Arts/Culture

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

Donkey Hotey / Creative Commons

Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether the University of Texas at Austin can consider race when deciding who can come to their school. It's the second time the high court will decide this case. But like the rest of the country, the court is having a hard time talking about race without shouting at each other. Justice Scalia is making what some say are racist comments.

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The New York Times  and Washington Post are adding new forms of address and pronouns for people who haven't chosen a single gender. Research indicates that ending a text with a period seems insincere. Dictionaries are throwing open their doors and letting in all kinds of slangy words that have been living on the internet. 

ilirjan rrumbullaku / Creative Commons

Tourism and the arts took a hit in the budget adjustment agreed on by Governor Dannel Malloy and the legislature in special session earlier this week. The adjustment was needed to fill a $350 million hole in the state budget.

Lindsay Zier-Vogel / The Love Lettering Project

When was the last time you sent a letter? Not an email, but a real, tangible piece of mail? If your answer is "not recently," you’re not alone.

Except for the occasional birthday or holiday card, most of us haven’t sent -- or received -- good, old-fashioned snail mail in a very long time. 

A rare collection of photos of the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama are now on display at the Providence Public Library.

On Wednesday the photographer, Steven Somerstein, will deliver a talk about his experience taking the photos, witnessing the march, and interacting with influential black leaders of the time including, Martin Luther King Jr, James Baldwin, and Rosa Parks.

Jonathan McNicol / WNPR

Before Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, before Jon Stewart and Conan O’Brien, before "The Simpsons," before David Letterman, before "Saturday Night Live," before The National Lampoon… before all the great subversive American satirists that we’ve all grown… used to — before all that, there was MAD magazine.

Demetri Mouratis flickr.com/photos/dmourati / Creative Commons

Last year at this time, I foolishly offered my choices for the ten best pop Christmas songs. I say foolishly because these list things are always a bad idea for so many reasons. In fact I’m working on a piece that will list the ten biggest reasons why list stories are a bad idea.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

It’s been three years since saxophonist Jimmy Greene lost his six-year-old daughter, Ana, in the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. On his album, Beautiful Life, Greene memorializes his little girl. It was recently nominated for two Grammy Awards.

City of Milford Adaptive Recreation / Facebook

Adaptive arts link those with disabilities to artistic expression. This Friday, the city of Milford’s Recreation Department partners with the New England Ballet Company for the sixth annual production of "The Nutcracker Suite."

Jimmy Katz

Inspired by the age-old Delta blues, Noah Preminger and his delta force quartet create a 21st century re-imagining of two soul-drenched songs by legendary blues singer Bukka White on the young tenor saxophonist's dynamic, new album, Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar, a jazz bistro in Greenwich Village.

Walking With Dante

Dec 9, 2015
Freeparking / Creative Commons

"Dante's Inferno" is the most famous section of "The Divine Comedy," poet Dante Aligheri's, 14,000 line epic poem. It's where Dante must face his sins before moving beyond an eternity in hell, where the doomed can still find redemption in the acceptance of their humanity. 

Anonymous Inmate / Permission by Ron Jenkins

Dante's painful journey through the nine circles of hell in "Dante’s Inferno" defies description: "If I had verses harsh and grating enough to describe this wretched hole…"

Yet this is the most alluring section of the "The Divine Comedy," in the most enduring poem of all time. Dante Alighieri was a 14th century poet and politician who wrote his epic poem about sin and redemption upon his permanent exile from his beloved city of Florence.

Jimmy Katz

Connecticut Jazz Saxophonist Jimmy Greene's album Beautiful Life has garnered two Grammy award nominations. The record celebrates the life of his daughter Ana, who was killed in the Newtown tragedy three years ago.

This essay first appeared in the 2010 book This Is NPR: The First Forty Years, a collection of writing by NPR staff and contributors.


I should have cared more, but I didn't. I should have cried, but I didn't.

He meant so much to me.

But the day John Lennon died, my life and his music were never more distant.

After being missing for more than a decade — and believed to have been stolen — a centuries-old map that depicts 17th century Canada and New England has been returned to the Boston Public Library.

The BPL announced Friday that Carte Geographique de Nouvelle France, which was compiled in 1612 by explorer Samuel de Champlain, was found this summer for sale at an antiques dealer in New York City for $285,000.

When NBC first considered bringing The Wiz Live! to television, the network couldn't have known how much America would need to see this.

At a time when the country is reeling from mass shootings, protests over police killing black teens, and presidential candidates railing against immigrants and refugees, there is no better time to experience a soothing, expertly executed celebration of family, friendship and black culture.

A story about a deadly terrorist attack briefly inspired a frenzied media scrum Friday morning in Southern California when dozens of reporters and TV news crews entered the home of the two shooters in the San Bernardino massacre.

Harley Pebley / Creative Commons

Two married shooters with a six-month-old baby rushed a social service agency this week in San Bernardino, California. They killed 14 people and injured another 21.  It's an all-too familiar scene, including the heartfelt prayers that followed. 

Clark flickr.com/photos/photos_by_clark / Creative Commons

For many, the satisfyingly "plucky" sound of the banjo immediately evokes bluegrass or country music. But the instrument is finding itself useful in lots of other musical genres. Coming up on Saturday night at Cafe Nine in New Haven, the banjo is going to get a workout during a concert called "Night of the Living Banjo."

Ian Douglas Photography / Yuja Wang/Facebook

The calendar has just flipped over to December, CVS has stockpiled its ineffective windshield scrapers up near the cash registers, the newspaper food sections are starting to feature hearty soup recipes, and recently for the first time in many months I found the word “sleet” in the ten-day forecast.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

I first met cartoonist Bill Griffith back in the 1980s. I arranged for us to tour a Boston-area Hostess Twinkie plant, which sounds like a weird first date but makes perfect sense if you're familiar with his creation "Zippy the Pinhead," an unwitting surrealist who swims happily through a sea of taco sauce, processed cheese and, well, Twinkies.

Timothy White

Besides being a swinging guitarist and a cool but emotionally expressive vocalist, John Pizzarelli is also an amusing stand-up humorist who digs connecting with his audience.

Leland Francisco / WNPR

Long before evangelicalism became associated with the mostly white, conservative followers aligned with the Republican Party, a long line of progressive evangelicals led reforms to abolish slavery, give women the vote and improve public schools.

But the history of evangelicalism is complicated. It has a rich history of social activism on behalf of the marginalized, mixed with deep discomfort with the very people it seeks to help.

Hartford Symphony Orchestra / Facebook

It's well into the Hartford Symphony Orchestra's new season, and HSO musicians still don't have a new contract. The musicians are asking management for "shared sacrifice" to reach an agreement.

Gretana / Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a question: If the things we’re made of — the particles, the fundamental elemental irreducible bits, the most basic littlest chunks of us — if those things are literally, actually indistinguishable from one another, from the tiniest simplest bits of everyone else, from the tiniest simplest bits of everything else… then what makes us us?

What even makes us anything at all, really?

Jean Mottershead flickr.com/photos/jeanm1 / Creative Commons

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.

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