Editor’s Letter, November/December 2020

KC Studio editor Alice Thorson, photo by Mark Berndt.

As the pandemic continues, the inventiveness of artists and the resourcefulness and resilience of KC’s cultural institutions are things to celebrate.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art have reopened, with precautions in place. The Kansas City Symphony is traveling all over the metro, presenting smaller ensembles for smaller audiences, bringing free music to the people.

Throughout the fall, Lyric Opera of Kansas City has been presenting short, outdoor concerts featuring their singers performing hits from opera and musical theatre. Available through December 31 is a digital series, “Opera in Eight Parts,” featuring experts speaking about the history and development of the operatic art form. The season’s highlight is a new production including puppets by Paul Mesner of Gian Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” December 4 – 7 at the Michael and Ginger Frost Production Arts Building. (Learn more at www.kcopera.org.)

Thanks to former Lyric Opera of Kansas City Music Director Ward Holmquist, area musicians and singers have a new performance outlet in his Tech in Art podcasts. (See Arts News, page 30.)

The theater community continues to come up with innovative ways to connect with audiences. In October, Music Theatre Heritage released “On The Ocean, Beyond The Sea,” a video presentation of sea-themed songs filmed at Sea Life Aquarium. Just in time for Halloween, Kansas City Rep opened its season with “Ghost Light: A Haunted Night of Songs and Stories from KC’s Cultural Crossroads,” a series of six performances by storytellers and musicians on the South Lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Kansas City Actors Theatre turned to radio, launching Kansas City Actors Radio Theatre, a weekly program on 90.1 KKFI-FM, featuring vintage radio dramas and a new play by Forrest Attaway. (See Robert Trussell’s story on the series.)

Kansas City MeltingPot is meeting the moment with “What’s Going On,” a new digital web series, featuring conversations with actors, playwrights and other theater professionals across the nation, on the KCMPT YouTube channel. The company’s 2021 productions will highlight works by Black playwrights, including two plays by Director of New Play Development, Lewis J. Morrow.

Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre has spent the pandemic continuing its renovation of the historic Warwick Theatre and is hoping to resume live performances this spring, beginning with “Mother of the Maid.”

For a look at how the dance community is adapting to the reality of the pandemic, see this month’s Honors column focusing on dance filmmaker Elizabeth Stehling and our Artist to Watch story on flamenco dancer Melinda Hedgecorth. Readers with the urge to move themselves can join Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey’s Virtual First Friday dance classes, ranging from hip hop and jazz to Afro beat, presented on KCFAA’s Facebook Live!

The pandemic has not stopped recognition of good work. The Kansas City Chorale’s recording of Alexander Kastalsky’s Requiem, released in August, charted #1 on Billboard for “traditional classical album” the week of September 12.

Ensemble Ibérica was chosen to represent Missouri at The Kennedys Center’s Arts Across America Livestream Series.
A performance by musicians Beau Bledsoe, Amado Espinoza, John Currey, Coleen Dieker and Michael McClintock was livestreamed October 27.

The art world took notice when Kansas City ceramic artist Cary Esser, chair of Ceramics at the Kansas City Art Institute, unveiled her “Parfleche” series of rectangular reliefs in 2014. (“KC Studio” ran one on the cover of the March/April 2016 issue.) Esser’s latest body of work, the “Disclosure” series, caught the eye of Catherine Futter, former director of curatorial affairs at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which recently acquired three works from the series for the permanent collection.

Historic Kansas City’s recently released list of 2019 Preservation Award Recipients includes several projects covered in “KC Studio,” including the Kansas City Museum, which received an excellence award for Best Preservation Practices. In the category of Best Adaptive Re-Use, Rieger & Co. (Ferd. Heim Brewing Co. Bottling Plant) received an excellence award and Fire House 31 (Fire Station No 31), 4518 Troost, received an honors award. The George Ehrlich Award for an outstanding publication in preservation, history, urban design, or a related topic went to Carol Grove and Cydney Millstein’s “Hare & Hare, Landscape Architects and City Planners.”

The Kansas City arts community mourns the passing of influential African American art dealer Ron Chaney, owner of EthnicArt, (see tribute by Selina ONeal) and artist Lou Marak (1930-2020), who co-founded the Kansas City Artists Coalition with his artist wife, Philomene Bennett, in 1974. Watch for a remembrance in our January/February issue.

About The Author: Alice Thorson

Alice Thorson

Alice Thorson is the editor of KC Studio. She has written about the visual arts for numerous publications locally and nationally.

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