Arts & Culture

An art project that turned the border wall at the U.S.-Mexico border into the temporary base for pink seesaws – inviting children on each side to come play together – has won the London's Design Museum award for best design of 2020.

"We are totally surprised by this unexpected honor," said Ronald Rael, who designed the project with fellow architect Virginia San Fratello. They share the award, he said, with the Ciudad Juárez, Mexico-based art collective Colectivo Chopeke.

There aren't too many American authors for whom the publication of a new book is a bona fide literary event, but Allan Gurganus is one of them. The North Carolina author took the book world by storm in 1989 with his debut novel, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, which became a massive bestseller and spawned an Emmy-winning television miniseries adaptation. Only four books followed after that.

Filmmaker Ken Burns has spent his career documenting American history, and he always considered three major crises in the nation's past: the Civil War, the Depression and World War II.

Then came the unprecedented "perfect storm" of 2020 — and Burns thinks we may be living through America's fourth great crisis, and perhaps the worst one yet.

When Amanda Gorman was asked to write a poem for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, she didn't know where to begin. The nation has just been through a bitter election. Americans are as divided as ever. And the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage.

"It was really daunting to begin the poem because you don't even really know the entry point in which to step into the murk," she said in an interview Monday with NPR's Steve Inskeep.

Farewell To Our Senior Arts Editor Tom Cole

Jan 18, 2021

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That report was produced by NPR senior arts editor Tom Cole, which we would not normally mention, except Tom is retiring this week after 33 years at NPR. Congratulations, Tom. Our critic Bob Mondello has thoughts.

What Is The Sound Of Grief? Osvaldo Golijov Puts It To Music

Jan 18, 2021

Osvaldo Golijov is a MacArthur "genius" composer who's written for Yo-Yo Ma, Kronos Quartet and soprano Dawn Upshaw. But in 2012, he was accused of plagiarism, and he disappeared from the scene. Only now, nearly a decade later, is Golijov reemerging — with a work that could not have a more timely subject: it's a meditation on grieving and loss.

From the March on Washington in 1963 up until his assassination in 1968, the FBI engaged in an intense campaign to discredit Martin Luther King Jr. and his work. Film director Sam Pollard chronicles those efforts in the new documentary, MLK/FBI.

When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech 58 years ago, he changed the course of history with his aspiration.

The metaphors, political overtones and themes King employed were inspired by Langston Hughes' poem "I Dream A World:"

I dream a world where man

No other man will scorn,

Where love will bless the earth

Sadeqa Johnson's new novel, Yellow Wife, is a harrowing tale of the life of an enslaved woman in Virginia, beginning in the 1850s. A challenging read but beautifully told, this thought-provoking page-turner is also surprisingly uplifting. And at its core, Yellow Wife is also a story of motherhood and the sacrifices a mother will make to protect her children — no matter how those babies come into the world.

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We've invited singer songwriter Phoebe Bridgers to play a game about feeble bridges: three questions about bridges that have fallen over, collapsed or otherwise done a bad job of spanning things.

Click the audio link above to find out how she does.

Why Sea Shanties Have Taken Over TikTok

Jan 16, 2021

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Argh, the latest trend in pandemic distraction may be - shiver me timbers - sea shanties.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Singing) There once was a ship that put to sea, and the name of that ship was the Billy of Tea.

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The way that ballet dancer Ashton Edwards leaps through the air is pure art. The fact that he does it in pointe shoes is a rare feat.

Ballet traditionally has very divided roles for men and women. Men need power to lift their female partners. Women are prized for their delicate precision and the ability to seemingly defy gravity.

But ideas about ballet are changing.

Katherine Seligman's new novel makes alive and visible the lives of people we often walk past, sometimes as quickly as we can. Maddy Donaldo is 20 years old and sleeps in hidden spots inside San Francisco's Golden Gate Park with her small dog Root, sometimes eating and showering in a shelter before returning to forage for food and loose change on the street.