The signs of fall in Kansas City are almost without number.
Beyond the changing leaves and cooler temps, there’s also the change in wardrobes, from Royals T-shirts to Chiefs outerwear — if not Royals postseason gear (fingers still crossed).
But of the myriad signs of autumn in Kansas City, this is my favorite: The sight of Symphony musicians with instrument cases strapped to their backs trudging up 16th Street on their way to morning practice at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
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And, as has been the case for the past half decade, the fall arts season centers on the Kauffman Center and its main tenants: the Kansas City Symphony, the Kansas City Ballet and the Lyric Opera.
Even though the building’s contoured profile has rapidly become a symbol of Kansas City, it hardly seems possible the Kauffman Center is celebrating its fifth anniversary in September. The center’s opening weekend was Sept. 16-18, 2011.
President and CEO Paul Schofer gave me a tour of the facility last week to showcase some improvements. A small dining area has been added to Brandmeyer Great Hall, as have “sails” (shades) to tastefully filter sunlight that can blaze through the lobby’s towering windows on the south side.
Some stairway carpet is being replaced, and new signage will help patrons find their seats. The benches in the choral loft behind the stage at Helzberg Hall have been removed in favor of chaired seating that matches the rest of the space.
(And for the geography sticklers among us, this touch isn’t as new as it is critical: Stickers on mirrors in backstage dressing rooms kindly state, “Welcome to Kansas City, Missouri,” perhaps a gentle reminder for out-of-town performers not to burst on stage with a “Helllloooo, Kansas!”)
The Kauffman Center begins its birthday celebration on Friday, Sept. 2, with “BravoKC: Kauffman Center Turns Five, Live!”
The event will feature performances by the Symphony’s chamber ensemble, the Lyric’s resident and young artists, the Ballet’s second company, local musicians the Grisly Hand and Jessica Paige and more.
It’s also First Friday, which means plenty of visual art, food trucks, vendors and other entertainment in the Crossroads Arts District and downtown.
The Kauffman Center isn’t alone in achieving a milestone this year. The Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company celebrates its 25th anniversary, and Owen/Cox Group marks its 10th year.
Here’s a tease to stories you’ll find:
▪ Visual art: A reopening of the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas. More here.
▪ Theater: The Unicorn Theatre production of the profane puppet play “Hand of God.” More here.
▪ Classical music: A performance by 25-year-old Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov with the Kansas City Symphony. More here.
▪ Books: A new book about Winston Churchill from KC’s Candice Millard, author of the best-selling “The River of Doubt.” More here.
▪ Movies: The return of fine filmmaking in theaters, including the biopic “Snowden,” the biracial true romance “Loving” and the post-WWI “The Light Between Oceans.” More here.
▪ Music: A concert from an older, wiser and slightly forlorn Tom Jones. More here.
▪ Dance: Workshops and performances by Kansas City dancer Manual “Lukky” Harvey. More here.
▪ TV: New shows based on old shows on the small screen. More here.
▪ Festivals: Sample the rich variety of events around Kansas City, from the Renaissance Festival to Rhythm ’N Balloons. More here.
Speaking of icons, local artist Donald “Scribe” Ross helped illustrate our guide. His murals can be found on many buildings in KC, and his illustrations adorn the walls of Children’s Mercy Hospital, where he works as a resident artist.
Scribe has a show Friday at Counterpoint, 1903 Wyandotte, which is just down the road from — where else? —the Kauffman Center.
David Frese, 816-234-4463; @DavidFrese