From opera to street festivals, Kansas City's art culture is widely recognized. Here are five surprisingly free ways to enjoy the arts in Kansas City.

Five Surprisingly Free Ways to Become a Connoisseur of the Arts in Kansas City

Kansas City has developed a huge culture for three things. Sports. Food. Art. We are faithfully passionate about our Royals, Chiefs, Sportings, Tigers, and Jayhawks. This city has an insatiable appetite for deliciously authentic culinary masterpieces. We support the visionaries who creatively bring the depth of their imaginations to life in architecture, installations, music, literature, dance, and theater. Which leads me to the subject of this story. Five surprisingly free ways to become a connoisseur of the arts in Kansas City.

Kansas City is widely recognized for its arts. It also works tirelessly to maintain accessibility of the arts in Kansas City for all who live and visit here. From opera and ballet to poetry slams and street festivals. And of course, a myriad of classes and arts based curriculums. What I love best is that you don’t need to be rich to enjoy them. Here is a list of just a few ways I enjoy arts in Kansas City for free.

Five Surprisingly Free Ways to Become a Connoisseur of the Arts in Kansas City

1. Quixotic Fusion

Quixotic Fusion is an innovative performing arts group which integrates technology with live music, contemporary dance, and cirque nouveau arts. Five Surprisingly Free Ways to Become a Connoisseur of the Arts in Kansas City.

Quixotic Fusion is an innovative performing arts group which integrates technology with live music, contemporary dance, and cirque nouveau arts. They perform across the United States and at two annual events which I try to never miss.

The first is WaterFire. This annual event in October combines a spectacular multi sensory experience of live vocals, dance and acrobatics with the installation of braziers in Brush Creek. Last year included performances by Quixotic, StoneLion Puppet Theatre, and Kansas City Drum Tribe. The second is Union Station’s annual Holiday Lighting Ceremony in November. This event marks the beginning of Kansas City’s holiday season. A full day of festivities include family friendly activities, a Holiday Maker Village, and stage performances from local musicians and performers including Quixotic.

2. Lyric Opera

Located in the heart of Kansas City’s Crossroads community, Lyric Opera creates transformational opera experiences through performances, outreach, and education initiatives. Five Surprisingly Free Ways to Become a Connoisseur of the Arts in Kansas City.

Located in the heart of Kansas City’s Crossroads community, Lyric Opera creates transformational opera experiences through performances, outreach, and education initiatives. They also aim to develop talent, repertoire, programs and productions that bring the best of Lyric Opera of Kansas City to the world. The Lyric Opera also hosts occasional free First Friday previews of their upcoming operas. Preview nights feature select music and songs from their operas, themed food and drinks, and opportunities to meet and greet with Lyric Opera singers.

3. First Fridays

On the First Friday of every month, the Kansas City Crossroads Art District comes alive with hundreds of people there to view works from local artists, buskers, street concerts, and more. Five Surprisingly Free Ways to Become a Connoisseur of the Arts in Kansas City.

Speaking of First Fridays, the Crossroads Art District is at the center of arts in Kansas City. It’s home to hundreds of eclectic restaurants, shops, and galleries. On the First Friday of every month, the Crossroads comes alive with hundreds of people there to view works from local artists, buskers, street concerts, and more. Arts organizations, galleries, studios, and a variety of local businesses feature regional and national artists as well as live entertainment starting in the early evening.

4. Kansas City Public Library

Each month the Library is host to a plethora of diverse events and programs designed to educate, entertain, and enrich the lives of Kansas City residents. Five Surprisingly Free Ways to Become a Connoisseur of the Arts in Kansas City.

The Kansas City Public Library (KCPL) system champions itself as a doorway to knowledge for all people in the community. That standard of excellence is met through more than just books. Each month the Library is host to a plethora of diverse events and programs designed to educate, entertain, and enrich the lives of Kansas City residents. Events such as local jazz legend Brother John performing a one man show about the history of Native Americans in Missouri. Programs like the Kansas City Symphony children’s outreach which exposes and teaches kids about musical instruments. The Central Library, located in downtown Kansas City, also features an art gallery of ever-changing installations. There are 10 branches in the KCPL system throughout Kansas City and an outreach services program serving a constituency of over 250,000. The Library also serves as a resource for the 1.7 million residents of greater metropolitan area.

5. Intentionally Exploring the City

Each neighborhood in Kansas City is a distinct area full of harmonious mixtures of nature, urban life, and architecture. Five Surprisingly Free Ways to Become a Connoisseur of the Arts in Kansas City.

You may wonder what do I mean by intentionally exploring? I mean that deliberately getting out of the car or in my case off the bus and forcing myself to just wander the streets takes me to a place where the worries of life fade away and time becomes abstract. I can devour each singular moment of whatever I’m experiencing. My senses of what I see, hear, taste, smell, and touch all become sharply branded imprintings in my heart and mind. Day by day I can get away with merely going through the motions of city life. But walking explorations are a fierce reminder of why I am so emotionally tied to where I live.

The arts in Kansas City are highlighted remarkably well when exploring local neighborhoods and districts. Each neighborhood in Kansas City is a distinct area full of harmonious mixtures of nature, urban life, and architecture. Buildings. Trees. Animals. Fountains. Gardens. Sculptures. Graffiti walls. No matter where you go, these are represented in Kansas City’s most walkable neighborhoods. City Market/Riverfront; Downtown Kansas City; the Westside; KC Crossroads Art District; the West Bottoms; 18th and Vine Jazz District; the Crown Center District; Midtown; Westport; West 39th Street; the Country Club Plaza.

Thank you for reading! Feel free to use this as a guide to enjoying arts in Kansas City for yourself. Also if you absolutely loved it subscribe to more of our city adventures.

My City Adventures, An Evening of Tea, Kansas City, MO

An Evening of Tea

I received complimentary passes to An Evening of Tea in exchange for this special event article.

I had the privilege of experiencing my first tea festival in the Spring of 2016. The annual Midwest Tea Festival was a day long celebration of everything to love about tea. During the event, I learned how to prepare a proper cup of tea and how tea merchants select teas from the farmers who grow them. I even discovered a few favorites to take home. What I appreciated most was that the festival dove far beyond mere causal tea drinking and brought those who attended into the rich culture and history of tea. I left enlightened and wanting to further my education.

Unfortunately, the Midwest Tea Festival is a once a year event. However, to my delight there are many ways to stay immersed in tea culture in Kansas City, MO. When I received an invitation to An Evening of Tea, a preview of the 2017 Midwest Tea Festival, I happily accepted. An Evening of Tea consisted of four Tea Tasting Workshops, which were a highlight from the Midwest Tea Festival. Guest speakers from local Kansas City tea shops, Anna Marie’s Tea and Tea Market presented each 45 minute workshop. While I only attended two, below you’ll find information about all of them. The workshops provided an intimate setting to sharpen my tea knowledge and get a refresher on defining the layers of flavor in a cup of tea.

Brenda Hedrick from Anna Marie's Teas speaks at An Evening of Tea in Kansas City, MO

Matcha for Recovery

Being honest, until this workshop, I knew next to nothing about matcha. I rarely drink it. In fact, the most excited I had been about matcha is when I came across Japanese Kit-Kats. Thanks to Brenda Hedrick from Anna Marie’s Teas, I now know that the history of Matcha tea is even more unique than its flavor. The legend goes that Buddhist Monks developed Matcha for ceremonies where they had to stay awake for extended periods of time. The monks discovered that grinding the tea leaves into a fine powder before consuming them provided the sustainable energy they needed. Hedrick also discussed the vast amount of health benefits of matcha and ways to merge it in a daily routine. In addition to boosts in energy, antioxidant rich Matcha is known to remove free radicals in the body, lower LDL cholesterol, and has a high level of fiber.

Rooibos Dessert Teas

Hedrick’s second workshop featured teas which can satisfy the cravings of any sweet tooth. Anna Marie’s Teas has several rooibos blends in their dessert tea collection. During the workshop, guest tasted their Red Velvet Rooibos and Carrot Cake Rooibos. Hedrick presented the teas with other sweets including apples and brownies to see if flavors in one would enhance flavors in the other. Rooibos teas are naturally caffeine-free, with a rich and ultra smooth taste. The full-bodied flavors are reminiscent of a smooth black tea. However, it’s not actually from the tea-plant. Instead it is the South African red bush which produces a dark reddish liquor. Their Red Velvet Rooibos has a delightfully indulgent chocolate flavor and crosses over several different tea categories. Their Carrot Cake Rooibos is not too sweet yet still satisfying.  It consists of carrots, rooibos, fruits and chocolate bits that when blended together have the fragrant aroma of spices, cake, and icing.

Stacie Robertson from Tea Market in Kansas City, MO speaks at An Evening of Tea

A Comparative Tasting of Oolongs

Stacie Robertson from Tea Market took guests on a journey to taste and discover the complexities of oolong teas. During the workshop we tasted Jade Oolong, Bao Zhong, Ti Kwan Yin, Milk Taste Oolong, and Wuyi Dragon Oolong. Oolong Teas may be the most interesting of all teas. They are semi-oxidized and the process of making these beautiful teas of multi-layered flavors and aromas requires more steps and more skill than any other group of tea. Oolong Teas range from light and fragrant to darker or more heavily oxidized. The leaf styles of oolong teas are fascinating as well. The “nugget” style or rolled oolongs show themselves again and again with multiple steepings. The twisted leaf of the Bao Zhong or Black Dragon lend themselves to different steeping styles and variety in aromas and flavors. The flavor profile depends on the variety of the tea-plant, the area where the tea is grown and the goals, traditions and skill of the tea maker.

Functional Teas for Wellness

“I honestly believe we are having the wrong National conversation, too much talk about health care and not enough about “self care”, Stacie Robertson. She’s on to something. The healing properties of teas have been well-known and documented for centuries. As a Certified Tea Specialist and Holistic Health Coach, Robertson has developed proprietary and unique tea blends that are completely natural with no artificial flavors or ingredients. In her second workshop we tasted her Detox, Flu Fighter, Energize, Tummy Tamer, Sweet Dreams, and Total-I-Tea. The six “functional teas” work to create balance in the body that allows natural wellness and healing to take place. We learned the ingredients of each and everything about how and why they’re so effective.

An Evening of Tea, a preview of the Midwest Tea Festival, was an intimate setting to sharpen tea knowledge and learn about the history and culture of tea.

All in all, An Evening of Tea was a fantastic sampling of what the 2017 Midwest Tea Festival will have in store. For more information on the Midwest Tea Festival and other tea related special events in Kansas City, MO, please visit www.midwestteafest.com. Thank you for reading!

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts Future Stages Festival

The Future Stages Festival is an annual community celebration of young performing artists in Kansas City. This spotlight on youth performances and family friendly programming supports the growth of future artists with a focus on engaging youth performers. All ages can experience the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts as artists and patrons through the Future Stages Festival.

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The free event included a diverse array of performances along with interactive arts activities. The Future Stages Festival takes place every year through the Kauffman Center’s Spotlight on Youth program. This provides opportunities for youth and community arts organizations. Each year, about 25 groups are chosen through a competitive process. Visit kauffmancenter.org for the full list of performers and organizations in attendance.

Photos from Future Stages Festival 2016

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The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival launched its first season in 1993 in Southmoreland Park. Since then, more than 500,000 theater goers from all over the world have shared in the Festival’s classical professional productions each summer. As part of their school programs, the Shakespeare Conservatory is a year-round acting intensive for middle and high school children. Students are able to gain a deeper understanding of Shakespeare through performance of his works. Team Shakespeare is the Festival’s Apprentice acting troupe. Students must complete a year of Shakespeare Conservatory before receiving an invitation to Team Shakespeare.

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Heart of America Youth Ballet is a not-for-profit Youth Ballet founded in 1990. The company’s mission is to promote the arts, with emphasis on ballet education and training. Their community service is characterized by dance education, free seminars, and charitable donations. Additionally, the youth ballet has become a regular attraction at the historic Folly Theater.

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AIA Kansas City invited children to build their versions of downtown Kansas City. In continuous operation since 1890, the American Institute of Architects Kansas City supports its members, and incorporates the value of the architecture profession, and improves quality of the built environment.

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Pianos on Parade had beautifully decorated pianos on display for guests to play a tune. Keys 4/4 Kids, the nonprofit organization behind Pianos on Parade, strives to create a transformation in the lives of children, donors, and our community through the production and exploration of art and music. In addition, their civic programs offer opportunities for artistic expression in our youth, encourage community partnerships, and make the arts available to all people.

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StoneLion Puppet Theatre brought the magic of their world-class puppet shows to the Future Stages Festival. Creative artists use multiple styles of puppetry, including marionettes, masks, shadow, mouth, and rod puppets. StoneLion is known for their shows which are fresh, original, educational and fun.

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Young attendees got the chance to hear and see some of the orchestra instruments played in the Kansas City Symphony. The Kansas City Symphony Instrument Petting Zoo travels to area classrooms and local places to give children the opportunity to experience different instruments.

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The Lyric Opera provided some sweet arts and crafts for the Future Stages Festival. Children gathered to decorate the gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel. The Lyric Opera brings high quality live operatic performances to the people of the Kansas City area and five-state region. Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel is part of Lyric Opera’s 2016-2017 season, with performances in September. The setting for this production has been re-imagined as a fantasy carnival world.

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Just outside the north side of the Kauffman Center was a space for chalk art drawings. Kansas City Chalk & Walk will host their annual two-day festival in September. Hundreds of professional, student, and amateur artists will have their talents showcased during the event. Guests can enjoy watching the creative works of the artists come to life. There will also be a Children’s Creative Corridor where kids can create chalk art.

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Lily and I had yet another wonderful day in Kansas City thanks to the Future Stages Festival! Thanks for reading! While you’re still here why not subscribe to Kiara Loves KC?

Don Cheadle’s Directorial Debut is Literally Miles Aheads

Miles Ahead is an American biographical film directed by and starring Don Cheadle. Cheadle co-wrote the bio-pic based on the life of jazz musician Miles Davis with Steven Baigelman, Stephen J. Rivele, and Christopher Wilkinson. The film also stars Emayatzy Corinealdi and Ewan McGregor. The film takes its title from Davis’ 1957 album. Miles Ahead is now showing in theaters nationwide.

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis in Miles Ahead

Don Cheadle made a special appearance at the 2016 Kansas City Film Festival for the Kansas City premiere of the film. After the screening, Cheadle held a Q&A hosted by Michelle Davidson from local morning talk show Kansas City Live. During the Q&A audience members learned why Cheadle took on the story of Miles Davis, everything that went into creating the film, and little known facts about the man behind the legendary music.

Miles Ahead is far from the cookie cutter ideal of a musically biographical film. Cheadle has said that creating a cradle to grave story of Davis’ life would have been ridiculous. It is true that Davis’ career spanned almost five decades. His musical style changed at least six times in those years. So, fair enough. I’ll give him that one. Unfortunately several aspects of Miles Ahead make Cheadle’s directorial debut very hard to swallow.

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis and Ewan McGregor as fictional Rolling Stone reporter Dave Braden in Miles Ahead

The film begins with Cheadle as a drunken and strung out Davis inside his home. Intertwined flash backs to the 1950s of his destructive relationship with future wife Frances Taylor and the then 1970s left me wondering where exactly was the film going. For someone, like me, who knew next to nothing about Davis before watching Miles Ahead, the risk of leaving with the impression that he was just another cliched musician junky was real. Which is a disappointing reaction to a highly anticipated movie because what I do know about Davis is that he was a prolific jazz musician. Someone whose life and especially music was worthy of being celebrated, honored. Did Miles Ahead do that? In my opinion, no.

What Miles Ahead does do is take viewers on a wild MTV rock music video style ride through a short snippet of Davis’s life. And just like MTV, it’s not even his real life. (By the way, I know I’m officially dating myself. Kids, back in my day, MTV used to play music videos. Google it.) Enter fictional Rolling Stone reporter Dave Braden, played by Ewan McGregor. Braden attempts to get an exclusive on the comeback of Miles Davis but instead becomes party to an incredible night of a shoot out and retrieving Davis’ stolen master tapes. “It’s less a Miles biopic,” co-star Ewan McGregor says, “than an attempt to cast Miles in a caper flick that he might like to have been part of.” 

Emayatzy Corinealdi portrays actress and dancer, Frances Taylor in Miles Ahead, directed by Don Cheadle

Well, that’s a revolutionary idea. Actually making a biography based on how the subject would want himself portrayed. Maybe Cheadle is on to something. Hollywood, take notes. Unlike, Joaquin Phoenix’s Johnny Cash, who was also a drug addicted alcoholic and left his wife for June Carter, yet somehow managed to be likeable. Not the case with Miles Ahead. Here Cheadle portrays Davis as real, raw, and unfiltered. He is a tortured soul fighting to live the life he wants and battling serious addictions. Hmmm. Sounds like most people.

Don Cheadle portrays Miles Davis during his "Dark Magus" period of seclusion in Miles Ahead

Cheadle said he chose to focus his film on the “Dark Magus” period from 1975 to 1980 when in Davis went into seclusion. A time when Davis was battling with Columbia records over the direction of his music and supposedly recording for a new album. I would compare Miles Ahead to The Iron Lady, the 2011 film about British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Miles Ahead, same as the Iron Lady, was held together by an outstanding performance from a well seasoned actor but fell short in capturing the story of the real person which the film was about.

Miles Ahead also lacked a real grasp on the extent of Davis’ musical genuis. After the screening I asked Cheadle why he chose to focus more on Davis’ life and seemingly less on his music. He answered by saying that he didn’t want to make the typical American apple pie biography. And simply featuring one musical scene after another wouldn’t have told the true story. Miles Ahead was written to be a chapter in the much larger book of Miles Davis. He also revealed that after his death, Davis’ music was split between two sides of his family. With a budget of $10 million, there were songs that couldn’t be afforded to include in the film. Cheadle also stated that some of the music that is most often associated with Davis isn’t actually his.

Visit Fandango.com for Miles Ahead showtimes, tickets, movie trailers, actors info, and more.

Jazz musician Miles Davis, the inspiration for Miles Ahead, directed by Don Cheadle

Miles Davis was an American jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. Widely considered one of the most influential and innovative musicians of the 20th century, Miles Davis was, together with his musical groups, at the forefront of several major developments in jazz music, including bebop, cool jazz, third stream, modal jazz, post-bop and jazz fusion. In 2006, Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which recognized him as “one of the key figures in the history of jazz”.

Annie Get Your Gun at Musical Theater Heritage

Annie Get Your Gun is a musical with lyrics and music by Irving Berlin and a book by Dorothy Fields and her brother Herbert Fields. The story is a fictionalized version of the life of Annie Oakley (1860–1926). The Musical Theater Heritage production was directed by Sarah Crawford and conducted by Jeremy Watson. George Harter hosted a pre-show talk on the history behind the musical.

Annie Oakley (born Phoebe Ann Mosey) was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter. Her talent first came to light when the then 15-year-old won a shooting match with traveling show marksman Frank E. Butler (whom she married). The couple joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show a few years later. Oakley became a renowned international star, performing before royalty and heads of state.

If Shelby Floyd’s Annie Oakley had a slogan, it would be, Annie Oakley, the best, most sugary candy-coated, sharpshooter in the West. Indeed, Floyd played Oakley with such a huge amount of sweetness I can feel the cavities starting to form. At different points, her over the top happy-go-lucky portrayal was downright annoying. Especially because Oakley is supposed to be this female rock star of a gun slinger. Sweet? Not so much. But before the line of being too much was crossed came her voice and comedic timing. Indeed Floyd reminded me of what I love about musicals. (I feel sorry for you if you just think they are merely weird movies where people randomly start singing.) The choreographed art of acting, song, and dance blended so well together is what caused me to began seriously considering a career in the arts when I was in high school. To be exact, I wanted to be a cinematographer.

The most memorable moments came from the easily recognizable “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly”, “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun”, and “Anything You Can Do.” It’s been days since I saw Annie Get Your Gun and “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly” is still stuck in my head. Floyd sang that tune with just the right good old Southern twang accent. Her vocal range and acting talent really shined through for the performances of “They Say It’s Wonderful” and “Anything You Can Do”.

Where Floyd was über cutesy, Sam Wright was Mr. Cool. His take on Frank Butler made me think of the handsome man sitting at the bar (or in this case saloon) you meet during a girls night out. You and your friends spend the whole night wondering if he’s single and trying to casually glance at him without being noticed. Except, in Peter Stone’s version of Annie Get Your Gun, Frank Butler is extremely likable. Hard to carry out with some of today’s feminist “I don’t need a man to take care of me” ideals. Although, when the rough and tumble Annie Oakley went all soft and pink after seeing Frank Butler for the first time I did roll my eyes. However, what Wright brought to the character was a sense of belief. A belief that the sophisticated, well-traveled Frank Butler actually did fall in love with the backwards country girl Annie Oakley. Honest, pure, sweet love.

The entire cast made the musical well worth seeing two or three times at least. Andrea Boswell-Burns as Dolly Tate, Philip Hooser as Chief Sitting Bull, and Delilah Pellow all had a few scenes where they stole the show.

Annie Get Your Gun at Musical Theater Heritage is based on the revised book by Peter Stone. The 1999 show revival featured new orchestrations and was structured as a “show-within-a-show”, set as a Big Top traveling circus.

“Frank Butler” is alone on stage and introduces the main characters, singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, which is reprised when “Annie” agrees to join the traveling Wild West show. The production dropped several songs (including “Colonel Buffalo Bill”, “I’m A Bad, Bad Man”, and “I’m an Indian Too”), but included “An Old-Fashioned Wedding”. There were several major dance numbers added, including a ballroom scene.

A sub-plot which had been dropped from the 1966 revival, the romance between Winnie and Tommy, her part-Native-American boyfriend, was also included. In the 1946 production, Winnie was Dolly’s daughter, but the 1966 and 1999 productions she is Dolly’s younger sister. In this version, the last shooting match between Annie and Frank ends in a tie.

Annie Get Your Gun plays at Musical Theater Heritage through April 24, 2016. This play will be an enjoyable experience for the whole family! Whether you’re a history buff, performing arts lover, or just plain enjoy a good show, Annie Get Your Gun has plenty to appeal to a wide range of people. Tickets start at $17. Children 16 and younger can attend for free. Visit Musical Theater Heritage online for more theater and ticket information.

Thanks for reading and share this with your family and friends who appreciate the theater arts or the Wild Wild West!

If you have an upcoming production in the Kansas City area and would like a review or promotion from me, please get in touch via the contact page above.