by Pat McSparin // Spring 2012
Laura Spencer
Spencer interviewed Robert Battle, artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Photo: Dan Videtich

With her best NPR voice, Laura Spencer (M.A. ’01) records promos in a small, dark studio at KCUR 89.3 FM. Her on-air tone matches her real-life demeanor: calm, collected, unhurried. But looks can be deceiving. As KCUR’s arts reporter for more than a decade, Spencer has been dashing along the front lines of Kansas City’s erupting arts scene, reporting on events like the birth of the Crossroads Arts District and First Fridays, the expansion of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the opening of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The $413 million Kauffman Center has been a focus for Spencer. She’s been covering it since she started as an arts reporter at KCUR. She met with architect Moshe Safdie when he gave the first presentation about the center 10 years ago. She says that’s one of the best parts of her job: meeting people. “You can ask anyone anything,” she says. “All I have to say is, ‘Can I have five minutes with you backstage?’ Sometimes they say no, but usually I’m in. I talked to Tommy Tune and Patti LuPone just a few hours before opening night at the Kauffman Center.”

Spencer says growth in the Kansas City arts scene is changing how skeptics view the city as an arts destination. “There’s that joke that the Midwest is a flyover region, and people on the coasts see the whole center of the country as nothing to be aware of,” she says. “But now people I know on either coast are saying, ‘Ooh, Kansas City.’”

Before witnessing the birth of Kansas City as a burgeoning arts hub, Spencer made the rounds at KCUR prior to accepting the arts reporter job with the station. She started as an intern for New Letters on the Air, and in 1998, she became a part-time producer of a children’s health series. Next came roles as a Sunday afternoon announcer, then mid-day weekday announcer and newscaster on Morning Edition.

Despite all the big news she’s covered during her tenure as arts reporter, Spencer believes the growth in Kansas City’s arts scene is just getting started. She says the next wave of developments will stem from discussions about how the city’s big arts initiatives will impact the smaller galleries and organizations. She’s confident they’re about to get their share of the spotlight. And when the smaller art scene explodes, Spencer plans to be there in the thick of it.

Don’t-miss events »

Here are a few of Laura Spencer’s favorite arts events around town.

Bread KC! dinners
These public dinners use community-driven financial support to fund new and emerging projects in the arts.

This “Nostalgia and Homebuilt” hot rod and cycle show doesn’t just frown on slick, high-tech cars: it bans them.

Kansas City Art Institute exhibition and sale
Student works in a variety of media are on display and for sale before the end of the fall and spring semesters.

Green with envy
From raising hell to building peace