The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Really? There are 2,100 people who listen to those sedentary stations who are capable of moving themselves from their homes to a concert hall? Isn’t NPR for people who have one foot in the grave? Do they do anything except talk in monotone voices and play music that’s 300 years old?
I suggest that they broaden their horizons. That’s something NPR does very well.
A few weeks ago on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart helped support this notion while making another point. He was torpedoing the tired idea that NPR is a bastion of liberal propaganda by pointing out that one afternoon a few months ago, while AM talk radio was all in a lather over some tete-a-tete between Republicans and Democrats, his NPR station was airing an interview about the colonial habits of ants on Fresh Air, one of numerous shows that destroys public radio stereotypes.
Far from one-note, the hallmark of really good public radio stations these days is to play a wide variety of tunes during a broadcast day, giving listeners an opportunity to hear things that already pique their interests and expose them to content that they didn’t expect to pique their interests.
Car Talk, the Boston-based auto-advice show hosted by brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi, broke the mold for NPR shows in the late 1980s. It and numerous other NPR networks have been changing things since.
The common denominator in the programming is not an ideological agenda but intelligence. Whether the subject is politics, business, music, science or other issues, NPR approaches its topics with smart questions and presentations that leave listeners feeling that they learned something by tuning in.
The vehicles for this diversity are the programs. Here are a few shows that might surprise you if you haven’t tuned in NPR in a while.
This American Life: Each week, the Chicago-based show hosted by Ira Glass announces a theme, then tells several stories based on it. Last week’s show, for instance, was named after the Louise Fitzhugh children’s book Nobody’s Family Is Going to Change. It presents three stories about families; some of them change and some don’t.
The topics usually aren’t ripped from the headlines. But a couple of weeks ago, the show pieced together parts of stories that it had done several years ago, when Penn State was named a top party school, with some recent interviews and stories to present an illuminating portrait of the school in the wake of the child sexual-abuse scandal that erupted out of its football program. (Airs at 8 p.m. Fridays and noon Saturdays on WEKU-88.9 FM; and 4 p.m. Sundays on WUKY-91.3 FM.)
Q: I have this distinct memory of hearing an interview with hip-hop star M.I.A. just a few days after WEKU switched its format from classical music to talk and thinking it had to be blowing the minds of some of the station’s longtime listeners. I also remember thinking that host Jian Ghomeshi was one of the best interviewers I had never heard, because my perspective on M.I.A. was growing wider by the minute. That perception of Ghomeshi has been borne out since, as his show has covered a plethora of topics: politics, science, arts, sports — it’s from Canada, so there’s quite a bit of hockey — and, of course, music. (2 p.m. weekdays, WEKU.)
World Café: A rerun of a chat between Evan Dando and Julianna Hatfield recently reminded me how long this has been an essential show for hearing music’s new voices and appreciating its past. Either host David Dye does a lot of homework, or he simply has an encyclopedic knowledge of music. (9 p.m. weekdays, WUKY.)
Marketplace: If there’s been a big business or financial story in the news, I want to hear Marketplace’s take on it. A lot of financial-news shows have hosts trying to impress me with what they know, but the American Public Media show works to help me understand what is happening, often in rather entertaining fashion. (6 p.m. weekdays, WUKY.)
The Moth Radio Hour: This storytelling showcase from the Public Radio Exchange just celebrated its 200th episode of quirky, offbeat and poetic tales. It originates from New York but picks up content from around the country and is well known among storytellers and slam poets. The Moth is seasonal and does move around the schedule. (7 p.m. Fridays, WEKU.)
Also seasonal is Radiolab, hosted by NPR science correspondent Robert Krulwich and 2011 MacArthur “genius grant” recipient Jad Abumrad, which several readers mentioned on a Facebook question about favorite public radio shows. It does not have any broadcasts scheduled, but you can catch up with the show on its website.
Our local stations also produce some of their own programming, including WUKY’s Friday-night lineup of modern- and roots-music shows.
As with any media network, not everything is a home run. But anyone who disses public radio as stodgy probably just hasn’t listened to it lately.
Feb14Filed under: Arts administration, Central Kentucky Arts News, Current Affairs; Tagged as: Americans for the Arts, Andres Serrano, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kentucky Humanities Council, KET, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Public Radio, NEA, NEH, PBS, Rand Paul, Robert Mapplethorpe, Shae Hopkins, Tea Party, Virginia G. Carter, WEKU, WUKY
The last decade, there was a piece of spam that would pop up in my email box every few months from various friends warning about proposed cuts to cultural funding – i.e., the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
It would usually be followed by a sheepish apology after the sender was notified the email was a hoax – to what purpose, I do not know – and there was really no serious discussion of eliminating cultural funding, because for more than a decade, there hasn’t been. After the early 1990s flare-ups over works by Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe, federal cultural funding has stood relatively unchallenged except for economic adjustments.
And unlike the mid-’00s, when those spam notes seemed to come out of the blue, you could have seen some of the current proposals coming as Tea Party candidates won significant victories, including Rand Paul’s victory in the 2010 campaign for Kentucky’s open Senate seat. With promises of limited government and reduced government spending, cultural programs appear to be back on the chopping block.
To be exact, proposed GOP cuts, released Friday, would eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports PBS TV (KET in Kentucky) and National Public Radio (WUKY-FM 91.3 and WEKU-FM 88.9 are the primary outlets in Central Kentucky). It would also include heavy cuts to the NEA and NEH, amounts vary depending on what you read, and advocacy groups such as Americans for the Arts are sounding alarms that some proposals will call for total elimination of funding for those groups. (Update, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14: President Barack Obama’s budget also has significant cuts to the NEA and NEH but increases funding for public broacasting.)
Arts leaders in Kentucky are sounding alarms too.
KET’s website features a call to action from executive director Shae Hopkins, stating, “Federal funding provides nearly $2.9 million, or 14 percent of KET’s budget. That’s only $0.76 per Kentuckian.” The statewide network was also running spots over the weekend urging viewers to contact officials and protest the proposed cuts. The area public radio stations are also urging listeners to contact state congressional leaders through their websites.
In a message to supporters, Kentucky Humanities Council executive director Virginia G. Carter urged people to contract congressional leaders about a proposed $12 million cut to the NEH saying, “The Kentuckians who took the time to contact Congress about what the humanities meant to them and their communities helped save the NEH in the mid-1990s when it was threatened with elimination. This time, we need a similar outpouring of support, and fast!”
This time around, to cultural leaders, the threat seems real.
Full disclosure: Rich Copley provides regular commentary and occasional stories to WEKU-FM. He receives no financial compensation from the station.
During my post-WEG vacation last week, much of which was spent on various home improvement projects, I fell in love with Q, a CBC Radio culture show that airs at 2 p.m. weekdays on WEKU-FM 88.9. Each show, host Jian Ghomeshi takes on a handful of topics from the worlds of film, recordings, stage, art, books and current affairs.
During a week of projects such as installing a new laminate floor in my living room, I heard guests from members of Gorillaz to Gloria Steinem to Rick Springfield – yes, another Aussie from the ’80s – and topics from the use of Facebook for spying to the new Broadway play about legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi.
But the discussion that really caught my ear during the week was Is Ballet Over? It was a debate between New York-based ballet critic Jennifer Homans who wrote a New Republic article that posed that question and Karen Kain, director of the National Ballet of Canada. Homans’ position was that ballet has become a tired, self-referential form quickly losing its lustre, while Kain responded that she sees a vibrant environment for dance outside of ballet capitols like New York and Moscow, where tradition may hinder creativity.
It’s an interesting discussion I’d encourage you to listen to and then participate in, here. (Click here to listen. I couldn’t find an individual sound file for the debate, but if you click play on the Oct. 21 episode, you will start to hear the debate about five minutes into the episode.) Comment below and tell us what you think – I can think of a few people here in Lexington who should have strong emotions on this topic.
(Note: If you tried to comment a while ago – bet. 2 and 3 p.m. Oct. 25 – there was a problem I was not aware of, and it should be fixed now. Please try again. Thanks.)
Wednesdays are the nights Red Barn usually records its shows for later broadcast at ArtsPlace in downtown Lexington. Oct. 6 will begin as usual at 7 p.m. But at 8, the program will go live from the Mill Street location with host Brad Becker and guests Hog Operation from Louisville and champion fiddler Mike Mitchell form Floyd, Va.
Admission to the special performance is $8 in advance, through the LexArts box office, and $10 at the door.
Aug22Filed under: Music, radio, slide shows; Tagged as: ArtsPlace, Brad Becker, Charles Farmer, Dale Ann Bradley, Ed Commons, Grand Ole Opry, Grascals, Howard’s Creek, International Bluegrass Music Association, J.D. Crowe, James Still, LexArts, Mary Farmer, Red Barn Radio, Rusties and Riddles and Gee-Haw Whimmy-Diddles, Sam Bush, WEKU, Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, WUKY
There is no actual Red Barn, just like there’s no Grand Ole Opry.
“You create the vision in your mind,” says Ed Commons, producer and director of Red Barn Radio, the Bluegrass radio showcase heard each week at 9 p.m. Saturdays on WEKU-FM 88.9 and 11 p.m. Saturdays on WUKY-FM 91.3. “You can imagine about the music. You hear the interviews and the people. It’s a place people would like to have grown up, a place they would like to go in their hectic lives today where we’re just a little kick back, and you can hear music of another time.”
And its a place that is recreated most Wednesday nights at ArtsPlace in Downtown Lexington.
There, in the theater behind the gallery and offices of LexArts, Commons, host Brad Becker and the rest of the Red Barn crew gather to put on a radio show that brings in Bluegrass musicians from emerging artists to established stars such as this week’s guest, Dale Ann Bradley, three-time International Bluegrass Music Association female vocalist of the year.
Early Wednesday evening a banner hangs over the Church Street side door of ArtsPlace directing guests up a short flight of stairs into the theater where the show is recorded.
A pair of folding tables is set up with CDs from some of the show’s artists, swag from the radio stations, pizza from show sponsor Dominos and coffee.
Within a whiff of the pizza, Becker chats with Charles and Mary Farmer, a couple that drives up from Stanton four or five times a year for Red Barn tapings.
“It’s a fun evening’s entertainment,” Charles says. “And for $5, what more can you ask for.”
Unlike its rootsy-radio sibling, Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, which tapes Monday nights at the Kentucky Theatre, Red Barn doesn’t try to record a show in real time. The artists play several sections of four-to-six songs, and they take a couple breaks for Becker to conduct interviews. Commons will later splice the parts together to form a 59-minute show.
“We call the live show ‘gathering our assets,’” Commons says. “We try to gather a minimum of 40 minutes of music recorded, Brad does a couple interviews, and we also do a live give-away each week for our audience.”
Dec19Filed under: Balagula Theatre, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Current Affairs, dance, Eastern Kentucky University, Inside baseball, Lexington Opera House, Louisville, Music, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, The Humana Festival of New American Plays, Theater, UK; Tagged as: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Allan Cowen, Balagula Theatre, Berea, Bill Owen, Building Arts Communities, Charles Compton, Charles Farnsley, Fund for The Arts, Humana Festival of New American Plays, Jim Newberry, Jon Jory, Louisville Orchestra, Michael Grice, Montgomery County Arts Center, Pam Miller, Pat Gerhard, Ron Smith, Singletary Center for the Arts, Stu Johnson, Third Street Stuff, WEKU
I teamed up with the news reporters at WEKU-88.9 FM last week for a four-part radio series, “Building Arts Communities.”
The series looked at recruiting talent, establishing arts districts, our theater infrastructure and the success of Louisville’s cultural scene.
It was an interesting opportunity to step back from the event-of-the-week cycle that artists and arts journalists can get absorbed in and take a look at what is and isn’t working, what’s here and what’s needed.
Some recurring themes emerged.
The biggest one crystallized in the final installment, Ron Smith’s report about Louisville.
“So how does a city make a name for itself in the arts?” Smith asked. “In Louisville’s case, success can be traced to vision and leadership. The sparkle of what could be was in the eye of Mayor Charles Farnsley in 1937, when he helped create the modern Louisville Orchestra. Twelve years later, Farnsley founded the Fund for the Arts, making Louisville the first community in the nation to gather arts groups together for an annual fund drive.”
Smith then chronicled how that vision was handed off to Fund for the Arts director Allan Cowen, who joked that his tombstone would bear the inscription, “We’ve got one more campaign, and it’s going to be a difficult one.”
Smith could have chronicled other visionary Louisville leaders, including Jon Jory, the Actors Theatre of Louisville director, who had this crazy idea of staging a festival of new plays in Louisville and inviting the nation’s producers and critics to see what was going on. Nearly a decade after Jory’s departure, the Humana Festival of New American Plays remains one of the biggest dates on the American theater calendar.
There were other examples of leadership on equal and smaller scales. Stu Johnson started his report about arts districts by talking about how Lexington artist Pat Gerhard’s vision for a groovy little coffee shop and store has made Third Street Stuff the anchor of a developing artsy area around Third Street and North Limestone.
Charles Compton and I had our last Friday morning arts chat of the year on WEKU-FM 88.9 this morning, touching on some of the bigger stories of the year including Scott Terrell’s appointment as the Lexington Philharmonic’s new music director and the travails of Actors Guild of Lexington.
We’ll be taking the next two Fridays off because they are Christmas and New Years day, and we presume you will have much better things to do those mornings (open presents and sleep, respectively) than listen to us yammer about arts.
We’ll have a much more comprehensive look at the year in arts right after Christmas in the Herald-Leader and here at le blog.
Dec16Filed under: Arts administration, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, dance, Downtown Arts Center, Eastern Kentucky University, LexArts, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Opera House, Music, Norton Center for the Arts, radio, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, Studio Players, Theater, UK, Woodford County Theatre; Tagged as: Ave Lawyer, Bill Owen, Bluegrass Theater Company, Building Arts Communities, Carriage House Theatre, Centre College, Charleston, Doug Whitlock, Downtown Arts Center, Eastern Kentucky University, George Foreman, Jim Clark, Jim Newberry, LexArts, Lexington Center, Lexington Opera House, Michael Grice, Newlin Hall, Norton Center for the Arts, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, Smoke on the Mountain, Spoleto Festival, Studio Players, The Woodford Theatre, WEKU
The third part of “Building Arts Communities,” the series the Herald-Leader has partnered with WEKU-FM 88.9 to present, aired this morning with me looking at Lexington and Central Kentucky’s arts venues. I visited Danville, Richmond and talked to several officials and artists in Lexington to see what we have and what we need.
Click here to hear my report. A transcript of the radio-version of the story is below.
The print version of this story turned out quite different. Click here to read it.
By Rich Copley | Lexington Herald-Leader/WEKU News
Over 26 years, George Foreman has built Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts into an unlikely arts destination. Acts that have appeared in 1,450-seat Newlin Hall are a who’s who of classical music, including Yo-Yo Ma and Kathleen Battle. And there have been pop stars like Willie Nelson and Broadway productions such as Rent.
“We’ve worked very hard to brand this place as, No. 1, being a place of exceptional quality in terms of the artists that we bring in and, secondly, the patron services are really quite nice.”
One reason Foreman could do this is he had a theatre with enough space and flexibility. It can accommodate a wide variety of shows and the large audiences who want to see them. While the Norton Center has built a loyal audience in Danville, Foreman says more than half of its audience comes from outside Boyle County. In addition to having a big, flexible theater, the Norton Center had another advantage….
“One reason the Norton Center has been as successful as it has been is there really is not a serious level of competition in Lexington . . . If there was someone in Lexington with a proper large theater doing the same kinds of things we’ve done here, at the same level of quality, with the same patron amenities and so forth, do you think people would drive here instead of staying in Lexington?”
At this point, some people may ask, “What about Lexington’s Singletary Center for the Arts?” or “What about the Lexington Opera House?”
Lexington is a city with an interesting mix of venues. Observers say they suit some purposes very well and fall far short in others.
At nearly 15-hundred seats, the Singletary Center has a seating capacity equal to the Norton Center. But it is built as a concert hall. There is little backstage space to accommodate dance or theatrical productions. The Lexington Opera House is the primary venue for those disciplines. But built in the late 19th Century, its backstage space falls far short of 21st Century industry standards. And at just under 900 seats, it is one of the smallest venues in the country to present touring Broadway productions. One thing Lexington’s missing is a theater that can seat 25-hundred people.
Dec15Filed under: Arts administration, Central Kentucky Arts News, LexArts, Visual arts; Tagged as: Allison Kaiser, Berea, Berea College, Building Arts Communities, Christ Church Cathedral, Distillery District, Gallery Hop, Jess Marr, Jim Clark, Jim Newberry, Ken Gastineau, Kentucky Artisan Center, Lyric Theater, Manchester Street, Old Towne, Pat Gerhard, Rupp Arena, Stu Johnson, Third Street Stuff, WEKU
The second part of “Building Arts Communities,” the series the Herald-Leader has partnered with WEKU-FM 88.9 to present, aired this morning with WEKU’s Stu Johnson looking at developing arts districts. Stu visited the Limestone Street area of Lexington as well as Berea’s trio of distinctive arts districts.
Click here to hear Stu’s report. A transcript of his story is below.
By Stu Johnson | WEKU News
Third Street Stuff at the corner of Third and North Limestone in Lexington is home to a great deal of art.
“I do all the cans and all the furniture … whenever you get the feeling?… oh, I always have the feeling, (laugh) yeah, I always want to paint.”
Third Street Stuff owner Pat Gerhard has been in the arts business for more than two decades.. She says times are good…
“I’ve been watching Lexington and the arts scene for 35 years and I think it’s it feels really good right now there are a lot of artists doing a lot of work.”
For a long time, Gerhard says there’s been interest among many Lexington’s artists in creating a formal arts district…but there could also be a downside…
“It might be a little disadvantageous to people if they find themselves outside the art district that would be a little too bad, but I mean that happens.”
One organization just outside the central business district is the Lexington Art League. Executive Director Allison Kaiser admits the eventual location of an arts district is a very big question. There’s no question, she says, it can make quite an economic impact on its neighborhood. The League has been around for 53 years. Kaiser says several community leaders have suggested the League should move it’s headquarters downtown, and help establish an arts district.
Dec14Filed under: Arts administration, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, dance, Inside baseball, Lexington Philharmonic, Louisville, Music, radio, Theater, Visual arts; Tagged as: Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Balagula Theatre, Charles Compton, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Lexington Bach Choir, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, Morning Edition, Natasha Williams, Paul Hillier, Ron Smith, Scott Terrell, Stu Johnson, W.A. Mozart, WEKU
A few months after we started collaborating with WEKU-FM 88.9 on some arts coverage, the station’s news director Charles Compton batted an idea by me: the station’s reporters were getting ready to begin work on a series about building arts communities. The catalysts included the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games coming to Lexington in 2010, the growing national reputations of some Kentucky arts communities such as Louisville and Paducah, and a year of change in Lexington. They were interested in seeing whether we’d like to participate.
It just so happened that I had a story on my fall schedule about one of the keys to building an arts community: venues. For several years, we have wanted to take a good look at the infrastructure of arts venues is like in Lexington and Central Kentucky, how well it serves artists and patrons and what some of the big needs are.
So, we and WEKU married our ideas into a four part series that began today on “Morning Edition” with Charles’ report on recruiting and developing talent. His report takes you from Lexington’s Balagula Theatre to Paducah’s burgeoning arts district, and includes local notables such as Balagula’s Natasha Williams and the Lexington Philharmonic’s Scott Terrell.
The rest of the schedule is:
- Tuesday: Stu Johnson reports on developing arts districts.
- Wednesday: I report on venues.
- Thursday: Ron Smith reports on how Louisville has built it reputation as an arts town.
Wednesday, the paper is scheduled to run the story on arts venues as well as print versions of the other stories in the series. It’s been an interesting experience getting other reporters perspectives on the Commonwealth’s arts scene and it will make for some enlightening listening and reading. You can check out Charles report online now.
Also, at 8 tonight, WEKU is presenting the Lexington Bach Choirs’ performance of Bach’s “Christmas Cantata 40, ‘Darzu ist erschiennen der Sohn Gottes’” and “Missa in F,” as well as music of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, W.A. Mozart, Paul Hillier and others.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich