Art Works Podcast

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Photo by Erin Patrice O’Brien

Documentary Filmmaker

In Through the Night documentary filmmaker Loira Limbal looks at a home-based 24-hour day care center run by Deloris and Patrick Hogan. Deloris, known to all as Nunu, is at the heart of this film as she steps up to give working mothers—primarily women of color—the flexibility they need as they work multiple jobs and/or night shifts. Filmed over a two-year period, it becomes clear as we see the Hogans teach, feed, guide and love these children that Nunu provides not just child-care but a critical social safety net for mothers working long hours to keep their families afloat. Limbal, herself a single mom of two, also introduces us to two of the mothers: Marisol who works three part-time jobs to provide for her family, and Shanona a pediatric ER nurse whose shifts typically run 14 hours. Through the Night is an inditement of the current childcare system in which mothers are forced to make impossible choices and an affirmation of the ingenious ways people come together to support one another in the face of systemic challenges. It is a remarkable film, and Loira is a passionate advocate for the women who make do against all odds while observing a system that doesn’t work for them. Loira talks about her determination to make Through the Night, the women she met during filming, her own journey as a filmmaker, the challenges of making the film as a mother of two with a full-time job and bringing out a documentary during the pandemic.

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Photo courtesy of Radio Bilingüe

2020 National Heritage Fellow and founder and executive director of Radio Bilingüe

Poet Jose Marti wrote “With the poor people of the earth I want to cast my lot.” 2020 National Heritage Fellow and Founder and Executive Director of Radio Bilingüe Hugo Morales could well write the same. A Mixtec, born in Oaxaca, he came to California with his mother and siblings when he was nine and joined his father working in the fields in the central valley. Growing up in a farm labor camp, Hugo quickly became aware of the dignity and poverty of the workers and of the sustenance provided by their traditional cultures, especially their music. Hugo’s musician father would often talk about the pride he had in Mixtec traditions and frequently played with other indigenous musicians for farmworkers’ fund-raisers, funerals or dances. Against most odds, Hugo went to Harvard College and Harvard Law School; but, he returned every summer to work in the fields and graduated with a determination to work for farmworkers and give voice to their culture. And so, in 1980, Radio Bilingüe was born. Based on “honest” culture by and for the people, Radio Bilingüe was the first Latino-controlled full-power FM radio station in the San Joaquín Valley. Now, 30 years later, Radio Bilingue is the leading Latino public radio network and content producer for the nation’s public broadcasting system with 24 stations and over 75 affiliates. Listen to the podcast to learn about Hugo’s and Radio Bilingüe’s extraordinary journey.

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Photo by John Abbott

1983 NEA Jazz Master and 2010 National Medal of Arts recipient

This week, the great tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins turned 90 years old. To celebrate, we’re revisiting my 2017 interview with this 1983 NEA Jazz Master and 2010 National Medal of Arts recipient. Sonny Rollins has been the jazz player’s jazz player and acknowledged as jazz’s greatest living improviser. He’s always been an adventurous musician-- unafraid to change or to embrace the sounds of calypso, Latin, avant-garde, funk and R&B. His solo work is unsurpassed-- either playing solo gigs or when performing with his band launching into long, extemporaneous unaccompanied cadenzas. As he said in the interview, “I like to play by myself. And, I'd like to go out and play by the water, by the ocean. I go in the park, anyplace where I can be alone with my saxophone… I always like to put all the music in my head, create it myself, patterns, ideas, thoughts, passages, anything like that… the greatest thing in the world is to be playing your instrument… because it's you and the universe.” Sonny’s universe also included many legendary musicians including Coleman Hawkins, Miles Davis, and his closest friends John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. This is a thoughtful and insightful conversation with an American genius. Enjoy it.

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Curator, The Brandywine River Museum of Art

Many women won a political victory 100 years ago with the passage of the 19th amendment which declares that the right of citizens to vote "shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.". The Brandywine Museum of Art is commemorating its passage and the long struggle leading to it with the exhibit Votes for Women: A Visual History funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Votes for Women shines a spotlight on the movement with over 200 hundred objects including drawings, illustrations as well as historic photographs of marches and rallies and examples of clothing and sashes worn by the suffragists. Significantly, Votes for Women works against what had been a dominant narrative: that the suffrage movement had been mainly white. It recognizes both the critical efforts of women of color and their community networks and the inability of the 19th to guarantee access to the ballot to women of color—primarily but not exclusively in the Jim Crow south. A companion exhibition Witness to History ”continues the story of the ongoing struggles marginalized communities faced when voting following the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment” featuring 55 photographs taken during the historic 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Curator Amanda Burdan talks about creating an inclusive exhibit about suffrage, its challenges and rewards, as well as the determination, political sophistication and publicity savvy of the suffragists.

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Photo by David Tallacksen, courtesy of WBGO

2020 NEA Jazz Master

Dorthaan Kirk has been named a 2020 NEA Jazz Master for her jazz advocacy…and it’s easy to see why. For more than forty years, Dorthaan has been a major force at WBGO, Newark Public Radio—the only full-time jazz station in the New York/New Jersey area. She had been married to the brilliant jazz multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk who died tragically young. After his death, Dorthaan wondered what her next step would be when a phone call changed everything: someone was starting a jazz radio station in Newark; would she interested in coming on-board? She was, and the rest is history. Dorthaan took on the role of special events and community relations coordinator at WBGO, bringing with her creativity, tenacity, a knowledge of the music business and firm friendships with many musicians. Among the programs she spearheaded at WBGO are its Jazzathons—a live 24 hour musical fund-raiser, the WBGO art gallery which supports local artists and opens the station to the community so they might enjoy the art, and, dearest to Dorthaan’s heart, the WBGO children’s concert series where musicians have been introducing children to jazz through two generations. Dorthaan is a great talker—as she will be the first one to tell you—so it’s a podcast filled with stories, memories and love for the people who make and support jazz.

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2020 National Heritage Fellow, Singer, Songwriter

2020 National Heritage Fellow Singer/Songwriter William Bell was the first male solo artist signed by the legendary Stax record label in the early 1960s. With his great sense of melody, rhythm, and lyrics as well as one of the best voices in the business, Bell played a pivotal role in creating a new genre of music known as Southern soul or the Memphis sound. In this podcast, William Bell discusses the pivotal role Stax played in his life and the lives of so many kids in Memphis. We talk and listen to some of his biggest hits like “Born Under a Bad Sign,” and “I Forgot to be Your Lover”, his collaboration with Booker T. Jones and his 2016 Grammy-Award winning album “This Is Where I Live” which he recorded under the newly revived Stax label. He is a born story-teller with a voice like velvet and a lifetime in music.

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Photo by Jim

2020 National Heritage Fellow and Iroquois Raised Beadworker

2020 NEA National Heritage Fellow and Iroquois Raised Beadworker, Karen Ann Hoffman (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin) creates contemporary art that is deeply rooted in the past. Iroquois raised beadwork is unique to the six nations of the Iroquois confederacy, which includes the Oneida. Its hallmark is beads sewn in a such a way that they arch above the fabric creating stunning dimensionality. Hoffman has taken this art to new literal and figurative heights—creating large beaded urns for example. But while her work is deeply connected to the traditions and culture of the Iroquois, her interest is in taking the form and “exploring, expanding and reimagining it against contemporary life.” Hoffman is not just an extraordinarily talented artist, she’s also, as you’ll hear, a passionate advocate for the art form and a fabulous storyteller.


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Photo courtesy of Gordon Sasaki

Visual Artist and Disability Rights Advocate

Last December, the Office of Accessibility held a webinar in which three successful artists discussed how they navigated their careers working with a disability. To no one’s surprise, one of the invited artists was Gordon Sasaki. For nearly 40 years, visual artist Gordon Sasaki has been working to increase accessibility to the arts for both practitioners and audiences. Believing in the fundamental power of art to advance disability rights, many of his paintings, sculptures and photographs reflect the body and how it is represented, the reality of living with a disability, and the diversity of disabilities, both obvious and subtle. Today’s podcast celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with an interview with Gordon Sasaki about his work, navigating the art world and the streets of New York, the changes the ADA has brought to his life, the work left to be done and his service dog Maki.

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Photos courtesy of The Homebound Project

Co-creators of The Homebound Project

What do a playwright and a director do when the theaters are closed, a pandemic is raging, and they want to be useful? Well, if they’re playwright Catya McMullen and director Jenna Worsham, they bring playwrights, actors, and directors together virtually to create The Homebound Project, an online series of short original plays that each actor performs on-camera in isolation. The Homebound Project has been a success in every sense of the word. McMullen and Worsham have gathered some extraordinary talent—playwrights like C.A. Johnson, Michael R. Jackson, Migdalia Cruz and Sarah Ruhl have contributed new work and actors including Daveed Diggs, Diane Lane, Blair Underwood, Phillipa Soo, and Cherry Jones have brought that work to life online. The Homebound Project is currently presenting its fourth digital series (July 15-19) with its fifth and final edition scheduled to stream August 5–9. That amounts to more than 50 new plays written, directed, and performed in the past few months with everyone donating their services to support a great cause. (More on that in the podcast.) Join us as McMullen and Worsham talk about creating The Homebound Project, finding and matching actors with playwrights, directing theater virtually, how the pandemic has affected the theater sector, and the promise the art of theater holds in times like this when story-telling is essential.

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Photo courtesy of SFJAZZ

Founder and Executive Artistic Director, SFJAZZ

Founder and executive artistic director of SFJAZZ Randall Kline takes us behind the scenes of Fridays at Five—a weekly digital series which offers hour-long concerts filmed at the SFJAZZ Center over the past six-plus years. It’s another example of performing artists and presenters stepping up during the pandemic in creative and innovative ways to share the art that keeps us all going. And—to no one’s surprise—SFJAZZ is leading the way. A national and international leader in jazz creation, presentation, and education, SFJAZZ is the biggest presenter of jazz on the West Coast—with over 200,000 customers and students going through the doors of the SFJAZZ Center each year. So, when the center had to close temporarily because of the pandemic, the organization went to work and quickly introduced Fridays at Five. For a nominal monthly fee, viewers can hear and see music performed by the likes of Terrance Blanchard, and NEA Jazz Masters Branford Marsalis and Dave Holland. Additionally, patrons still get to mingle with one another, as well as with SFJAZZ staff, board members, and musicians via a live chat. Back in April, I spoke with founder and the executive artistic director of SF Jazz Randall Kline about jazz, Fridays at Five, and the origins SFJAZZ itself, including the role the Arts Endowmen played in its growth.