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

“I can look out my window next to my desk and see where my grandfather was born on Ferry Street and where my mother was born on Garden Court Street,” says the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. “My father was born on Meridian Street in East Boston.”

Those words are from a Kennedy oral history, recorded in 2005 by scholars from the University of Virginia.

The Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train in Lincoln is exactly that.  Part train, part restaurant, the Cafe rolls down 20 miles of track serving five course meals to passengers over a 2 hour trip. NHPR's Sean Hurley rode along on this moveable feast on rails and sends us this.  

Thirdangel / Creative Commons

While lawn care is on many homeowners’ minds this time of year, another type of grass should also be considered.

Ornamental grasses are popular for good reason. They are fast growers with beautiful leaves, and most importantly, attractive flower heads that are also good as cut flowers. They bloom now and stay beautiful into winter.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Alan Doyle is best known as lead singer of the Canadian band Great Big Sea. Recently, however, he's been touring with a different act: Alan Doyle and The Beautiful Gypsies

courtesy of Joanna Poitier

Sue Mengers was a Hollywood legend. She broke the conventional mold for women in show business and became one of the most powerful talent agents in Hollywood during the 1970s. Her client list read like a Who’s Who of the most sought-after actors in the business: Barbra Streisand, Gene Hackman, Ryan O’Neal, Diana Ross, Michael Caine, Candice Bergen, and the list goes on. Like many ambitious young women in the ‘50s, Mengers started out as a secretary for a talent agent and then climbed the ladder, a ladder that she made herself, into the top echelon of agents and talent representatives in the country. 

Robert Benson Photography

A new play premieres this weekend as part of a gala event celebrating the hundredth anniversary of a synagogue in Chester, Connecticut called Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek.

The play is called “100 Years in 36 Minutes.” Its co-writer, Lary Bloom, came to the WNPR studios earlier this week to talk about it.

Doreen Cooney has owned the Deerfield Valley Inn in West Dover for 17 years and she is ready to try something new.

She put the property on the market last year, and after a pending deal with a potential buyer fell through she decided she would try something different to help her get out of the bed and breakfast business:

Cooney wants to give away the historic Deerfield Valley Inn.

Foliage season is always a busy time in Stowe but this season the town may see even more leaf peepers, after landing on top of TripAdvisor's top 10 list of U.S. fall foliage destinations.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, speaking during a rare press conference Tuesday, said for him one of the highlights of Pope Francis’ trip to the U.S. came in Philadelphia, when he met with victims of sexual abuse by priests.

The former estate of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Edith Wharton is debt free for the first time in decades.

Tom Hopkins

His new book is just out, Jacques Pépin Heart & Soul in the Kitchen… his salmon tostadas are the fastest appetizer around… and don't miss his baked potatoes escargot—stuffed with snails, scallops or shrimp, and a drizzle of buttery garlic sauce…

Courtesy Atla DeChamplain

Atla and Matt DeChamplain, former high school sweethearts who have become one of Connecticut’s premier jazz power couples, debut their first album done together at a festive CD release concert on Friday, October 2, with shows at 7:00 and 9:00 pm at the Palace Theater Poli Club at 100 East Main Street in Waterbury.

Woodley Wonder Works / Creative Commons


We've been talking a lot over this last year about problems like misogyny and violence in football, rape on college campuses, mass shootings, and increasing rates of suicide and addiction. What we don't say is that men are the victims of these behaviors as much as women, albeit in different ways. 

We often look for explanations in mental health, failed policy, or lax laws. But men overwhelmingly engage in these behaviors. Why are we reluctant to discuss what society expects from men, and whether those expectations are realistic? 

Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, puppetry artist Basil Twist and neuroscientist Beth Stevens work in wholly unrelated fields, but they do have at least one thing in common.

Along with 21 others, they are winners of the 2015 "genius" grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader recently opened a museum filled with items like defective toys and unsafe machines all tied together under a unifying theme: tort law.

Unless you're a lawyer, you might not quite know the exact meaning of the word tort.

"It's a wrongful injury," Nader says. "It's a wrongful act that injures people and deserves a remedy."

Games for Change / Creative Commons

Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, and Sheryl WuDunn were the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Their latest book, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity looks at people with great ideas who are making the world a better place and calls upon all of us to do our part.

Walking With Dante

Sep 28, 2015
Freeparking :-I / Creative Commons

"Dante's Inferno" is the most famous section of Dante Aligheri's 14,000 line epic poem, The Divine Comedy. But it's only the first part of Dante's long pilgrimage through the afterlife. He first enters the circles of hell, filled with beasts and sinners doomed to the Inferno for crimes like gluttony, lust, and treason. 

Gerry Lauzon / Creative Commons

Volkswagen is having a moment. Not a good moment, but it's certainly a moment. VW owners are glaring at their vehicles with suspicion after it was revealed the automaker's diesel vehicles were designed to cheat on emissions tests.

Hopefully, VW is not capturing its moment with a selfie because that could be deadly. Plus, selfies are so easy to take, a monkey can do it and maybe even make some money from it.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Raouf Mama is a beloved storyteller by children and adults familiar with his books Why Goats Smell Bad and Why Monkeys Live in TreesHis love of storytelling stems from a long and honorable oral tradition that goes back to the ancient empire of Mali, when people preserved the lessons of life in memory instead of on the written page.

Raouf says we each have a story of belonging and identity. He uses his stories to entertain, comfort, and most of all as a tool to enlighten students.

Hartford Symphony Orchestra / Facebook

A new arts season dawns. And despite the lingering cloud of the Hartford Symphony labor impasse – it originally looked like the HSO season-opening concerts might be lost, but in fact they will go on as scheduled – the new cycle brings a reassuringly plentiful supply of music, both familiar and challenging.

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.

The '60s, Through the Notebook of a Rock Critic

Sep 24, 2015
Danny Birchall/flickr creative commons

Sex, drugs, and rock & roll -- now there's a phrase that conjures up images and memories of the 1960s. But of course it wasn't all peace and love. The counterculture was completely intertwined with the serious challenges and changes that swept America in that decade, from civil rights and women's rights to the trauma of Vietnam and the anti-war movement. The violence, turmoil, and clashes between the generations paved the way for a surge in self-expression and creativity. We saw it through protests on college campuses, we watched it in the marches, and -- maybe most of all -- we heard it in the music that would become the common thread that wove it all together.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Sculpture gardens bring together art, human creativity, and nature. There are several in Connecticut, including a private one nestled in a residential neighborhood in North Haven that winds in and around the home of artist David Millen.

The big mural on Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway has switched over.

For the past three years, we’ve seen three different murals on the South Station-facing exterior wall of a Department of Transportation building in Dewey Square. Now the Greenway and MIT’s List Visual Arts Center have introduced to the city a conceptual piece — and it’s not subtle.

Seven large, bright orange words — all in caps and taller than people — pop against a bright, aqua blue background. They read:

So far, the Southern New England arts season has been a place for serious theater. Trinity Rep opened with Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar.” And now, Pawtucket's Gamm Theatre has presented Tennessee Williams' deep and driving “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

John Herschell/flickr creative commons

Jacques Pépin's apple galette using store-bought pizza dough… the cinnamon toast cocktail from Anthony DeSerio… oven-roasted cranberry compote from Fine Cooking… Ina's parsnip and pear gratin… the easy, dry-brined turkey with extra-crispy skin… and, don't throw away that turkey carcass -- it's really tasty...

Michael Crommett / Courtesy of Amir ElSaffar

Hailed by Down Beat magazine as “an exquisite alchemist” for his magical blend of traditional Middle Eastern motifs with free-wheeling jazz elements, the Iraqi-American, Chicago-born trumpeter/composer Amir ElSaffar has made a breakthrough discovery with his latest album, Crisis (Pi Recordings).

William Warby / flickr creative commons

A man named Billy Williams became a legend during World War II, but not only for his heroic actions; Williams, stationed in Burma, became an elephant "whisperer." The book Elephant Company describes the man's exceptional ability to understand the elephants around him, and the stunning ability of the elephants to understand and communicate with him, in return.

Rhode Island’s Viola Davis made history last night, as the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a TV drama. In a rousing speech, Davis quoted 19th century abolitionist Harriet Tubman, then spoke to the barriers women of color continue to face today.

“And let me tell you something, the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” said Davis.

European Union 2014 - European Parliament

There's a lot of great TV. We already knew that, but the Emmy Awards reiterated that we live in a golden age of television. "TV is where you meet people who are recognizably people, people with whom you are willing to spend your time — either once a week, or in intense hours-long bursts," said Alexandra Petri from the Washington Post. This hour, we recap the Emmys.

We also preview Pope Francis' trip to the United States this week. His visit comes at a time of political divide and presidential politics.