The National Endowment for the Arts podcast that goes behind the scenes with some of the nation’s great artists to explore how art works.
Charles Yu’s novel (and National Book Award winner) Interior Chinatown is an insightful, searing, and inventive exploration of Asian-American identity and representation in popular culture. Written in the form of a television screenplay, Interior Chinatown tells the story of actor Willis Wu who is doomed to play various generic Asian characters in a TV procedural called “Black and White.” But the series is a metauniverse, forever in production, dictating the roles of everyone in the book based on their race, gender and age. Our hero Willis Wu wants more—he wants a story of a story of his own: he wants to be Kung Fu guy. In this podcast, Charles Yu talks about writing Interior Chinatown as a screenplay, his desire to give a story to the “generic Asian man” we see in the background on TV series, the impact of Asian-American stereotypes in an omnipresent popular culture, and his own time spent in a writers’ room on a television series.
Painter Mequitta Ahuja has been re-visioning self-portraiture. While her large colorful canvasses have centrally positioned her own African-American and Indian-American identity, she also claims her own authority as the artist. She emphasizes the work of painting: depicting multiple genres of painting in pictures within the paintings themselves. The result gestures to history, collapses time. and makes new meaning. Ahuja’s work has been widely exhibited in museums and galleries nationally and internationally, including the Phillips Collection, the Brooklyn Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Her many fellowships and awards include a 2009 residency to the Studio Museum in Harlem, a 2014 residency to the Siena Art Institute and a 2018 Guggenheim fellowship award. If you like to learn about the process of making a work of art, this is the podcast for you: Ahuja walks us through the making of her spectacular painting “Portrait of her Mother,” as well as her own evolution within the genre of self-portraiture, and the importance of her mentor Kerry James Marshall.
Darrel Alejandro Holnes
Born in Panama and currently based in New York City, Darrel Alejandro Holnes is equally at home in poetry and theater. A former I Am Soul Resident Playwright at the Black National Theater, Holnes is known for his research-based work in theater, spending hours in interviews with people whose stories unfold on the stage. An equally celebrated poet, Holnes’s work has appeared in many publications including Poetry Magazine, The Caribbean Writer and Callaloo. He is also the recipient of a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry and a judge in the semi-finals of the 2021 Poetry Out Loud Competition. His recently released chapbook Migrant Psalms has been awarded the 2021 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry prize. His full-length collection of poetry Stepmotherland is due out in 2022. As both titles indicate, Holnes poetry explores questions of belonging, bridging cultures and building and rupturing communities. In this podcast, Holnes reflects on the different practices of writing poetry and of writing plays, the ethnographic research that inspires his work, the importance of acquiring the skill of listening both as a creator and as an agent for change, and the experience of judging the 2021 Poetry Out Loud semi-finals.
Terri Lyne Carrington
Drummer, producer, educator and 2021 NEA Jazz Master Terri Lyne Carrington is not only a virtuoso musician, she’s also a strong advocate for social justice and gender equity. She has spent her life in jazz. Coming from a musical family, she had her first professional gig at the age of ten (with Clark Terry, no less!). By the time she 11, she was a part-time student of the Berklee College of Music. And her career took off from there. In the 1980s, she worked with jazz luminaries like Pharaoh Saunders and Frank West; in the 1990s, she toured with jazz greats like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. She went on the lead her own groups, and in 2014, she became the first woman to win a Grammy Award as a leader for Best Jazz Instrumental Album with Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue. She brought together women instrumentalists and vocalists for The Mosaic Project tours and recordings. Her recent album Waiting Game with her group Social Science is the definition of artistic intersectionality in terms of race, gender, age, and style. And Carrington is deeply committed to empowering the next generation of musicians--founding and serving as the artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice. In this podcast, we talk about her early mentors, her development as a drummer and as a bandleader, some of the great musicians she’s played with, and her advocacy for gender equity in jazz and society.
Camille T. Dungy
Award-winning writer and two-time NEA Literature Fellow Camille T. Dungy is one of the significant voices in ecopoetry. Ecopoetry is a challenge to classic nature poetry, which was often written by poets who observed nature rather than seeing themselves as part of the natural world. Ecopoetry dispels this illusion: “outside of nature” doesn’t exist. Ecopoetry probes the complexities and interconnections of all parts of the natural world. In a genre long been dominated by white voices, Dungy explores these entangled connections between humans and nature from her position as a Black woman in the United States. She does so with precise detail, rhythmic lyricism, and a broad inclusiveness. The author of four collections of poetry, Dungy is also the editor of the 2009 path-breaking anthology, Black Nature: Four Hundred Years of African-American Nature Writing. The anthology insists that the place of Black nature poets be recognized on their own terms: as writers whose connection to nature is complicated by history. In other words, existing outside of history is as impossible as existing outside of nature. In this poetry-filled podcast, Dungy discusses the issues around the absence of Black voices in anthologies of environmental poetry, editing and organizing Black Nature, her own work as a poet, and the significance of environmental poetry.
Albert “Tootie” Heath
The Heath Brothers are jazz legends—2002 NEA Jazz master Percy was a bassist, 2003 NEA Jazz Master Jimmy was saxophonist, composer, and arranger and now their youngest brother Albert, known to all as Tootie, a virtuosic percussionist, has now joined them as a 2021 NEA Jazz Master. Tootie Heath’s talent was apparent a young age—he was still in high school when he performed with Thelonious Monk. In fact, the list of musicians who have sought him out reads like a who’s who in jazz: John Coltrane, Dexter Gordan, Yusef Lateef, Art Farmer, Anthony Braxton, Ethan Iverson. The list goes on and on; after all, Heath has performed on more than 100 recordings. But note the range of styles of these musicians. Heath is known for his extraordinary versatility as a drummer—eager to play various styles of jazz as well as immerse himself in the music and rhythms of other cultures. Yet, there’s never any mistaking Heath’s own distinctive musical voice. And it was a voice that was nurtured from an early age at his home in Philadelphia where he grew up surrounded by music. In this podcast, Tootie Heath talks about his musical roots, his talented brothers, some of the celebrated musicians he’s performed with, and his commitment to embracing different musical styles. He’s funny, irreverent, and a born story-teller with great stories to tell.
I love this app! Love it!
Very well produced, wide range of topics. Great podcast!
Fascinating, informative, inspiring
Well-produced, thoughtful conversations with people who are making a difference through their art. This is a well-researched podcast with heart and, often, humour.
I especially like the episode with Sebastian Junger. Also, the episode length is great: enough to dive in, short enough to easily take in.