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.

The Lucas Bros are a standup comedy duo who get laughs with material that's both twisted and trenchant. There's stoner humor, biting satire, philosophy and jokes about Jell-O and Deion Sanders. Keith and Kenny Lucas are also identical twins which opens up additional space for them to play.

"Here's a rule of thumb. You should never do shrooms with a dude who looks like you," they joke in their 2017 Netflix special.

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

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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

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.

Saturday Night Live and The Second City comedy enterprises have announced the recipients of a new training scholarship for diverse, emerging talent. From a pool of some 1,300 applicants, four up and coming comedians were selected: Alexi Bolden, Gabriella "Gabi" Castillo, Kaili Turner and Morgan Van Dyne. The scholarships will cover all of their performance and writing training at Second City and give them access to SNL talent executives.

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.

Arts and culture make up a huge, $877 billion industry that generates more than five million jobs across the country. But the amount of federal funding for the arts is tiny when compared with smaller industries like agriculture — so what are arts organizations hoping for under the Biden administration?

The creation of new Smithsonian museums dedicated to Latinos and women can now move forward. Earlier this month, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) was the lone vote blocking legislation, saying "separate-but-equal museums" would "further divide an already divided nation." Supporters of both museums quickly moved to ensure the museums would be included in the $900 billion year-end spending package which was passed by Congress on Monday and now heads to President Trump's desk.

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.

President Trump, a former builder, signed an executive order Monday intended to promote neo-classical architecture as the official style for federal buildings in Washington, DC., and at new federal courthouses elsewhere.

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."

It's Pitch Perfect meets March Madness.

Well, almost.

The competition might lack the drama, stage fright and screaming fans of a live singing competition, but hundreds of collegiate a cappella groups from across the country submitted their best videos for the UpStaged National Collegiate Performing Arts A Cappella Championship.

Organizers announce the final four teams heading into a championship round Wednesday:

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.

Jigsaw puzzles have become such a favorite pandemic pastime, retailers are having a hard time keeping them in stock. "There's a global shortage of puzzles actually," says Brian Way, co-owner of the online retailer Puzzle Warehouse. "There's not a factory on the planet that is not months behind on production."

Don't underestimate the power of doodling. In a democracy, Mo Willems says, "voting is a lot like doodling. It's a form of self-expression, and you discover sort of who you really are as you do it." On Election Day (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT) on the Kennedy Center's website, Willems will encourage self-expression for anyone who tunes in to Democracy Doodle 2020, regardless of age or political persuasion.

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.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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