Kansas City has some wonderful cultural institutions that should not be missed when you are in town. My top recommendations include:
The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak: This is a really wonderful art museum that is known for its Asian collection. It also has a nice impressionist collection and a good modern collection that is housed in the Museum’s new wing, designed by Steven Holl, which has won praise from architecture critics around the country. The famed Rozzelle Court is a great place for lunch or a snack. I will never forget seeing a Van Gogh exhibition from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 1963. I can still remember the paintings and it was life changing to me. When I was in Amsterdam a few years ago, I felt like I was visiting some old friends.
The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick Blvd.: Right near the Nelson is the Kemper which has a nice permanent collection and has really good traveling exhibitions as well. Make sure you see the Café Sebastienne which, with the many paintings on the wall, is one of my favorite small restaurant designs anywhere!
Across from the Kemper is the Kansas City Art Institute which is a four year college of art and design. Check out their website for exhibitions in the H&R Block Artspace and for other events.
Kauffman Performing Arts Center: This is a wonderful new addition to the Kansas City arts scene that will open in September 2011. It is a wonderfully designed building by Moshe Safdie, along with his partners for the project, theater designer Richard Pilbrow and acoustician Yasu Toyota. It will be the home of the Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Symphony and Kansas City Lyric Opera. Next door is one of my favorite places, Webster House antiques and restaurant, located in an old school built in 1885.
Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio, 3616 Bellevue: I visited this state historic site on one of my last trips to Kansas City. This is the home and studio of the famous mural artist who moved to Kansas City to teach painting and drawing at the Kansas City Art Institute. He died in his studio in 1975 and it is exactly as he left it.
Starlight Theatre: This is Kansas City’s outdoor summer musical and concert venue that has been a local institution since the 1950’s. I was introduced to my first Broadway musicals there, including The Music Man and The Sound of Music, when I was a child. It is located in Swope Park near the Zoo.
Kansas City Ballet: I really enjoyed the Kansas City Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker at the new Kauffman Center for Performing Arts. I had briefly toured the facility, but this was my first performance in the main theater. It is a stunning new building and is not to be missed.
Kansas City Repertory Theatre: The premier resident theater company in town.
For more jazz, check out the schedule for the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra where concerts are at Unity on the Plaza. There is also Jazz & Barbeque at the UMKC Conservatory of Music, 5100 Cherry, the Harriman-Jewell Series and the Folly Jazz Series at the Folly Theater downtown at 12th and Central.
You might check out the Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors and JAM Magazine.