Kauffman Center Invites Guests to New Dining Experience

** The pre-performance Dining Experience, led by Executive Chef Philippe Lechevin, offers innovative cuisine to guests just steps away from their seats.**

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts’ new Dining Experience invites patrons and visitors to indulge in one of four gourmet meal combinations freshly prepared and served fresco style in the comfortable and sophisticated Founders’ Lounge at the Kauffman Center.

EmailImage_TheDiningExperience1Available prior to all performances, the Kauffman Center and Executive Chef Philippe Lechevin have crafted an exclusive modern-American dining option featuring exquisite yet casual epicurean cuisine.

“The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, in partnership with Bonterra Catering and Events, created the all-new Dining Experience as a direct response to the requests of our patrons to provide a high quality, pre-show dining option conveniently located just steps away from their seats,” stated Paul J. Schofer, President & CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The pre-performance Dining Experience, with innovative cuisine crafted by Executive Chef Philippe Lechevin, incorporates fresh ingredients in a unique artisan culinary design. Seasonal menus will highlight local flavors and meal selections will satisfy all appetites and diets.

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and Bonterra Catering joined with local creative organizations Icon Architects and the Belger Arts Center to design a one-of-a-kind serving vessel, the Marquee box, to further enhance the Dining Experience.  This artisanal Marquee box, inspired by the iconic architecture of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, is a modern American take on the traditional Japanese bento box.  Originally suggesting convenience, the bento box became a sophisticated art form for dining and a beautiful canvas for the delicacies served before and between Japanese theater scenes.

The Dining Experience is by reservation only. Reservations can be made up to 48 hours in advance of performances online at kauffmancenter.org or by calling 816.994.7222. Available prior to all performances, the pre-fixed menu is $40 per meal inclusive of a cold, non-alcoholic beverage. Taxes, gratuity, alcoholic beverages and dessert are separate.

Philippe Lechevin holds the position of Bonterra Catering and Events’ Executive Chef at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The Dining Experience cuisine, crafted by Executive Chef Philippe Lechevin at the Kauffman Center, incorporates fresh, seasonal and local ingredients in a unique artisanal culinary design.

Lechevin approaches life with enthusiasm and abundant energy, and believes that the best way to enjoy life is through food. Infusing his cuisine with culinary influences from around the world, Lechevin grew up in Vittel, France, where food is the focus of social and family events. He spent many meals with his Grandmother Madeleine and Grandfather Michel while his parents worked in the family business. His extensive travels instilled an appreciation of other cultures and unique cuisines. He entered cooking school in France and then completed his compulsory military duty in Gualeloupe, in the French West Indies. He then traveled extensively throughout Brazil. Afterward, Lechevin headed to the French Riviera, where he worked with top French chefs while at the Gray D’Albion restaurant, then the Le Meridien and Beau Rivage hotels in Cannes and Nice. Lechevin did not speak a word of English at the time, but accepted a sous chef position at a new restaurant in Washington D.C. named Les Halles. He quickly learned how to speak English from his kitchen crew in D.C. and helped build the restaurant into a well-regarded casual French dinner destination on Pennsylvania Avenue. Lechevin was then asked to move to Les Halles in New York City.

In 2011, Julia Irene Kauffman selected Lechevin to join the team at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts as Executive Chef.

More information on the Dining Experience is available at www.kauffmancenter.org/dining and additional information including events and tickets may be found at www.kauffmancenter.org.

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Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection Comes to Truman Library

By Kellie Houx

Serpent, circa 1860 Designer unknown Photography: John Bigelow Taylor

Serpent, circa 1860 Designer unknown Photography: John Bigelow Taylor

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has traversed the globe with a wink, a smile, a razor-edged wit, an even sharper intelligence to talk to world leaders all while wearing small pieces of wearable art. In the beginning, Albright’s pins were merely accessories, but after her 1994 tag by the Saddam Hussein’s government-controlled press called her an “unparalleled serpent.” At this time, she was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. At her next meeting on the subject of Iraq, Albright wore a golden snake brooch, beginning a career-long practice of using jewelry to convey and reinforce diplomatic messages.

During her career in public service, Albright famously used her jewelry to communicate diplomatic messages. Now through February 22, the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum presents the exhibition Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection, which reveals an intriguing story of American history and foreign policy as told through more than 200 of Dr. Albright’s jeweled pins collected or gifted to her over about 20 years.

The Dr. Madeleine Albright exhibition at the Truman Library.

The Dr. Madeleine Albright exhibition at the Truman Library.

“It was a game for the most part in selecting the pins,” she says. “It would depend on the situation. When we were seeking support, I would wear lots of American flags and eagles. I suppose with some, there was forethought.” Eventually staffers and other dignitaries could quickly gauge Albright’s mood, depending on the pin of the day. If it happened to be butterflies, conversations and the like would be cheery. However, if the pin was an insect, negotiations and other talks might be a bit grave.

Lion, 1968. Designer: Kenneth Jay Lane Photographer: John Bigelow Taylor

Lion, 1968. Designer: Kenneth Jay Lane Photographer: John Bigelow Taylor

Visitors immediately see the serpent pin, the blue bird pin that she used in helping condemn the actions of four Cuban-Americans shot down off the coast of Florida and the antique eagle brooch she wore when she was sworn in as Secretary of State. As a matter of fact, her first trip as Secretary of State was to Texas and she was greeted by President George H.W. Bush. “He was famous for ‘Read my lips.’ I began urging colleagues and reporters to ‘Read my pins.’ It stuck and also resonates with my sense of humor.” The pins are also educational. “They are a place to start a discussion about what the U.S. role is within this world. We live in an interdependent world and we can talk about what role the United States should play. We are an indispensable nation in the definition that we need to be engaged. It is simply necessary.”

Some of the outstanding pins include Breaking the Glass Ceiling by Vivian Shimoyama, fitting for the first woman to hold the job of Secretary of State. There are turtle pins that she wore during Mideast peace talks. “Turtles are slow and deliberate creatures, much like the talks,” she explains.

One pin she wishes she had back from the collection is called Ode to U.S. Armed Forces by Mina Lyles. The pin is a composition of emblems representing the various armed forces. “I have spent many hours with veterans and I know this piece would help express my way to honor them even more. I have been to Walter Reed Hospital many times, including many visits to the MusiCorps program.”

Writer and editor Kellie Houx with former Secretary of State Dr. Madeleine Albright.

Writer and editor Kellie Houx with former Secretary of State Dr. Madeleine Albright.

She’s also got many jazz instrument pins. “Sometimes I wear many of them together … it’s a jazz band on the jacket. I love jazz. I am a supporter of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. Colin Powell and I served as the co-chairs for the institute’s 20th anniversary. The institute also sends out musical ambassadors around the world.” In 2012, the 25th annual Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition and “Women, Music and Diplomacy” All-Star Gala Concert honored Albright with the Institute’s 2012 Maria Fisher Founder’s Award. In the spirit of the evening, Albright took her place behind the drums and performed a moving rendition of Nessun Dorma with Chris Botti and George Duke.

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Musical Theater Heritage Signs Lease at Crown Center

Musical Theater Heritage (MTH)MTH at Crown Center, the Kansas City professional theater company specializing in Musical Theater productions, has signed an exclusive lease to occupy the 243-seat Off Center Theatre on Level 3 of the Crown Center Shops.  MTH, with its large casts and live music has become a local theater favorite for its intimate and engaging concert-style productions of book musicals, and cabaret shows.

MTH began in 1998 with the A Night on the Town Radio Series, a nationally syndicated radio program of vintage Broadway. MTH started producing musicals on local stages in 2003. Since 2008, all performances have been at Crown Center’s Off Center Theatre.

“We rented the Off Center Theatre on an ‘as-needed’ basis, as did several other local companies,” says George Harter, MTH Executive Director. “This move transforms MTH from a somewhat nomadic existence to a professional company with its very own theater.”

The Off Center Theatre will be renamed MUSICAL THEATER HERITAGE at CROWN CENTER. MTH will continue to offer the space for lease to other theater groups. In addition, the adjacent cinemas will be available through MTH for video presentations, seminars, meetings and other uses.

“We’ve enjoyed a tremendous relationship with MTH for many years,” says Zahid Nana, Crown Center’s Vice President of Marketing and Hospitality. “It’s been exciting to watch them grow, and we’re looking forward to the wonderful entertainment they’ll continue to bring to Crown Center.”

Productions scheduled at the new Musical Theater Heritage in 2015 include: Guys and Dolls; Jesus Christ Superstar; Urinetown; and Wouldn’t It Be Loverly a Lerner & Loewe revue, as well as Musical Mondays & Tuesdays, Too and A Night on the Town performance series of cabaret programs featuring local vocalists. Also in the works, the “A Night on the Town Lounge” where patrons can gather at the theater and enjoy cocktails as Harter presents A Night on the Town – his weekly radio program on musical theater.

Harter credits the hard work, loyalty and artistic excellence of many people for MTH’s success.  Chad Gerlt, has been on board since 2003 as a producer, fundraiser and has cultivated and built MTH’s audience through strategic promotions and marketing; Sarah Crawford, responsible for casting and directing large-scale book musicals in a unique way that provides the audience with a intimate and heightened theater experience; and Tim Scott, who has developed the Musical Monday series into a high energy, unpredictable, fun and sold-out event.

“We are quite ready for this giant step,” Harter says. “MTH provided employment for 289 actors, singers and theater technicians in 2014. We brought 11,500 people to Crown Center to see our productions. Having a permanent home is the only way we could continue our phenomenal growth.”

The MTH staff will include:
George Harter, Executive Director
Chad Gerlt, Executive Producer
Sarah Crawford, Artistic Director (Director/ Music Director, book musicals)
Tim Scott, Curator Musical Monday / Digital Media Manager
Jeremy Watson, Music Supervisor
Cindy Ross, Box Office/Book Keeping

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Liberty Arts Squared Festival Seeks Artists

Liberty Arts SquaredThe 6th Annual Liberty Arts Squared Festival is now accepting applications from visual and literary artists to participate in the two-day arts festival, June 5 -6.

The festival will begin with an evening of fine visual arts and crafts booths and headlining musical entertainment in historic downtown Liberty on Friday evening, June 5. Saturday, June 6, will feature a full range of exhibits and activities with live music, interactive and children’s activities, visual arts and fine crafts, and a chalk art contest.

Entries are juried and merit cash awards are given in the visual and folk arts and crafts, with a Best Overall Festival Exhibit, Best Individual Fine Visual Exhibit, Best Individual Fine Crafts Exhibit, among others. Judging will take place on Friday evening, June 6. More than $3,000 in prizes will be awarded.

Information about the festival can be found at www.LibertyArtsSquared.org. Fine artists must apply through www.zapplication.com. To be included in festival print materials, application must be accepted by May 1. BOMH members who have not applied before receive $10 off their application fees.

For more information about the festival or application process, please visit www.zapplication.com or send an e-mail to staff@libertyartssquared.org.

The festival, presented by The Liberty Arts Commission and Historic Downtown Liberty, Inc. Liberty, Mo., is located 20 minutes northeast of downtown Kansas City on I-35.

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Songwriting Contest Aims to Build Harmony

Submissions sought for Songwriting Contest about tolerance and acceptance

Competition part of April SevenDays events

Music is a universal language bridging barriers and building harmony among disparate groups of people.

Faith, love & SongTwo Kansas City area foundations are to build harmony from hatred – RRACE (Racial and Religious Acceptance and Cultural Equality) and Faith Always Wins. The nonprofit organizations are conducting a songwriting contest seeking compositions that address the subject of racial, religious, and/or cultural equality and acceptance. Songwriters ages 14-21 are invited to submit original works now through Feb. 28, 2015 for the first Faith, Love & Song competition. Winners will be announced at the SevenDays Celebration taking place in April 2015.

Following the tragic events that took place in April 2014 at the Jewish Community Campus and Village Shalom, RRACE and Faith Always Wins were established to create something positive from the evil that occurred. This song competition is aimed at promoting understanding, tolerance and acceptance through the arts.

“Music is healing. It can bridge the gap between religions and race. Together, as a community, we can overcome evil, when we join hands and voices to make GOOD louder. My father and Reat each had a love of music and this songwriting competition adds meaning to how they lived their lives,” said Mindy Corporon, whose son Reat Griffin Underwood and father Dr. William Corporon were killed outside of the JCC on April 13, 2014. The third victim, Terri LaManno, was gunned down outside of Village Shalom. The Corporon family established the Faith Always Wins and the Reat Griffin Underwood Memorial Foundationto engage others in a dialogue that will encourage Faith and the good that is in the world.

“We are doctors. We believe in healing and not in killing. Our mission is simple. We ask all, regardless of racial, religious, or cultural differences, to join our cause: cherish life, become a healer,” said Drs. Ekkehard and Sieglinde Othmer, who established RRACE after learning about the April 13 shootings. RRACE hopes to promote understanding and acceptance through the arts, starting with this songwriting competition.

The purpose of the songwriting contest is to promote acceptance and diversity. Contestants may submit an unlimited number of compositions for consideration, but they must be original works. Songwriters may also work together. For complete contest details, please visit www.faithalwayswins.org.

A panel of judges from the music and entertainment industry will choose up to 10 finalists who will be notified by March 15. The public will ultimately choose the three winning compositions through “likes” on YouTube. Judges’ scores plus the number of likes posted on the YouTube version of each song will determine the three winners. Voting will take place March 29 – April 4.

The composers of the top three winning compositions will receive scholarships in the amounts of $5,000 for First Place, $2,500 for Second Place and $1,000 for Third Place. The compositions will be performed as part of the April SevenDays events.

The songwriting competition is co-sponsored by: RRACE, Reat Underwood Memorial Fund, Faith Always Wins, the LaManno Family, Morgan Family, Herbert and Bonnie Buchbinder, KC SuperStar, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, Village Shalom, and the Church of Resurrection.

For more information on the songwriting contest, e-mail Tammy Ruder, producer, at Truder@harvestproductions.com.

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The Business of “Doing Good”

The Annual Benefit Gala is the year’s largest fundraiser for Starlight Theatre. Last May, Gala attendees shared in pre-dinner festivities on Starlight’s Cohen Community Stage.

The Annual Benefit Gala is the year’s largest fundraiser for Starlight Theatre. Last May, Gala attendees shared in pre-dinner festivities on Starlight’s Cohen Community Stage.

What sort of guidance does a nonprofit need when it comes to receiving gifts and investing assets? Amy Pieper is director of nonprofit services at The Commerce Trust Company, a division of Commerce Bank. Pieper says most nonprofits need help “establishing proper guidelines that provide a road map describing how donor gifts are accepted, how the investments should be managed and how the funds can be used. These guidelines provide a strong foundation that helps board members ensure that the assets are working to further their mission, both now and in the future.”

In addition to an investment policy statement, many boards develop a gift acceptance policy that provides guidance for all types of assets received including cash, marketable securities, and unique assets such as real estate, pieces of art or personal property. These policies state whether the board must pre-approve the acceptance of assets, procedures for pre-acceptance and the policy for retention or sale of the gifted assets once they are received. This is often a good time to define what types of donor restrictions may be placed on the funds as well. Pieper says a “well-defined gift acceptance policy will take care of the majority of the situations that may arise.”

A gift acceptance policy is a helpful document to have in place as the economy improves and donors give more. Fortunately, national giving statistics over the last four years indicate that giving has increased with improvements in the overall economy. According to Pieper, the donors driving this growth are savvy. She says, “They want to make sure their donations are making an impact. Commerce Trust can help organizations be good stewards of assets thereby helping donors feel good about making a major gift.” Major gifts can come through trusts or other planned giving techniques. Nonprofits can look to organizations like Commerce Trust to provide donor education seminars and information to assist with planned giving programs and opportunities.

Pieper says the bottom line is “to find an investment consultant who has experience working directly with nonprofits and their boards through all market cycles.” An experienced professional can help create and implement an investment plan customized for your organization. “Beyond investments, you want someone who can provide additional support or resources to assist with both board and donor education resources,” according to Pieper. Once the appropriate guidelines are in place, they will provide continuity when the board experiences turnover and guidance throughout different market cycles.

The performers cast as members of the Von Trapp family practiced their choreography during summer 2014 rehearsals for The Sound of Music at Starlight Theatre. Each summer Starlight self-produces at least one of the productions on its Broadway season schedule.

The performers cast as members of the Von Trapp family practiced their choreography during summer 2014 rehearsals for The Sound of Music at Starlight Theatre. Each summer Starlight self-produces at least one of the productions on its Broadway season schedule.

As an example, Starlight Theatre started working with Commerce Trust during the 2003 Future Generations Campaign. The campaign raised $15.7 million for renovations and additions to restrooms and other operational structural needs.  “We have never had an endowment,” says Brenda Mortensen, Starlight vice president of finance. “As part of that campaign, we wanted to set aside $2.5 million to begin the endowment. We reached out to Commerce Trust to help us with investment and giving policies. They helped us draft policies which included delineating roles for the board of directors and the investment committee, which in Starlight’s case is the finance committee.”

Mortensen meets with Commerce Trust staff quarterly and the full committee meets annually. “Our policy is structured to build and retain capital. The interest from the endowment supports operations, but the key is to have a rainy day fund so we can ensure Starlight’s future. Starlight is an integral part of Kansas City, and we want to be here in the future.”

Starlight works to protect contributions. “When donors invest their dollars, they are making a difference. It is mission critical that they understand how their gifts are spent. We are extremely conscious of good financial choices. Commerce Trust is a pivotal partner for us in helping with the endowment management. They not only manage trusts but they are intrinsically involved in candid conversations that have guided our policies, evaluating risks and helping protect the funds that allow us achieve our objectives.”

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Kids Sought to Participate in Valentine’s Day Poetry Contest

Laura Conyers Smith Municipal Rose Garden. Photo courtesy of KC Parks Department.

Laura Conyers Smith Municipal Rose Garden. Photo courtesy of KC Parks Department.

A Rose is a Rose: 2015 Valentine’s Day Poetry Contest … Think about the beautiful roses in the historic Laura Conyers Smith Municipal Rose Garden in Loose Park inspire your child/student to write an original Valentine poem! Submissions are to be postmarked by February 14, 2015.

How to write: Each original poem MUST include the word “rose” at least once. The poem must be typed or legibly hand-written on 8 1/2 x 11- inch paper with the child’s name, school, grade, and city.  Parent phone number and email address should be on the back side of the paper.  (Be sure to keep a copy for your child!)

Who can enter: All children in the greater KC area in grades 3 through 8.  Only one entry per child, please.  Winners will be chosen in three categories: grades 3 and 4, grades 5 and 6, and grades 7 and 8.

How to submit:   Mail poems to KCRS Poetry Contest, Loose Park Garden Center, 5200 Pennsylvania, KC, MO  64112.  Entries must be postmarked by February 14, 2015.

Winners:   There will be one winner for each category.  Each winner will receive a cash prize of $50 and a certificate of achievement signed by Mayor Sly James, KC Parks Director Mark McHenry, and KCRS President JoAnn Stultz.  Winning poems will be published on the KCRS website on February 28.

Judges:  Poet Alarie Tennille, author of Running Counterclockwise and poet Al Ortolani, author of Waving Mustard in Surrender.

For more information please go to www.kansascityrosesociety.org or contact Arlyn Silvey at  816-803-5653.

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New Year, New You …

Local Senior Communities Make Sure Residents Keep Experiencing Fun Activities

It’s a new year which means taking a new start to become a better and more fulfilled individual. Most people make resolutions to eat better or exercise. For seniors looking to make some changes, choosing a new home might be on the resolution list.

Mendi Hanna, director of marketing and development at Bishop Spencer Place, says moving into a senior community can meet many New Year’s resolutions such as finding socialization such as sharing a meal with someone, taking a physical fitness class like yoga or an art class. “We offer freedom from maintenance and with that, folks find their time is theirs again. You might just find a new you. A lot of doors will open. There are fun outings and museum to visit. It is a new beginning.”

Valerie Doran Bashaw teaches art classes at Bishop Spencer Place. Photo by Mark Berndt.

Valerie Doran Bashaw teaches art classes at Bishop Spencer Place. Photo by Mark Berndt.

Valerie Doran Bashaw has been teaching art classes for six years at Bishop Spencer Place. She studied art at the Kansas City Art Institute and University of Michigan. “While I have my own art in mixed media and fiber art, I love to explore art and teach, but I don’t have a set curriculum. I allow each person to work in whatever medium or whatever they want to use. I have folders of landscapes and animal idea I have some that enjoy painting still lifes. I have two talented women who are great at figure drawings. I allow them to explore what they want.”

Art classes at Bishop Spencer Place meet the residents where they are. Photo by Mark Berndt.

Art classes at Bishop Spencer Place meet the residents where they are. Photo by Mark Berndt.

Bashaw’s weekly classes range from five to eight students. “It’s the highlight of my week every week. They have become like family. I take them at wherever they are. Some have dabbled in art and others are reconnecting with their skills. We tell jokes and listen to classic music; I try to create a positive environment.”

She hopes the art class gives residents a focus. “It”s not about me. The residents are my teachers. I like to know that I am part of helping keep their minds active. We laugh a lot and that’s about as good as

Telling a story through art. Photo by Mark Berndt.

Telling a story through art. Photo by Mark Berndt.

anything in the class.” Bashaw wants to have an art show in early 2015. “We have had shows off and on and even some solo artists have had fun. I am constantly showing off what the residents create. I am a proud teacher.”

At Lakeview Village in Lenexa, Kan., there are some activities that lend themselves to quieter ventures. Then there are those who go skydiving. Just last year, Lakeview Village residents took up skydiving to raise funds for Lakeview Village’s Good Samaritan Fund, which was established to support residents who can no longer afford the full cost of their care through no fault of their own.

One of the benefits to senior living communities is that most people who move into the communities live longer, which also means they sometimes run short of financial resources. The Lakeview Village community raises money throughout the year to make sure that no one loses their home because they can no longer afford the full cost. There’s no better way to show off their lust for life, and youthful pride in their community than to skydive for the best cause—helping their neighbors.

For those who wanted to keep their feet on the ground, a group took an adventure to Deanna Rose Farmstead. The Deanna Rose Farmstead depicts a turn-of-the-century family farm and features more than 200 animals and birds, flower and vegetable gardens, a one-room country schoolhouse, and an old-time fishing hole.

Cedar Lake Village in Olathe, Kan., is another community that has a continuum of care where seniors can live in villas, apartments and then in assisted care. “We have experiences that anyone will enjoy,” explains Kelsie Tryon, marketing director. “We have a photography club that just started in December. There’s the Sew and Sews who get together to sew and chat. We have a prayer shawl ministry. Then the health activities such as aquacize and yoga. There’s strength and stretching. Residents can even participate in an acting club.”

Art supplies. Photo by Mark Berndt.

Art supplies. Photo by Mark Berndt.

When the weather improves, residents fish or take walks. “They can take day trips and we team with the Johnson County Parks & Recreation to offer even more excursions.”

Tryon says that residents also participate within the Good Samaritan Society theme of social accountability. “We can help residents find community service. We have a resident who drives to Gardner to serve as a crossing guard twice a day. … We have new resident lunches and talk about the community. Community can be about getting involved and they are doing good for someone else. A lot of our activities are resident-generated and led. We want our residents to see that within our community, their life is rich.”

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A Creative Transition

Artists and Community Engagement Are Revitalizing the West Bottoms

By Christel Highland

Artist Theaster Gates, founder of Rebuild Foundation and Director of Arts and Public Life at University of Chicago, believes in creatively-driven solutions to community challenges. According to the organization’s website, “Rebuild Foundation catalyzes neighborhood revitalization through artistic practices, individual empowerment and community engagement.” The efforts of the Rebuild Foundation rest on the shoulders of those who promote creative efforts, utilizing space with arts and cultural programming, providing place for community conversation and a point of origin for action, empowering artists and change agents by investing in skill development.

Photo by Kelly Conner

Photo by Kelly Conner

These changes are already happening in the Stockyards and West Bottoms ­­- an area larger than Downtown Kansas City – much like it did in the Crossroads Arts District. “There are a lot of organizations supporting the growth of the arts here. We love Kansas City,” says Cambria Potter, director and curator of the 50/50 Project.

The 50/50 arts project is a two-year multi-use arts platform. Four young artists, with Charlotte Street Rocket Grant funding, as well as a successful Kickstarter campaign, in cooperation with property owners and the Kansas

City Design Center will be energizing an otherwise empty lot at the foot of the Kemper Arena property. Hanna Lodwick, 50/50 curator says of their mission, “Our whole purpose is to activate unused urban space.” Keep up with their exhibition schedule and progress here: 5050kc.com.

A First Friday opening created by arts group PLUG PROJECTS.

A First Friday opening created by arts group PLUG PROJECTS. Photo by Mark Berndt.

Another community arts initiative in the area is Plug Projects, located at 1613 Genessee. In addition to encouraging the development of arts dialogue through the exhibition of challenging work in the Stockyards District, the collective also shows Kansas City-based works to other regions, thereby contextualizing artists in a broader manner. The group explained, “PLUG Projects chose the Stockyard District because of the great neighbors and affordable rent. The owners have been very accommodating. They worked with us to turn what was pretty much a storage space into a great gallery space.” Critique night, a film series, and an art writing platform titled 8 1/2 x 11 are all manners in which this group has been supporting the development of artists in Kansas City since 2011. Open to the public Saturdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m., with their third Friday opening in January featuring the work of Jillian Mayer. The show will be on view Jan.16 – Feb. 21.

Providing a home for Haw Contemporary and Bill Brady Galleries, the area has also been an important place for more traditional art commerce. Of his new foray into the business of creativity after acquiring the space formerly known to art lovers as the Dolphin, restructuring and renaming it, Bill Haw, Jr. says, “This (Haw Contemporary) is something

Bill Haw Sr. owns the Livestock Exchange Building and 48 acres around the district. Plans include adding residential development. Photo by Mark Berndt.

Bill Haw Sr. owns the Livestock Exchange Building and 48 acres around the district. Plans include adding residential development. Photo by Mark Berndt.

we really, really like having down here. This has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done. Fifteen months ago I didn’t realize the ancillary benefits.” The Haw family, without a doubt, has a vested interest in the invigoration of the Stockyards District in particular with large landholdings as well as properties such as the restored Livestock Exchange building, which is filled with business tenants and includes an entire floor devoted to artist studios. Haw’s father, Bill Haw Sr., owns the Livestock Exchange Building and the 48 acres surrounding it in the Stockyards District. Some of his plans are to add residential development.

When entering into a conversation about supporting regional artists, perhaps former Director of Crystal Bridges Don Bacigalupi summarized it best during his 2014 TEDX appearance at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts: “Pay more attention to the artists that live and work among us. We can all learn a great deal from their inspiration, from their insights, from these important and compelling stories, because after all, they’re our story.”

Artist Douglas Schwietert in his Hobbs Building studio. Photo by Mark Berndt.

Artist Douglas Schwietert in his Hobbs Building studio. Photo by Mark Berndt.

The Hobbs Building 1427 W. 9th, a recognized anchor in the northern West Bottoms region, is a well-known place for housing art-making and creative growth. Adam Jones, West Bottoms property owner Adam Jones comments, “The Hobbs building has been financially redefined as an art and creative building, which is defined as ‘highest and best’ use and that doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t fake it. A great example of that is the Bauer building in the Crossroads. I believe we have a great opportunity to allow creativity to drive the future best use of that area.”

The Hobbs open studios take place bi-annually on the second weekend in April and October. In addition to the Hobbs, Jones has encouraged other creative business to use the nearby Foundation, a multi-purpose building where weddings and other events can take place, and The Ship, a 1930s cocktail lounge. There is also commerce with a vintage and antique collectible scene.

From where art activity reigns, creative commerce springs. A wide variety of restaurants and service-related business have settled nicely into the area. A visitor to the area can have an authentic Americana diner style meal at the Woodsweather Cafe across from the Hobbs at 1414 W. 9th, lunch at The Genessee Royale across from the Livestock Exchange at 1531 Genessee St., or have a meal with a global flair at Voltaire, located at 1617 Genessee St.

The district is ripe for renovations.

The district is ripe for renovations.

It seems the future of the West Bottoms & Stockyards districts is only limited by one’s imagination. Of urban design in general, and the responsibility involves all citizens, and the Kemper Arena conversation, Vincent Gauthier, director of planning at BNIM says, “Cities, as they evolve, almost always, the most valuable assets are in the urban core. Your core is where you have the most valuable property. I don’t think anyone has dedicated the resources to figure out what that site is.” Regarding Kemper Arena, Gauthier says, “There are good alternatives to demolition.” The city did not offer any comments about plans.

Vladimir Krstic, director, Kansas City Design Center led a two-year analysis (2010/11), two-book publication, scale-model, and proposal all designed by students for the greater West Bottoms and Stockyards district. This project included an analysis of the river bed changes throughout history and a proposed green thoroughfare utilizing the protected understructure of I-70, among the proposals. Krstic says, “Urban design is no longer about beautification, it is really about addressing infrastructure and aesthetic issues. We have a tremendous responsibility to solve problems.” Read the in-depth analysis and proposal at kcdesigncenter.org/publications

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performARTS presents The Olathe Civic Theatre Association

For the past 40 years, the Olathe Civic Theatre Association (formerly the Olathe Community Theatre Association) has been an example of fortitude. The next 40 will be more than just strength, but a concerted effort to let everyone in the Kansas City metropolitan area know that Community Theater can be stellar.

Diary of Anne Frank. Photo courtesy of OCTA.

Diary of Anne Frank. Photo courtesy of OCTA.

First, the group does not shy away from “community.” It is that volunteer community that has helped raise the bar year after year. “We are an all-volunteer organization from the board and staff to the actors and crew. We have offered up more than 200 shows in the last four years and thousands have participated in the shows,” says Peter Leondedis, Board vice-president and occasional actor. “We stage five shows each season from musicals to comedies and dramas.”

39 Steps. Photo courtesy of OCTA.

39 Steps. Photo courtesy of OCTA.

The theater company practiced a more vagabond spirit early on until July 1977 when OCTA purchased the Reformed Presbyterian Church, built in 1870. About four months after the purchase and shortly after the first production of Arsenic and Old Lace in the newly-christened Buddy Rogers Playhouse, the Fire Marshall closed the building for 22 code violations. The building remained closed until November 1980 when it reopened after extensive renovation. Then vandals set fire to the basement and the damage hit the lobby and some of the stained glass windows. The theater crew bounced back and opened in 1983. Since 1980, the original church pews were replaced with theater seats, the lighting and sound systems have been upgraded, the parking lot paved, and the basement remodeled with task lighting and additional restrooms. Further capital improvements included adding air conditioning in 1990, allowing year-round productions, and a new roof in 1999.

“Right now, we are in a current campaign to update the stage lights to more efficient and versatile LEDs,” Leondedis says. OCTA Board President Ted Collins says the volunteer board sets the theater direction, but it’s not uncommon to find them cleaning the theater too. “The joy is that as volunteers, we fill the voids or serve in a capacity that is needed, plus we have a great volunteer coordinator in Rebekah Grieb.”

Shelly Stewart Banks often directs at the theater. She is in charge of the Buddy Awards, the annual presentation to honor those who are part of various shows in front of and behind the scenes. “We are the sort of organization where the volunteers take ownership in all that we do.” Banks also applauds the board members and their longevity to the organization. She will direct Schoolhouse Rock Live to open the 2015 season.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile. Photo courtesy of OCTA.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile. Photo courtesy of OCTA.

In mid-February (Feb. 13 – March 1), the theater offers up The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!). The satire looks at what five composers or composing teams would do with the same basic tale: June is an ingénue who can’t pay the rent and is threatened by her evil landlord. Will the handsome leading man come to the rescue? The variations are: a Rodgers & Hammerstein version, set in Kansas in August, complete with a dream ballet; a Sondheim version, featuring the landlord as a tortured artistic genius who slashes the throats of his tenants in revenge for not appreciating his work; a Jerry Herman version, as a splashy star vehicle; an Andrew Lloyd Webber version, a rock musical with themes borrowed from Puccini; and a Kander & Ebb version, set in a speakeasy in Chicago.

Leondedis says an additional strength lies in the selection of the season. “We let the vast community of directors offer up their suggestions for plays or musicals they want to direct. We ask them for their passion and vision for the theater and in doing so, we produce good shows.” Nino Casisi directs The Musical of Musicals and Darren Sextro will direct God of Carnage which runs April 10-26. Leondedis is elated with God of Carnage in the hands of Sextro. “Darren’s artistry and the intimacy of this theater will serve the play well.”

The season ends in June (June 6-21) with The Summerland Project by Rob Merritt and directed by Patrick Poe. This Kansas City premiere fits with the expanding nature of the Olathe Civic Theatre Association, Collins says. “The play is new and I am excited to bring it to OCTA for its Kansas City Premiere with a new director. The talk-backs with the playwright should be extremely interesting.” The play looks at modern medicine, ethics and a possible future as a police officer has the chance to place his wife’s consciousness in an artificial body.

The 41st season has already been announced. Along with Schoolhouse Rock Live, there are several cutting-edge shows including the musical Dogfight and the Tom Stoppard play Arcadia. Banks says she is thrilled with Dogfight, a new musical.

Christmas Belles. Photo courtesy of OCTA.

Christmas Belles. Photo courtesy of OCTA.

“Seasons are often a mixed bag. However, within that eclectic mix, we are sure to stumble on a play or musical that someone will like.” Leondedis added. “We know there are those who clamor for musicals and we love to offer those. Our audiences are as varied as the shows we present. However, good quality is a common thread that runs through them all.” Of late, Collins says the theater is making a concerted effort to add more female roles into the diversity. We’ve stretched our actors and our audience with strong female shows like A Piece of My Heart, a play about nurses during the Vietnam conflict,” he commented. “Audiences were especially moved by talk-back sessions with nurses who served in the war.”

Banks explains the stigma that community theater faces. “Some think community theater is full of sitcom-style shows, but for many, including The Barn Players, the White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center and us, we are expanding our efforts. The fundamental thing is that we do this strictly for love. We have to be inventive with our resources in order to make shows happen. The budgets may be small, but there is tremendous creativity.” Leondedis added that the volunteers and the “whatever it takes” mentality keeps the community theater thriving.

“Plays need us,” Banks says. “We have to support our plays. People are doing their best work and often these shows are the ones that go unnoticed.” Collins explains, “People come here and see heart in the shows. They are entertained whether we do a musical, comedy or drama.”

As for the future, Collins wants the theater to be around for another 40 years. “As arts programs change, we might be one of those key places to give younger people an outlet to explore art. As part of the Olathe community, we need to stand firm in supporting the development of the arts. It’s an impact that can be tremendous.”

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Himmel and Holle: Marsden Hartley Painting on Loan Encourages Inspection of WWI Art

By Nan Chisholm

Marsden Hartley, Himmel, ca. 1914-1915, Oil on canvas. Gift of the Friends of Art.

Marsden Hartley, Himmel, ca. 1914-1915, Oil on canvas. Gift of the Friends of Art.

It is always a pleasure to run into an old friend when one is out of town. Such was the case at the Los Angeles County Art Museum where I recognized Himmel, a work loaned by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for the exhibition, Marsden Hartley: The German Paintings, 1913-1915.  This exhibit commemorates the 100th anniversary of World War I, as well re-examines a group of paintings often considered to be Hartley’s best works.

Hartley studied art in Ohio and New York but was unable to make his way to Europe until the age of 35. In Paris, he met avant-garde artists and writers; the German artist Arnold Ronnebeck and his cousin Carl Von Freyburg, a Prussian soldier, also befriended him.  His subsequent infatuation with Von Freyburg and love for Germany inspired him to visit Berlin twice in 1913 and again in 1914 and 1915.   Only a few months after war was declared in 1914, Von Freyburg was killed in battle.

Marsden Hartley aboard a ship to Europe, 1912. Image courtesy of Marsden Hartley Collection.

Marsden Hartley aboard a ship to Europe, 1912. Image courtesy of Marsden Hartley Collection.

The artist began to paint a series of works as a memorial to Von Freyburg, utilizing symbols and objects as a means of representing an individual rather than painting a conventional portrait.  A kaleidoscope-like arrangement of images borrowed from military insignia, Native American design, and an officer on horseback together with the carefully inscribed words himmel (heaven) and holle (hell) practically vibrate off the canvas of Himmel.  Hartley first saw Native American art while in Germany and greatly admired it; his brightly colored palette is likely borrowed from American Indian design.  The artist successfully synthesized the influence of European modernists and other sources, making work uniquely his own.

Georgia O’Keeffe once compared Marsden Hartley’s work to a “brass band in a closet.”  Certainly the power and impact of his German paintings have not dimmed in the hundred years since their creation.

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