Artist, performer and host Helga Davis brings a soulful curiosity and love of people to the podcast Helga: The Armory Conversations. She draws the listener into intimate conversations with artists, scholars and cultural change-makers, famous and lesser known, who join her to share the steps they’ve taken along their paths. These inspiring conversations expand our world and our imaginations as we explore what we think we know about each other. The new season of Helga is a co-production of WNYC Studios and Park Avenue Armory. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, On the Media, and Death, Sex & Money. Part American palace, part industrial shed, Park Avenue Armory supports unconventional works in the performing and visual arts that cannot be fully realized in a traditional proscenium theater, concert hall, or white wall gallery.
The Armory Youth Corps
"We’re struggling. Our generation is trying to cope. Life is crazy."
On this final episode of Helga: The Armory Conversations, I look to this next generation of artists. Three participants in Park Avenue Armory’s Youth Corps program, playwright Wilson Castro, visual artist Raven Garcia, and photographer Biviana Sanchez, sat down with me and as we made a space together, we experienced what it means to be vulnerable with oneself and with each other.
The Youth Corps Program immerses students in the art and creative processes of the Armory’s artists through paid, mentored, project-oriented internships. Starting in high school, the Youth Corps provides a test audience to the Armory Artist Corps during the lesson design process, offering feedback from a student perspective, serves as Front of House staff for all Armory events, assists in administrative projects in all departments, and completes and presents a term project. Building on this foundation and responding directly to student needs, the program also includes a post-secondary phase, including strategies to promote college persistence, professional development, and student leadership.
K. Anthony Jones
"I want to push those limitations. Push them."
Researcher, writer and critic K. Anthony Jones discusses what it means to make your own way and how to carve a path where one does not exist.
K. Anthony Jones researches and writes on the history, theory, and criticism of late modern art and architecture. His research interests include the media cultures of the Cold War; modernism and war; art and globalization; science and technology studies; visual culture; critical race theory; political anthropology; imperialism; postcolonial studies; art and technology; methods of historiography; and archival science.
Jones received a Master in Design Studies degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 2020; and a Bachelor of Art degree from Morehouse College in Sociology in 2010.
And here are 5 books that offer a glimpse into his world:
1. The House That Race Built: Original Essays by Toni Morrison, Angela Y. Davis, Cornel West, and Others on Black Americans and Politics in America Today by Wahneema Lubiano
2. Home by Toni Morrison
3. The Middle Passage: White Ships / Black Cargo by Tom Feelings
4. Taryn Simon: The Color of a Flea’s Eye: The Picture Collection by Taryn Simon (Author, Photographer), Joshua Chuang (Author), Tim Griffin (Author)
5. The People Could Fly: Black American Folktales by Virginia Hamilton (Author) Leo Dillon (Illustrator), Diane Dillon Ph.D. (Illustrator)
“There’s a real potential in art making to have someone reassess everything that they had thought about a history.”
Curator, critic and writer, Antwaun Sargent engages Helga in a discussion around the motivations behind his work as a curator and the circuitous path that led him to a life in and around art.
Antwaun Sargent is writer, editor and curator living in New York City. Sargent is the author of “The New BlackVanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion” (Aperture) and the editor of “Young, Gifted andBlack: A New Generation of Artists” (DAP). Recently, he was hired as a director at Gagosian Gallery.
The Coda includes a reading from "Notes On Social Works" by Antwaun Sargent.”
“It was so important to be apart of community. To find strength in each other. To know that on the days when I can’t move forward, someone is going to take up the baton and move forward for me. “
Professor, Lawyer and ACLU President Deborah Archer sat down to speak with me about some of her earliest moments and how they shaped her desire to fight for equality.
Deborah N. Archer is a Professor of Clinical Law and Co-Faculty Director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU School of Law. Deborah is also the President of the ACLU and a leading expert in civil rights, civil liberties, and racial justice. She is an award-winning teacher and legal scholar whose articles have appeared in leading law reviews. Deborah has also offered commentary for numerous media outlets, including MSNBC, National Public Radio, CBS, Monocle, The Atlantic, and The New York Times.
Deborah previously worked as an attorney with the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., where she litigated in the areas of voting rights, employment discrimination, and school desegregation. Deborah is also a former chair of the American Association of Law School's Section on Civil Rights and the Section on Minority Groups. She previously served as Chair of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, the nation’s oldest and largest police oversight agency.
Liliana Maria Percy Ruíz
“That's been one of the hardest things to really heal from. Has been the grief of knowing that my choices and the way that I live my life, which I love means that I am isolated from my community.”
Liliana Maria Percy Ruíz, radio producer and founding member of On Being with Krista Tippett sat down to talk about identity, her definition of faith and the complexities of family.
Born in Cali, Colombia, Liliana Maria Percy Ruíz immigrated to Miami with her family at the age of four. She studied English Literature and Film Studies at Florida International University.
Liliana Maria has worked as an associate editor at MovieMaker magazine, and as a producer for StoryCorps and NPR’s “All Things Considered” on the weekends, where she produced the series “Movies I’ve Seen A Million Times.” In 2012, she received the Religion Newswriters Association Radio/Podcast Religion Report of the Year Award for her profile of four Roman Catholic Womenpriests.
Liliana Maria was one of the founding team of four of the On Being Project. During her time at the OBP, she was the Executive Producer of On Being Studios, where she produced the national public radio show and podcast, On Being with Krista Tippett, as well as created the podcasts Poetry Unbound and This Movie Changed Me, which she also hosted.
Liliana Maria proudly serves on the board of Centro Tyrone Guzman, the oldest and largest multi-service Latino organization in Minneapolis.
"The positioning of being kind of on the edge of the room looking in? That's the position of a journalist."
Jad Abumrad, co-Host and creator of Radiolab, joined Helga to talk about the beginnings of his career, the impact of family and how he works with doubt.
The son of a scientist and a doctor, Jad Abumrad did most of his growing up in Tennessee, before studying creative writing and music composition at Oberlin College in Ohio. Following graduation, Abumrad wrote music for films, and reported and produced documentaries for a variety of local and national public radio programs, including On The Media, Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, Morning Edition, All Things Considered and WNYC's "24 Hours at the Edge of Ground Zero."
While working on staff at WNYC, Abumrad began tinkering with an idea for a new kind of radio program. That idea evolved into one of public radio’s most popular shows today – Radiolab. Abumrad hosts the program with Robert Krulwich and also serves as one of its producers. The program won the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award and explores big questions in science, philosophy and mankind. Under Abumrad’s direction, the show uses a combination of deep-dive journalism, narrative storytelling, dialogue and music to craft compositions of exploration and discovery. Radiolab podcasts are downloaded over 10 million times each month and the program is carried on more than 500 stations across the nation and internationally.
Abumrad is also the Executive Producer and creator of Radiolab's More Perfect, a podcast that explores how cases deliberated inside the rarefied world of the Supreme Court affect our lives far away from the bench.
Abumrad was honored as a 2011 MacArthur Fellow (also known as the Genius Grant). The MacArthur Foundation website says: “Abumrad is inspiring boundless curiosity within a new generation of listeners and experimenting with sound to find ever more effective and entertaining ways to explain ideas and tell a story.”
Abumrad also produced and hosted The Ring & I, an insightful, funny, and lyrical look at the enduring power of Wagner's Ring Cycle. It aired nationally and internationally and earned ten awards, including the prestigious 2005 National Headliner Grand Award in Radio.
Extraordinary - wildly accomplished artists and makers in many genres in genuine peer-to-peer conversation. Thanks Helga, thanks WNYC! LOVE THE NEW SEASON. Nick Cave interview is THE BEST.
Welcome back Helga, what a great interview I’ve missed you, and I love you dearly. John-Conrad
Thank you for “ for holding space for us”.. another great show
Like listening to an embrace
Helga’s authenticity and warm nature come through so clearly on this podcast. She asks the questions I want to hear and it is so satisfying to listen to an interviewer “go there” with her subjects. When listening to this podcast I feel that I am at the table too, right in the moment watching this grand conversation unfold between two people. It’s a beautiful and hopeful podcast to listen to during this time in our nation.