Elizabeth Blair

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.

Blair produces, edits, and reports arts and cultural segments for NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. In this position, she has reported on a range of topics from arts funding to the MeToo movement. She has profiled renowned artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Mikhail Baryshnikov, explored how old women are represented in fairy tales, and reported the origins of the children's classic Curious George. Among her all-time favorite interviews are actors Octavia Spencer and Andy Serkis, comedians Bill Burr and Hari Kondabolu, the rapper K'Naan, and Cookie Monster (in character).

Blair has overseen several, large-scale series including The NPR 100, which explored landmark musical works of the 20th Century, and In Character, which probed the origins of iconic American fictional characters. Along with her colleagues on the Arts Desk and at NPR Music, Blair curated American Anthem, a major series exploring the origins of songs that uplift, rouse, and unite people around a common theme.

Blair's work has received several honors, including two Peabody Awards and a Gracie. She previously lived in Paris, France, where she co-produced Le Jazz Club From Paris with Dee Dee Bridgewater, and the monthly magazine Postcard From Paris.

Five landscape architects unveiled proposals Wednesday to save the sinking Tidal Basin on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The plans run the gamut from a conservative approach to radical reimaginings.

The Tidal Basin connects centuries of American history and includes memorials to Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr. Some 1.5 million people walk along the basin's rim during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival each spring. But with increased car and foot traffic, the ground underneath is dipping. As sea levels rise, the walkways flood daily.

When Irving Berlin's Oscar-nominated movie musical Top Hat entered the National Film Registry, the Library of Congress wrote "This effervescent musical proved the perfect tonic for Depression-era audiences." 85 years later, a mesmerizing, modern rendition of one of its dance numbers could be seen as a "pandemic-era" tonic for today's audiences.

Riva Lehrer is a painter who reimagines "socially challenged" bodies with often fantastical imagery. John Lee Clark, a DeafBlind poet, is a leader in the Protactile movement, a language that communicates through touch.

The Smithsonian Institution has announced that poet Kevin Young will be the next director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. With more than 37,000 objects, the NMAAHC in Washington, D.C., is the largest center dedicated to the African American experience in the country. Young succeeds the museum's founding director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, who was named secretary of the Smithsonian in 2019.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

Concert halls and theaters are taking baby steps to reopen. The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., held its first in-person concert, A Time to Sing: An Evening with Renee Fleming and Vanessa Williams. NPR's Elizabeth Blair was there and has this postcard.

Sometimes humans struggle to find the words to convey the sheer depth of their love for one another. Leave it to Sam McBratney's Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare in Guess How Much I Love You to show us the way.

They love each other as high as they can hop, they love each other across the river and over the hills, and finally, all the way up to the sky.

McBratney died at his home in County Antrim, Northern Ireland surrounded by family on September 18, according to his publisher, Walker Books. He was 77. No cause of death was given.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

No state escapes unscathed in Colin Quinn's new book: Vermont is "The Old Hippie"; Florida is "The Hot Mess"; in Wisconsin, "The Diet Starts Tomorrow." Even Quinn's beloved home state of New York is "The quiet state with the city that never shuts up."

As a veteran stand-up comedian, Quinn has spent more than a couple of decades on the road, performing in 47 out of the 50 states he now affectionately eviscerates in Overstated: A Coast-to-Coast Roast of the 50 States.

The trippy new Hulu comedy Woke is what you might get if you mixed the satire in the movie Get Out with a psychedelic Sesame Street for adults. An African American cartoonist, played by Lamorne Morris, is deeply conflicted over just how engaged with social issues his art should be. Talking objects like a malt malt liquor bottles voiced by Nicole Byer and Eddie Griffin mess with his head. Punctuating the show's brainy humor is a soundtrack that includes hip hop, R&B, punk and folk.

Burning Man — the dazzling, days-long, annual arts and lovefest drawing 70,000 to the dusty Nevada desert — was cancelled this year. But organizers are trying to capture the quintessential, communal arts experience online.

For this year's theme, Multiverse, teams have created 2D and 3D virtual experiences. The program runs Aug. 30-Sept. 6.

Most of us can't travel overseas right now but we can at least be aurally transported by way of music. Ten vocal ensembles whose members come from 15 different countries will perform in a new, weeklong festival called Vox Virtual beginning August 22nd. They include ANÚNA from Ireland, Insingizi from Zimbabwe, Ensemble Rustavi from Georgia, and Cantus from the U.S.

Media titan Sumner Redstone, who built the company Viacom into a global empire, died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 97. Through shrewd investing and strategic deal-making, Redstone became one of the world's most powerful and unpredictable corporate leaders.

The pandas in D.C., the grizzlies in Oakland, the gorillas in the Bronx are all getting reacquainted with human visitors. As of a month and a half ago, the pandemic had forced 90% of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' members to close. Today, the AZA reports, about 80% of them have reopened.

The Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., opens its gates to the public for the first time in 19 weeks on Friday — and this week, I was one of the lucky few humans allowed in for a preview.

Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

In 1956, actor, singer and activist Paul Robeson said, "My father was a slave, and my people died to build this country and I am going to stay here and have a part of it just like you." Now, Robeson's home — the Paul Robeson House & Museum in Philadelphia — will receive a grant to help immortalize its part in the nation's story.

Electrical engineer, robotics wiz, Mythbusters' cast member, Disney consultant, TV host and Hollywood animatronics designer Grant Imahara died Monday from a brain aneurysm. He was 49.

"We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Grant," Discovery Channel wrote in a statement. "He was an important part of our Discovery family and a really wonderful man. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

Five years before the coronavirus pandemic, Bill Gates didn't mince words: "If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it's most likely to be a highly infectious virus, rather than a war," he said at the 2015 TED conference in Vancouver, Canada.

After longstanding criticism over its lack of diversity, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is continuing to invite more women and minorities to its membership.

Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson is not letting the pandemic slow him down. The Roots drummer, DJ, author and entrepreneur is still performing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, DJ'ing live on Instagram, and he and his Roots' bandmate Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter recently signed a production deal with NBC. As if that weren't enough, tonight he's hosting Questlove's Potluck, a virtual dinner party on the Food Network.

For more than 30 years, Emmy Award-winning television writer, director and producer Greg Daniels has spun comedy from the threads of ordinary life, turning its frustrations and awkward moments into such hit shows as The Office, Parks And Recreation, and King of the Hill.

Now he's reflecting on these notions again in Upload, a futuristic comedy on Amazon Prime — but this time they play out in the afterlife too. He's also behind the upcoming Netflix satire Space Force, launching May 29, starring Steve Carell.

At a time when we really need to keep a sense of humor, comedy clubs are closed. Stand-up comedians are on lockdown. So what do you do if your career is making people laugh? You can write jokes while you shelter in place, but how do you know if they're funny?

YouTube

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Billy Crystal has been friends with Alan Zweibel for more than 40 years, but he'll be blunt: "Alan was the worst stand-up comic," Crystal recalls of Zweibel's sets in the early 1970s. "He just looked panicked."

Even Zweibel admits that he was "dreadful" on stage. But his jokes were great. "They were smart, good, neurotic, Alan-based material," says Crystal.

With mass closings of theaters and museums, cancellations or postponements of exhibitions, concerts, dance performances and more, the arts industry is in "economic freefall" due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the advocacy group Americans For The Arts.

YouTube

If there's a sliver of a silver lining in these uncertain times, it's music — from free virtual

Parents and caregivers face a daunting task right now: keeping their children safe, active and engaged for what will likely be several weeks of school closings. The good news is that all kinds of people — families, educators, artists — are sharing best practices.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for kids will be staying active, while at the same time staying socially distant, says pediatrician Dr. David Hill. He says families should get outside, but avoid playgrounds because they encourage children to play in close contact with one another.

The story of how 9-year-old Tani Adewumi became a chess prodigy begins nearly five years ago, in a print shop in Abuja, Nigeria. Tani's father, Kayode Adewumi, owned the shop, and printed textbooks, manuals, flyers – whatever his clients wanted.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

James Lipton, the longtime host of the TV series "Inside The Actors Studio," has died at age 93. Lipton was best known for his show's one-on-one interviews with famous actors. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

The architectural world is reeling over President Trump's call for traditional designs for new Federal buildings. His proposed executive order is called "Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again," it takes an out-with-the-new, in-with-the-old approach to architecture, calling modern federal buildings constructed over the last five decades "undistinguished," "uninspiring" and "just plain ugly."

Money talks ... in verse.

"Money is a kind of poetry," the poet Wallace Stevens once wrote. That might be so, but poems rarely pay the poet's bills. Still, poetry reading in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent years, according to the National Endowment for the Arts' Survey of Public Participation in the Arts.

Pages