Editor’s Letter, November/December 2023

KC Studio editor Alice Thorson, photo by Mark Berndt.

The world is so full of a number of things
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

— Robert Louis Stevenson

Imprinted in childhood memory, that short poem jumped to mind as I reviewed some of the superb cultural offerings in Kansas City this fall, including the final concert in newEar’s 30th anniversary series by pianist Charles Dickinson of contemporary piano etudes at Unitarian Universalist Church, and the Goldenberg Duo’s always inspiring fall concert, presented at multiple venues, of curated short works for violin and piano by international composers.

And then there was Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company’s stirring and endlessly inventive fall program at UMKC’s White Hall.

KC’s theaters are presenting an embarrassment of riches, including the Unicorn’s September production of “Native Gardens,” a smart, funny look at human foibles gently laced with larger points about racism and stereotypes. KCRep scored a first with its casting of an Asian American actor in its fall production of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” a topic explored by Grace Suh in the current issue. (See page 42)

A highlight of local gallery offerings was Haw Contemporary’s pairing of Armin Mühsam, who exhibited striking new iterations of his signature pairings of architectural and nature references, and Michael Krueger, whose magical series of new colored pencil landscapes sold out before the show opened. Read Neil Thrun’s review of the show here.

For an invigorating mental workout, the Truman Library’s lectures can’t be beat. September brought new insights on the Truman administration’s activities during the Cold War from Christian F. Ostermann, award-winning historian and director of the History and Public Policy Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Ostermann’s lecture shared findings from his new book, “Between Containment and Rollback: The United States and the Cold War in Germany,” which draws from recently declassified documents from American, Russian and German archives.

Looking forward, not to be missed is “Lessons and Carols for Today,” a special collaboration in December between the acclaimed choral group Te Deum and Kansas City poet Natasha Ria El-Scari. The performance “offers a modern twist on the Anglican tradition of interspersing biblical passages with choral and congregational singing” by incorporating El-Scari’s poems in place of the traditional biblical lessons. Learn more about the performance in Libby Hanssen’s story in KC Studio’s “Special Holiday Supplement” coming out Thanksgiving week.

When you feel you must have a shot of culture to get through the week, KC offers multiple opportunities for free music and public art at venues around the city. One delightful way to finish off the workday is Upcycle Piano Craft’s First Tuesdays Happy Hour at the Piano Shop, 3945 Main St., featuring top local musicians performing jazz in the shop’s spacious showroom, where listeners enjoy casual seating and wine. The Nov. 7 event features The Beach Nuts from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. For more info, www.upcyclepianocraft.com/music-community.

Other free music offerings include the Ruell Joyce Jazz Series, which presents the JCCC Faculty Jazz Quintet Nov. 7, and the Westport Center for the Arts Brown Bag Concert Series at Westport Presbyterian Church, 201 Westport Rd., under the able direction of flutist, soprano and choral conductor Lyra Pherigo. Upcoming noon performances include a Harp and Voice concert Nov. 17 and an organ concert by Elisa Bickers Dec. 15. (For more music — and art — recommendations, see Steve Paul’s “Three Things” list at the end of his See Hear column, page 8.)

The current issue is filled with reports on new art displays at public venues. They include eight lively installations by Kansas City artists along the Kansas City streetcar route courtesy of this year’s Art in the Loop, and the unveiling of two murals, a renovated historical work and a new commissioned piece from Kansas City artist Chico Sierra at Union Station. Farther afield, Kansas City glass artist Tyler Kimball recently unveiled ambitious glass installations at the Olathe Public Library and the Lawrence Transit Facility.

Over the past decade The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has sought to expose visitors to some of the giants of Latin American art, including Venezuelan artist Luis Tomasello and Chilean Iván Navarro, whose optical abstractions are displayed along the Bloch Building Gallery Walk. On Nov. 12, the museum continues its exploration of the topic in a big way with the installation in the Bloch Building lobby of Venezuelan-born artist Elias Crespin’s “Grand HexaNet,” a motorized network of ascending and descending red aluminum tubes evoking an aerial dance.

The Crespin installation coincides with the special exhibit, “A Layered Presence,” of works by 22 Kansas City artists with ties to Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Colombia, Uruguay and Peru. Many names will be familiar to KC Studio readers from their appearance in our pages, including Chico Sierra, Jose Faus, Jenny Mendez, Maria Vasquez Boyd, Cesar Lopez and Ruben Castillo. Watch for a review of the exhibit in our January/February issue.

CategoriesPerforming Visual
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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