Laura Spencer | KBIA

Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer caught the radio bug more than a decade ago when she was asked to read a newscast on the air on her first day volunteering for KOOP, the community radio station in Austin, Texas. 

After moving home to Kansas City, she learned the fine art of editing reel-to-reel tape as an intern and graduate assistant with the nationally syndicated literary program New Letters on the Air. Since 2001, she's focused her efforts on writing and producing feature stories as KCUR's Arts Reporter. 

In 2011, Laura was one of 21 journalists selected for USC Annenberg’s seventh National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater. She's received awards from the Associated Press, Kansas City Art Institute (Excellence in Visual Art and Education), Kansas City Association of Black Journalists, Missouri Broadcasters Association, Radio-Television News Directors Association (regional Edward R. Murrow Award) and Society for Professional Journalists. 

For nearly a decade, the city of Kansas City, Missouri, lost $1 million a year on Kemper Arena. There were talks of demolishing the 40-year-old building. Others fought to preserve it. 

Growing up in Uzbekistan, everything Bek Abdullayev knew about the United States he'd learned from pop culture and Hollywood movies.

"A lot of high rises, beautiful people," was what he imagined. "Michael Jordan, Madonna, whatever you see in the movies. You know, 'Home Alone,' so a big family home in a nice neighborhood."

As a teenager, Abdullayev got to experience the U.S. first-hand after he earned a spot in a competitive program called the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX), funded by the U.S. Department of State.

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.

The Before Columbus Foundation announced the winners of the 39th annual American Book Awards on Monday. And Bojan Louis's "Currents," a debut poetry collection published by BkMk Press at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is on the list. 

"I'm celebrating!" Ben Furnish, managing editor of BkMk Press, wrote to KCUR in an email.

Director Spike Lee’s "BlacKkKlansman," which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in May, is finally opening in theaters nationwide. 

Lee's co-writer is University of Kansas film professor Kevin Willmott, who spoke with KCUR's Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann about the movie, which is based on a true story.

Kansas City Artists Coalition Executive Director Janet Simpson this week announced her retirement after almost 30 years at the helm of the arts organization. 

"You know, it's time," said Simpson. "I wanted to leave before my assistant director felt the need to move on to find her next challenge. So I just felt like it was a good time."

Historic Kansas City released on Tuesday its annual "Most Endangered" list of buildings and places that could be torn down, altered, or crumble "into obscurity." 

This year's list contains at-risk closed schools, historic churches, and apartment buildings as well as sites such as baseball legend Buck O’Neil’s home, the Epperson House on the UMKC campus, and the Aladdin Theater in the historic Northeast.  

Folk singer and songwriter Danny Cox has been a fixture of the Kansas City music scene since he moved here from Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1967. Cox played at classic venues like the Vanguard Coffee House in the 1960s, and the Cowtown Ballroom in the '70s. 

The historic Savoy Hotel in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, re-opened Tuesday with a new name: 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City.


“We never dreamed that there’d be more than one when we started,” says founder Steve Wilson, who launched the first 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2006, with his wife, Laura Lee Brown. 


There are now eight boutique hotels in the chain, and each includes curated gallery spaces and site-specific installations of 21st century art.

The Spencer Museum of Art and The Commons at the University of Kansas in Lawrence released a joint statement Friday supporting freedom of expression after a piece of art depicting the U.S. flag with black marks on it was moved inside the museum.

The Kansas City Art Institute broke ground on new student housing Thursday across the street from the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. 

"The last time we did this was 1968 when we built that," said Art Institute president Tony Jones, pointing to the current residence hall. "To say that it's a little bit out of date ... would be an understatement." 

The old dorm will be repurposed for academic space, said Jones, and a "brand new living center" will be created to better fit the needs of contemporary students in art, design, craft, and technology.     

Three Kansas City Symphony musicians recently performed their final concerts with an arts organization they've been with since its inception. 

Principal tuba player Steve Seward, bassoonist Marita Abner and oboe and English horn player Ken Lawrence retired after the Symphony's season ended last weekend. All three were hired by the Symphony in 1982, when the orchestra was founded by R. Crosby Kemper, Jr.

The Kansas City Police Department released a statement Wednesday with more details about the events on June 14, when police shot and killed three people in two different incidents. 

"These were outcomes no one wanted and were a tragedy for all involved," the KCPD said in a statement that included more information gathered by KCPD detectives for the initial investigation. 

Related: When is it acceptable for police to use lethal force? 

While watching the FIFA World Cup match between the United States and Ghana on Monday night, perhaps you noticed the venue.

The 42,000-seat stadium, called Arena das Dunas or The Stadium of the Dunes, has a petal-shaped canopy and was designed by Populous, a sports architecture firm based in Kansas City, Mo.

According to the firm, the challenge was to create a "grand space" for the people of Natal, Brazil. Architects drew inspiration from the flowing sand dunes that dominate the city.

Poet, memoirist and political activist Maya Angelou died Wednesday at the age of 86, reportedly after a long illness. 

“Hello, good morning ..." is how Angelou opened the conversation when we talked by phone last week. At home in Winston-Salem, N.C., she joked about the weather in the Midwest.

"Because I think you people change weather in the way that other people change clothes," she said with a laugh.

Updated 10:47 a.m.:

Frazier Glenn Cross, the suspect in Sunday's shootings, is being held at the Johnson County Detention Center without bond. Kristi Bergeron, of the District Attorney's Office in Johnson County said he will not be arraigned Monday.

He will face both federal and state charges.

Updated 10:36 a.m.:

The Children's Center for the Visually Impaired released this statement: