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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.

Arbiters of good taste often disagree. That is certainly true of architecture.

Late Wednesday, President Biden revoked a controversial executive order former President Trump signed in December called "Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture." The announcement from The White House was included in an executive order that revoked a number of Trump's actions as president.

The parties involved in a sexual misconduct case against Oscar-nominated actor James Franco have reached a preliminary settlement agreement. The two actors who filed the suit have agreed to drop their claims.

Tom Sweitzer knows firsthand how social isolation and loneliness are real side effects of living through a pandemic — just as mental health professionals have warned.

"I'm missing Jim Weatherly already. He was about life and love," tweeted Gladys Knight.

Renowned actress Cicely Tyson has died; she was 96 years old. Her death was announced by Larry Thompson, her longtime manager, who did not specify the cause.

In a career that spanned some 65 years, Tyson was an elegant, dignified presence on stage and screen. She commanded attention in such movies as Sounder and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. She won Emmys and, at age 88, a Tony Award. She also inspired generations of African American actors who grew up watching her.

How old should kids be when they start learning about the Holocaust? While many educators believe the appropriate age is 10, a new book by Caldecott honoree and MacArthur fellow Peter Sís is recommended for children ages 6 to 9.

Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued tells the true story of the Englishman Nicholas "Nicky" Winton, who rescued 669 children from the Nazis, including Vera Gissing.

The annual Kennedy Center Honorees have been announced: choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen; singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez; country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks; violinist Midori; and actor Dick Van Dyke.

Fifty years ago, a simple but tragic love story became a global sensation that stunned the entertainment industry. Love Story, the romantic tearjerker starring Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw, broke box office records and the book it was based on was a bestseller that was translated into more than 30 languages.

"What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who dies?" So begins the novel and screenplay, both written by Erich Segal.

Updated at 12:30pm ET

Back in February, President Trump set the architectural world reeling with a call for traditional designs for new federal buildings. He proposed an executive order, called "Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again," which took 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."

In a move that infuriated supporters of museums to be dedicated to Latinos and women on the National Mall, Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah blocked legislation Thursday that would lead to the creation of both.

"The last thing we need," Lee said, "is to further divide an already divided nation with an array of segregated, separate-but-equal museums for hyphenated identity groups."

The largest and most influential arts advocacy and service organization in the country has responded to sharp criticism over its lack of diversity and commitment to help arts groups lead by and for people of color. Americans For The Arts (which is also one of NPR's financial supporters) conceded that the steps they've taken towards "racial and cultural equity" "have not been enough."

AFTA serves the arts sector in a variety of ways including lobbying Congress, conducting surveys of the sector, training, panels and the like.

Billie Holiday's life and artistry have been analyzed, scrutinized, interpreted and embellished more than any other jazz singer in history. But the first biographer to fully immerse herself in the world of Lady Day was a New York journalist and avid Holiday fan named Linda Lipnack Kuehl. For some eight years in the 1970s, Kuehl interviewed everyone she could find who had a personal association with Holiday — musicians, managers, childhood friends, lovers and FBI agents among them.

The recent surge in COVID-19 cases has resulted in cultural institutions around the country closing, some just a few months after reopening to the public. Today, the Smithsonian announced that seven museums and the National Zoo will close beginning Monday, November 23rd due to the rise in positive cases both in the Washington, D.C. region and nationally. Thanksgiving weekend is typically one of the Smithsonian's busiest times of year.

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.

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.

The Walt Disney Company's theme parks, resorts and cruises have been devastated by COVID-19. Tuesday Disney announced it is laying off 28,000 workers from its Parks, Experiences and Products division.

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.

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.

Updated at 7:13 p.m. ET

Little Richard, the self-described "king and queen" of rock and roll and an outsize influence on everyone from David Bowie to Prince, died Saturday in Tullahoma, Tenn. He was 87 years old.

Bill Sobel, a lawyer for Little Richard, tells NPR that the cause of death was bone cancer. Rolling Stone was the first to report on Little Richard's death.

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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.

Jim Lehrer, the veteran journalist and writer known for his steady, low-key presence in the often noisy world of TV news, died Thursday. He co-founded PBS' NewsHour and won numerous honors — including Peabody and Emmy awards and a National Humanities Medal — in a career that spanned some 50 years.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, "Pettifogging people give too much attention to small, unimportant details in a way that shows a limited mind."

On that note, let's dive in.

Petty + fogger = pettifogger

Petty means small or insignificant. A fogger is old slang for a "huckster, a cringing whining beggar."

Dave Chappelle grew up near Washington, D.C. So when he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, it was a family affair.

Chappelle's wife and kids were there. A selection of his favorite musicians — people like Yasiin Bey, Common, Erykah Badu, Q-Tip, Frederic Yonnet and John Legend — performed throughout the evening. And his fellow comedians talked about him like he was kin.

Updated at 12:19 a.m. ET Friday

Actor James Franco has been named in a lawsuit that alleges he and two other men ran an acting school that sexually exploited female students. The complaint was filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court. The plaintiffs are two former students of the now-closed school, which was called Studio 4.

Updated at 8:08 p.m. ET

One of TV's most beloved sidekicks has died. Valerie Harper, best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, died Friday in Los Angeles. She was 80.

As the blunt, self-deprecating Rhoda, Harper created one of the most beloved sitcom characters of the 1970s. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a ratings powerhouse, centered on best friends Rhoda and Mary Richards, two single women making their way through life, love and career.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


The earliest anthems were sacred hymns, religious songs of praise. For this installment of NPR's American Anthem series, we examine a rock and roll hymn — from Ireland.

Montreal's annual Just For Laughs festival is best-known as a showcase for current and future stars of stand-up comedy. Not as well known to people who've never been here is that laughs of all kinds can be found outdoors, for free, throughout Montreal's cultural district, the Quartiere des Spectacles. Professional musicians, magicians, acrobats, jugglers, puppeteers — the outdoor performers' punch lines don't need words. That helps, since Just For Laughs/Juste Pour Rire is a bilingual festival for both French and English speaking performers and fans.

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