WNPR Arts and culture reporting focuses on the world of ideas in fine art, crafts, writing, music, theater, performance, design and creative activities that make us unique and make us human

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Chestnuts are as symbolic of the holidays as mistletoe and holly. On my recent Garden and Food Tour of Sicily, we saw groves of Italian chestnut trees ready to harvest on the slopes of Mt Etna. It got me thinking about our American chestnut.

A half-century ago, 40 bishops from around the world gathered in an ancient Roman church and signed a pledge to forsake worldly goods and live like the neediest among their flock.

They were in Rome for the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the deliberations that opened the Catholic Church to the modern world.

The bishops' all but forgotten pledge, known as the Pact of the Catacombs, has gained new resonance with Pope Francis' vision of a church for the poor.

TheCulinaryGeek / Creative Commons

For most of us, Thanksgiving dinner just wouldn't be the same without pie. Despite stuffing ourselves with turkey and dressing, we all manage to save a little room for pie.

Adam Sjoberg

A venerable poem written 140 years ago by an unconquerably positive and invincibly sentimental Victorian scribe is the inspiration for a hip, 21st-century jazz drummer/composer's new CD, an irrepressibly soulful work that makes its Connecticut debut this weekend.

Fintrvlr / Creative Commons

A new plan is being discussed to reduce the number of -- but not eliminate -- horse carriages on New York City.

Dan McKay / flickr creative commons

When I hear the word "diorama," the first thing I think of is Mr. Mack’s fifth grade class and painting hills and grass and clouds and a fence into a shoebox and making little cardboard cut outs of Lassie and the boy she loved. God, I hated that stuff.

The second thing I think of is a place like the Peabody Museum in New Haven and their incredibly, obsessively, over-the-toply detailed dioramas of the plant and wildlife of Connecticut.

If you are turkey-averse, turkeyphobic or just bored with the bird, fear not. We've got some other main dish ideas for you.

"What I think is cool is to put a center roast on the table that comes from the woods itself: something wild, something home-hunted, like venison," Amy Thielen, Minnesotan and author of The New Midwestern Table, tells All Things Considered's Ari Shapiro. Deer, says Thielen, is "one of those secret underground proteins in the American meat-eating story."

Robert Scoble / Creative Commons

Lawrence Lessig recently ended his pursuit of running for president as a Democrat. But his mission to take money out of politics and fix corruption is not over. He recently slammed Connecticut Democrats who proposed suspending the state’s Citizens Election Program. He joins us to discuss his experience and struggles in running for president and Connecticut’s campaign finance laws.

Wicker Paradise / Creative Commons

Speaking on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday, actor Charlie Sheen revealed he is HIV-positive and has spent millions trying to hide it. This hour, we take a closer look at the words Sheen used in discussing his actions and illness. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

American Muslims say the media is failing to hear moderate voices, as rhetoric over the Paris attacks and the placement of Syrian refugees ratchets up.

Speaking on The Colin McEnroe Show on WNPR, Reza Mansoor of the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut said marginalizing mainstream Islam just leads to more hysteria.

Photo courtesy of Concora /

On Saturday night Christopher Shepard will, at long last, make his debut as the new conductor and artistic director of Concora.

If you use the Internet or carry a smartphone  and let's face it, that's almost everyone who's not off the grid  you probably already know that companies are tracking our movements. Apps track where we shop, the items we search for, and where we like to travel. Companies are gathering as much data as they can, in large part to come up with more effective ads to sell us more stuff, or in the case of the government, to track suspicious activity.

Pope Francis seems like a pontiff who not only has a feeling for the little guy, but also someone who enjoys a good laugh. And the Pope will soon get some humor help from a Vermonter  an East Dorset rabbi who has become comedy advisor to the pope.

President Obama named 17 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Monday, one of whom calls western Massachusetts home.

Jimmy Katz

With lush string accompaniment, saxophonist/composer Jimmy Greene later this month presents music from his acclaimed 2014 album, Beautiful Life, his deeply moving, eloquent homage to the life of his beloved daughter, Ana Grace Marquez-Greene.

©Signed, Sealed & Undelivered Team, 2015. Courtesy of the Museum voor Communicatie, The Hague, The Netherlands

Deadbeat husbands, horrible bosses, and unplanned pregnancies are just a few of the topics written about in a recently-rediscovered chest found in the Netherlands containing hundreds of late-17th century letters.

A researcher at Yale is examining this "postal treasure trove," which is packed with all sorts of historical artifacts. 

Stephen Pierzchala / Creative Commons

In an era awash in the rollout of brand new gadgets, gizmos, fashions, and fads, it's easy to think of obsolescence as part of the natural order: Remember popped lapels, pay phones and laserdisc players? But the idea that an object should quickly fall from favor, lose functionality, and find itself in a landfill somewhere is quite new -- and it didn't come about by accident.

Danielle Mailer

From brilliantly colored fish to dancing cats to sensual silhouettes of the female form, the art of Connecticut’s Danielle Mailer spans painting, sculpture – and now – large public art projects.

Weatherman90 / Wikimedia

The lead singer for the band playing the night 100 people died in a 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island said he's making a documentary that will give him a chance to apologize and tell his side of the story. 

Eleazar Castillo /

The Latino and Iberian Film Festival opened Wednesday at Yale University with scheduled screenings of about 50 movies.

Bassist/composer Joe Fonda, long an irrepressible, dynamic force in the world of cutting-edge music, outdoes himself as a bold impresario/producer with his Tenth Annual Connecticut Composers Festival, a combustible mix whose catalytic elements start crackling on Saturday, November 14 at 7:30 pm at Middletown's Buttonwood Tree.

Joan Marcus/Hartford Stage

In 1954, Alfred Hitchcock directed two movies. They both star Grace Kelly. They’re both murder mysteries involving a married couple and a boyfriend and a girlfriend. They both take place almost entirely in one room. They both look like plays.

Peter Hapak /

You may best remember Ana Gasteyer eating Alec Baldwin's Schweddy Balls as Margaret Jo, the NPR co-host of The Delicious Dish on "Saturday Night Live." She was also a real-life Broadway actor and cabaret singer, and she just released her new album of jazz standards, I'm Hip. We talk about her upcoming appearance at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center on November 24, part of CPTV's new national music series, The Kate.

Wiki Erudito / Creative Commons

Star Wars fans are anxiously awaiting the release of "Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens," the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise, and first one without George Lucas at the helm. Will J.J. Abrams live up to the challenge? And where is Luke Skywalker?

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Next Wednesday marks the beginning of the Latino & Iberian Film Festival at Yale. This hour, we learn more about it with festival director Margherita Tortora. 

tracy benjamin / Creative Commons

The Grandpa Tucker poem below pretty much sums up how many people feel about Brussels sprouts.

Coast Guard News / Creative Commons

The United States Coast Guard Band has been a fixture in eastern Connecticut since its inception 90 years ago. But the Coast Guard is considering moving the ensemble to Washington, D.C.

Winston Vargas

A few days ago, quietly and with an irritating minimum of details, we learned that Martin Scorsese has committed to directing a full-length biopic about Leonard Bernstein.


Colum McCann was assaulted in New Haven last summer while attending a conference on empathy. He was knocked unconscious and suffered physical and emotional injuries that lingered long after the attack.

Stephanie Riefe / WNPR

Actor Kevin Bacon, who's currently performing in “Rear Window” at Hartford Stage, took time on Wednesday to bring awareness to a culinary job training program in Hartford's community.