Lenexa, Johnson County Library team up to host City Center Live free performing arts programming

City Center Live
City Center Live performance by indie-pop band Mess. Photo credit Bill Harrison.

The city of Lenexa and Johnson County Library have teamed up to create a new performing arts programming for the community.

A collaborative effort by the library and the Lenexa Arts Council, the free, family-friendly concert series is designed to showcase a variety of music and small theatrical performances.

“City Center Live is a great way to bring people together at City Center to enjoy performing arts,” said Susanne Neely, Lenexa city staff liaison for the Lenexa Arts Council. “It’s a neat way for them to gather around art and enhance their lives.”

Neely said past programming has included performances by indie-pop band Mess as well as Kansas City-based strings band Sisters & Strings Infusion.

City Center Live
City Center Live performance by Sisters & Strings Infusion. Photo credit Susanne Neely

The series officially launched last winter, although the weather has caused some cancellations. Neely was disappointed that their small opera program in February got snowed out. The city contributed $2,000 and the library contributed $1,200 to fund the program.

Bryan Voell, local arts librarian, said City Center Live is an extension of an existing local music project in which the library hosts Kansas City-area songwriters and composers with interviews about their creative lives and processes, and the books, music and movies that inspire their work.

“It made sense for us to partner with the City of Lenexa for this series,” Voell said in an email, citing the new Lenexa City Center Library opening nearby. Voell said this programming is important because Johnson County Library is about more than books.

“The library is a place where creative people come to work, get inspired, to network and learn new skills,” he said. “Secondly, it’s important for the library to showcase the work of local artists of all types. Not only is their work vital to our culture and community, our library collection would not exist without the hard work of artists, writers, researchers and other creative people.”

City Center Live programs will take place either in the Community Forum in Lenexa City Hall, 17101 W. 87th St. Parkway, or on the outdoor stage in the Commons on the city hall campus. Here’s the schedule for upcoming City Center Live programs:

  • Modern Day Fitzgerald, 7 p.m. Friday, June 14, at The Commons. This program is in conjunction with the city’s Movie in the Park night. Modern Day Fitzgerald plays jazz, rock, blues and hip-hop. Their sound is reminiscent of the late 1950s and early 1960s infused with a modern twist.
  • Casi Joy, 7 p.m. Friday, July 12, at the Community Forum in Lenexa City Hall. A solo country singer and songwriter from Smithville, Missouri, Casi Joy now performs in Nashville and was a past contestant on NBC’s “The Voice.”
  • Scott Cox’s “And God Did Shake the Pear: Shakespeare for Everyday Living,” 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 9. The director of Living Shakespeare, a rehabilitative theatre program at Lansing Correctional Facility, Scott Cox will lead a one-man show with inspirational and humorous anecdotes.
  • Abel Ramirez Big Band, 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, the Commons. This 17-piece band performs classic big band jazz in the style and tradition that made Kansas City famous.

Neely said staff will consider hosting future programs at the Lenexa Public Market, 8750 Penrose Lane, and the new City Center library branch after it opens in June.