Oscar Hammerstein in his lyrics in “Oklahoma” said Kansas City was up to date in a humorous way, but it’s even more true today, as Kansas City is updating its attractions with multi-million dollar investments. Culture and cuisine is always high on my travel itineraries and while I only saw a few of Kansas City standouts on this trip, there is a lot to absorb in Kansas City, Mo. One example is the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial with its symbolic see-through bridge over a field of 9,000 poppies, which represents a thousand casualties for each poppy.
The Belger Arts Center/Red Star Studios is an example of a partnership of industry and a passion in art collecting. Besides its display of contemporary art from the personal collection of businessman and wife, John and Maxine Belger, it is also home to a number of rotating solo exhibitions as well as touring group artists. The converted warehouse at 2100 Walnut St.,offers loft-like exhibition space for a number of large scale art. Dr. Kathleen Desmond of REVIEW magazine said, “The Belger Arts Center is amazing in its presence in Kansas City; not quite a museum, not a university gallery, not a commercial gallery. It is an entity in itself that defies definition. It is an incredible resource and contribution to the visual arts in Kansas City.”
Another outstanding contribution is the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art where the building itself, built in 1994 is a work of art. It’s airy and up lifting design, lightens the spirit and is a complement to the upbeat contemporary art it contains. With a new exhibition almost every month it’s easy to see why this is a Kansas City favorite, as is the outstanding museum’s Café Sebastienne. I had a delightful lunch surrounded by a variety of paintings reminiscent of famous artists. My dining companion/painting was a coy girl in a Mary Cassatt style. Relaxing in the café setting or in the light filled and enclosed courtyard is as much a treat as is the contemporary cuisine by executive chef Jennifer Maloney.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art brings together masterful examples from many periods and world cultures. The May 2010 opening of the new Egyptian gallery featuring treasure from the 2,300 year old noble woman, Meretites, allows visitors to peek inside her spectacular coffin. The American Indian gallery, which opened in November of 2009 is extensive – I’m told is one of the largest exhibits devoted to Native Americans.When I visited, there was a collection of Rodin bronzes, on temporary display through June 3, with an outstanding impact on this viewer. The museum’s newest addition, the Bloch building houses several of the contemporary collections and illuminates at night. There are several galleries I did not get a chance to see, and there are many concerts and special events held throughout each season.
The performing arts are not to be overlooked as I took in a charming local concert revue of the lyrics of the Bergman’s at the Quality Hill Playhouse, called “Make Someone Happy.” They are noted for their family of repertory singers/performers in an intimate setting. Many special shows sell out like the upcoming Marilyn Maye concert – a near local town girl, and veteran songstress. I can recommend this upcoming concert, as I was privileged to hear Marilyn Maye in concert last year – never a disappointing note!
Before or after a show you may want to drop by, The Drop, for a cocktail or late night dinner, as it’s located in what is known as Martini corner. And for upscale dining the menu and service at Pierponts, lived up to its reputation as a “culinary jewel.” Named after railroad baron. J. P. Morgan, Pierpont’s is located appropriately enough in Union Station where other attractions also reside. But don’t let that put you off, as Pierpont’s interior is as elegant and yet friendly as can be. No wonder it was named by the local press “Best Place to Entertain an out-of-town Guest.” Their prime steaks and seafood along with their wine list, is a must to enjoy.
The Kansas City Ballet has a relatively new permanent home, the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity, a top notch renovation of an old energy generating factory. Semblances of its history can hardly be seen amid the state of the art rehearsal halls and pragmatic architecture. Unique to this home of ballet is the rehearsal hall where studio productions are held, with seated viewing above the dance floor. Just watching a class of these artistic athletes is inspiring. Also inspiring is the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts with its two theatres, and expansive lobbies. An expansive view of downtown Kansas City is available for prime viewing from the lobby at intermission with the innovative slanted panorama glass walls. I vow I will experience a performance there, on my next visit. I did however sample a delightful menu at the nearby Webster House, where I was also tempted by their antique and modern home décor shop. But the star of this visit was the fried green tomatoes with tomato jam ~ inventive and flavor packed. Webster House, a historic renovated school house, is within walking distance to the Kauffman Center and thus is perfect for pre-theatre dining.
And let’s not forget your home base for a restful retreat from all that Kansas City offers, and that would be the Crowne Plaza Kansas City located amid all the action downtown. Comfortable, convenient and affordable, what more could you want except room service and they have that too!
For more information and upcoming schedules:
Terry Zinn – Travel Editor – T4Z@aol.com