Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 18, 2012

Kansas City overflows with things to do and see


CNHI

— Spectacularly unlimited. I’d like that to be me, but in the meantime I’m content it seems to be so for a heartland-of-America city.

Kansas City. Western edge of Missouri. And all of a sudden a mecca of performances in stunning architecture, neighborhoods and entertainment districts with distinct personalities, celebrity chefs, seemingly boundless funding and philanthropy.

Kansas City supports symphony, opera and ballet. Professional musicians, dancers, singers.

Go soon to experience their sparkling new performance hall. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts: stunning white arches soaring into the skyline, visible from many downtown angles. $413 million is the figure mentioned.

Sweeping views inside the lobby connecting two performance halls: it’s all glass, supported with enormous cables.

This building is architectural reason enough to make the trip.

Ewing and Muriel Kauffman bought the Kansas City Royals in 1967; their daughter Julia Irene Kauffman says this of her family’s philanthropy. “I liken the Center for Performing Arts to my father’s description of baseball: a game of intellect that explodes with drama and excitement.

“My mother compared baseball fielding skills to the agility and grace of a dance.”

Jump start dance performances with a daytime visit to the handsome building where the 25-member professional Kansas City Ballet rehearses and teaches.

They just moved into a 1914 coal plant known as the Power House, feeding Union Station and much of the city into the 1970s.

“We replaced one kind of power with another,” Ballet Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley told me.

Used to be a coal, steam, electricity generator. Now, music, dance and soaring spirits are the energies, Bentley chuckles, walking around the three-story, seven-studio space.

Satin pointe shoes in the coal bin? Right; it’s now the dressing room. Take a tour to appreciate the spaces created with this massive renovation.

The Kauffman Center is the Ballet’s other glorious space, performing in the 1,800 seat theater where even the last row in the balcony is close -- less than 120 feet from the stage.

Carmina Burana Oct. 12–21 and The Nutcracker Dec. 1–23.

Movement and music propelled my decision to go to Kansas City; visual art in a remarkable place assured me of the depth of community collections and enthusiasm.

Belger Cartage Service lifts 25,000-pound office buildings or 266,000-pound refinery vessels as easily as they loan 73 of their Jasper Johns paintings to the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

Or provide docent-led exhibits of delicate pottery. This is a third-generation company, starting in 1919 with one Dodge truck and today quite at ease with their 200-ton truck crane and 250-ton terrain crane.

“We moved Rodin’s ‘Thinker’ three times,” Belger Gallery Director Mo Dickens told me.

Industrial looking are the buildings in the Crossroads Arts District. Freight elevator to the galleries. Studios for clay artists in a big concrete space named Red Star because it started in a yeast factory.

I was happy to find equally incredible art at lunch. The walls of Café Sebastienne in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art are jam packed with 110 paintings.

“A tribute to art and artists throughout the ages” the late Frederick James Brown says of these walls.

Ask for the wall diagram with your menu as you eat Executive Chef Jennifer Maloney’s exquisite creations.

Sunday brunch is a strong recommendation.

Seems as though every Kansas City arts experience added other layers. Fountains too.

“City of Fountains” the city calls itself, with 200 dating to the late 1800s. First one designed for clean drinking water for animals.

The Muse of the Missouri fountain inspired the Kansas City Symphony to commission composer Steven Hartke to create a new work for their inaugural season in the Kauffman Center.

The fountain is a memorial to WWII veteran David Woods Kemper.

His parents asked master sculptor Wheeler Williams for a lyrical memorial. Find the results at Eighth and Main in downtown.

And that spectacularly unlimited Kansas City statement? Heard

that from Symphony Music Director Michael Stern.

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Christine Tibbetts covers travel destinations for the Tifton, Ga., Gazette. Follow her at www.TibbettsTravel.com