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

Diane Sobolewski / Goodspeed Theater

So, you think it's easy to write a Broadway song? I say not so fast. 

The four aspiring writing teams that attended Goodspeed's Festival of New Musicals this past January say it's plenty hard. They spend a lot of time kicking around ideas, most of which never see the light of day. But, really, they have no choice. "If you can do anything else, you do do anything else," says Marcy Heisler, one half of one of our amazing teams. 

The 1950s was a hinge decade for noteworthy and nation-changing civil rights events across the United States, including Brown v. Board of Education in Kansas, the bus boycott in Alabama and the National Guard-protected integration of Central High School in Arkansas.

Meanwhile, there was also a revolution brewing in bookstores and public libraries.

By design or by happenstance, a handful of children's picture books were focal points of the American movement toward integration in the '50s.

Didriks/flickr creative commons

On the Food Schmooze® menu... our resident bartender Anthony DeSerio whips up a great tequila cocktail with fresh beet juice... learn how to make a fresh tuna burger with assistance from the real Paleo expert... Via Carota, the Italian restaurant in NYC you do not want to miss... where to buy simple syrup packets to sweeten iced teas and coffees on the road… a fabulous and affordable Italian red wine.

John Abbott / russnolan.com

Without ever sounding the least bit formulaic, saxophonist/composer Russ Nolan makes his musical calculations by using his favorite working equation, which is: Latin rhythms + post-bop harmonies = infinitely expanding quantities of energetic expression.

Back in 1890, Thomas Edison gave us some of the world's first talking dolls. Today, the glassy-eyed cherubs that are still around stand about 2 feet tall; they have wooden limbs and a metal body; and they sound supercreepy. (If you're looking for a soundtrack to your nightmares, listen to the audio story above.) Edison built and sold about 500 of them back in 1890. Now, new technology has made hearing them possible for the first time in decades.

Columbine; Port Arthur, Australia; The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin; Newtown — the list goes on and on. And, by now, the elements of this type of massacre have become ritualized: usually one, but sometimes more than one, deeply disaffected person, almost always male, who is heavily armed with guns and/or explosives, targets the innocent. In the aftermath, which sometimes includes a trial, the crucial question of "Why?" is never really answered. Instead, most of us are left to wonder how any human being, however twisted, could be capable of such horror.

It’s hard to miss Janet Echelman’s massive new public art project on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The award-winning Brookline resident’s 2,000-pound sculpture is suspended between three skyscrapers and appears to be floating above the park.

It was no small feat to install the Greenway Conservancy’s latest effort in its quest to bring more ambitious public art to Boston.

Orville Wright / Library of Congress

For decades, David McCullough has chronicled some of the biggest chapters of U.S. history. In his latest book, McCullough focuses on two brothers who not only had a massive impact on the United States, but on the world. The Wright Brothers follows Orville and Wilbur’s path to immortality and their lasting legacy.

Among those who dispute the Wright brothers' claim to fame are supporters of Connecticut resident Gustave Whitehead who they say was the first to fly in 1901. In fact, Connecticut lawmakers went so far as to officially declare that Whitehead was the first to fly, ticking off North Carolina and Ohio in the process.

Yoda, Chewbacca and a phalanx of stormtroopers are telling people all over the Internet "May the fourth be with you" today, as fans of the Star Wars franchise celebrate all things that emanate from a galaxy far, far away.

As you would expect from a quasi-holiday that's drawn from a pun, May 4 brings a flood of cute ideas to social media. It's also a good excuse to dress up as an Ewok. NASA is taking the whole enterprise to a new level, with a flurry of tweets that show how "science fiction is now science fact!"

Martie Swart/flickr creative commons

Barking, fleas, Lyme disease, pet food, biting, housebreaking, shyness, pet insurance, animal rescue. Top flight advice from vet Dr. Todd Friedland. Don't miss his adventures with animals of all kinds.

The complexities of Baltimore seem largely out of the reach of the media outlets that descend, as usual, only when certain neighborhoods burn.

Birthday parties and backyard barbecues – rituals of daily life and love – seem to never make the headlines. Yet images of overturned cars claim the top spot on the evening news every time.

In West Baltimore, at Pennsylvania and North avenues, media featured a drug store on fire.

Wikimedia Commons

Which side are you on?

In the mammoth PEN Awards kerfuffle, that is. Table captains have walked out over the award being given to the survivors from Charlie Hebdo. And now 145 writers, including six table captains and such notables as Junot Díaz, Lorrie Moore, Joyce Carol Oates, Eric Bogosian and Michael Cunningham, have signed a letter protesting the award to Hebdo. As LBJ  apparently never said regarding Vietnam and Walter Cronkite (but we'll come to that): Once you've lost Joyce Carol Oates, you've lost America. Francine 

Denise / Creative Commons

Since Maurice Sendak's death in 2012, the community around his home in Ridgefield, Connecticut has wondered how to commemorate his life and work. Now, a team of artists and community members have come together to create a museum honoring the writer and illustrator’s life and work.

Which Writers Get Museums?

Apr 30, 2015
Creative Commons

Mark Twain has many literary sites; yet Henry James has none. You can visit Edith Wharton's house but not Shirley Jackson's. You can walk where Wallace Stevens walked but you can't buy a ticket to go through his front door. And can you believe there's no single museum devoted to all American writers-- yet?

New England is about to get two great new writers’ museums: The Dr. Seuss museum in Springfield, Massachusetts and-- if we're lucky-- the Maurice Sendak Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Today we look at who gets a writer's house and why-- and what sort of experience we’re looking for when we make pilgrimages to the desks of our literary heroes.

Capitol Studios / Courtesy Allen J. Hill, Gress-Miles Organ Photo Collection

The University of Hartford's Hartt School will graduate its last organ major in May. Once a robust program, Hartt made the tough decision to abandon the organ program two years ago. Alumni of the organ program will gather this weekend to say goodbye to the school's pipe organ, which has been sold to a church on Long Island. 

Ginny/flickr creative commons

My motto on The Book Show is: Life is short, but it can be ever so wide.

Join me and my book buddies for a call-in show recommending terrific books to read in all categories. If you're in a book club, please tell us what you've read and enjoyed.

Creative Commons

One spring afternoon, maybe 20 years ago, I found myself having lunch with some guys who were all big supporters of Connecticut Opera. They were talking about ways that the company might increase its audience and thereby stabilize its finances. Various strategies were proposed.

Finally one of the guys said, “Look, if we’re really going to make any progress, we should just do ‘La Boheme’ every single season.”

Kirsten Skiles/flickr creative commons

Breaking News! The Food Schmooze® Martini Competition is June 25th and we've officially registered with the Guinness Book of World Records to be designated as the World's Largest Martini Competition. It certainly qualifies as the most fun party of the year in Connecticut. Be there and who knows, we'll make history?... Veterinarian Todd Dr.Friedland has blown our minds with his weed-free technique for growing flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables in a bale of straw, and organic if you choose, even if all you have is a roof-top, tiny yard or driveway to do it... Use fresh fruit, like clementines, to make Connecticut bartender Anthony DeSerio's easy gin cocktail, called Oh, My Darling...

William P. Gottlieb / U.S. Library of Congress

Maybe the best way to celebrate Billie Holiday’s centennial year is to pay Lady Day a one-hour visit by listening to the 20 signature songs on Columbia/Legacy’s new, fine and mellow single-CD tribute called Billie Holiday: The Centennial Collection.

Mike Licht / Creative Commons

University of Kentucky Biology professor James Krupa is frustrated with the resistance of his non-biology students to accept the theory of evolution as established fact, despite what he calls an "avalanche of evidence" supporting its validity.

Krupa says that evolution is the foundation of our science, and just as we accept germ theory, cell theory, quantum theory, and even game theory, we must understand the significance of evolution even if it challenges long-held religious beliefs.

Vinoth Chandar/flickr creative commons

Who says New Year's Eve is the only time to make resolutions? As we head into a season of more sun and warmth, we think it might be interesting to see what pops into our heads about what we'd like more of this summer: 

Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel aren't the first married couple to write songs about the challenges and celebrations inherent to lifelong love, but few focus more intently on a sense of play. Still, there's nothing naive or unrealistic about their songs: When they sing, "Love loud / Don't lose loud" in 2008's "The Re-Arranger," they're taking care to package a sweet little two-word slogan with a subtle but potent reminder that loving loudly is a job of endless maintenance.

Clara T/flickr creative commons

Thai basil chicken… joyful chocolate almond bars… no-bake cake… sweet potato and ground turkey shepherd's pie… it's all in the new book The Science of Skinny Cookbook, produced by the scientist Dee McCaffrey, who eliminated synthetic chemicals from her diet and went from obese to slender. Now she offers the recipes that have made her plan a success…

One of the unwritten rulers of a weekly culture show like The Nose is that, if you're willing to "go low," as they say, you could probably alternate between Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck every week. They're both wonderfully talented, but they're also kind of useful idiots, reliably causing some kind of spectacle we can go after. And they used to be a couple.

Facebook

An oratorio based on the life of gay rights advocate and politician Harvey Milk gets its New England premiere this weekend in New Haven. Oratorios are typically large musical compositions with a dramatic theme, written for orchestra, choir, and soloists; think Handel's "Messiah," or Haydn's "Creation."

Native American actors have walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie that they say insults their culture.

Public Domain

Pope Francis recently called the 1915 deaths of more than a million Armenians a genocide. The Turkish government hasn't responded kindly. To mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, we speak with local experts and artists about what happened and the lasting political tension that still exists today. 

Also, did you know that one of two plaster casts of Pope John Paul II’s hand is in Chicopee, Massachusetts? It’s part of a collection of thousands of pieces of Polish culture and history. WNPR’s Catie Talarski gets a tour of the Polish Center of Discovery and Learning with founder Stas Radosz.

Catie Talarski / WNPR

The town of Chicopee, Massachusetts first reported Polish settlers in 1880. It was the beginning of an influx of immigrants to the Connecticut River Valley to work as farmers and factory workers. 

Stanislaw, or Stas, Radosz is working to keep that history alive at the Polish Center for Discovery and Learning.

Jeffrey Smith/flickr creative commons

There was a time when almost everyone wore a watch. There was a time when almost everyone had a mechanical clock in their home. There was a time when almost no one had any kind of timepiece at all.

There was also a time when pretty much everyone had a VCR that blinked 12:00 AM twenty-four hours a day.

Rebecca Siegel/flickr creative commons

Janet Fletcher's new cookbook, Yogurt, is a winner; it's packed with information about the health effects of yogurt, as well as sweet and savory recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We started cooking them immediately, and loved them.

Pages