local, national and international artists. The plan, hatched nearly five years years ago by an arts commission Mayor Sly James put together, is becoming a reality this weekend.

William P. Gottlieb

Mary Lou Williams only spent a dozen years in Kansas City during its first jazz heyday, but this is where she solidified her professional reputation, gaining the respect of leaders in the field.

“Mary Lou Williams is increasingly ranked as one of the most significant and influential composers to have ever made Kansas City their home base,” says Dan Cameron, artistic director of Open Spaces.

Among the ten-week festival's opening-weekend events is a free performance of Williams’ “Zodiac Suite” by the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra in Swope Park.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City's first biennial Open Spaces launches this week. 

And, like the metropolitan area itself, Open Spaces is sprawling. It stretches 62 days, from August 25 to October 28, with more than 150 performing and visual artists.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Sculptor Jacob Burmood stood on a high ladder beneath a large elm tree. The sound of his buffing tool mingled with the late-afternoon chorus of cicadas at his rural, open-air studio in Ottawa, Kansas.

“This tree is really my studio,” Burmood said. “It’s really peaceful and I love the cicadas. That’s my music.”

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