Building more diverse architects

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… Not more diverse architecture. Architects. Did you ever notice? Though your doctor may be black, and your lawyer may be a Latina, and other professionals in your life may be gay or trans, most architects are plain vanilla white men. What’s up with that?

We’ll talk with a progressive-minded architecture professor –  a white man, as it happens – who places at least part of the blame on the academy. University of Hartford Associate Professor of Architecture Theodore Sawruk  says that although college architecture programs may work to attract a diverse student body, and congratulate themselves for it, those students may actually fail to graduate because they have few mentors and role models like them to model success.

But why take the professor’s white male word for it? He’s assembled a lovely panel of underrepresented architecture students for us – three undergrads and a grad student – who can tell us what it’s like to be black, female, queer, or trans as they try to make their way in the competitive, even backbiting, field of architecture.  

Ted Sawruk and a Connecticut Verizon store he designed in 2019

Jason McDonald and his masterplan for a residential eco-tower in Florence, Italy

Aurora Perrault and her five-story mixed-use building with retail and office spaces on the ground and second floor and residential spaces on the floors above. The goal of the building was to create a sense of community and a connection to nature for building residents and neighbors.


Renee Parry’s New Haven mixed use residential/commercial complex plan


Grad student Magic Santos and her Phillips Metropolitan CME Church in North Hartford, CT

Is There Life After Art School?

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We check in with five recent graduates of Hartford Art School (full freight nearing $57,000/year) about how things are going so far. Is the American Dream inaccessible to them? Is it even their dream? Should they make marketable work or paint their souls? Is Instagram the best path to finding community? How have their thinking and their work changed since graduation?

Special thanks to Lori Fogg for suggesting the episode!








Film critics Richard Alleva and Rand Richards Cooper, occasional guests on my previous show, invite you to join their Zoom series “Monday Night at the Movies.” Find a list of the films and info about enrolling at






‘If you love art, make art’

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Photo by Tom Hearn


Marcy Labella, of central Connecticut, draws, paints,  works in clay, mixed media, and collage, makes jewelry, and draws with colored pencil on metal and bakes it into enamel. She teaches art to students of all ages.  She’s got 10,000-plus followers on Instagram, with the number growing day by day, and to help us artists do the same, she’s ginned up an inexpensive course in how we can do it too.

But accumulating followers aside, Marcy simply believes in the power of art-making to get us through tough times and enhance the quality of our lives.

Il Tavolo Blu won 1st place in the Connecticut Women Artiss Open National Online Juried Show.

A selection of Marcy’s other work:

Three small floral paintings, the kind Marcy mails off as gifts:

Marcy praised the fabric art of Carol Vinisk. Learn more about her by clicking on the headline below:

HERstory artist Carol Vinisk

Please donate to WESU during these final days of the station’s fall/winter pledge drive! We’re less than halfway to our goal and there’s only a few days left till the end of the year. Please go to and give what you can!

Thanks — and Happy New Year!



Great artist, bad guy: John James Audubon falls from his lofty perch

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Artist John James Audubon (1785-1851) made it his mission to completely document every bird in North America, resulting in his masterwork The Birds of America, and a conservation movement in his name was born. But this summer, the national Audubon Society revealed new information about Audubon that led to questions of whether the organization — and several birds with Audubon in their name — should be renamed. 

IIn a wide-ranging interview, Patrick Comins, executive director of the CT Audubon Society, Zooms in and talks turkey about Audubon; about new books on birds; about an upcoming Zoom series, Young, Gifted, and Wild About Birds; and about places in Connecticut well-worth a winter beach walk.

Comins’s favorite Audubon print, of a now-extinct Great Auk. It hangs in the CT Audubon Society boardroom.

The Audubon Society isn’t just for the birds. Comins effuses about this lovely butterfly, the Northern Metalmark.

Here’s how to access Young, Gifted, and Wild About Birds
Two books Comins recommends for the nature-lover on your holiday gift list.
Please don’t forget to add WESU to your list of worthy causes to support. Go to and give what you can. Thanks! 

The Unflinching Eye: Armenian Artists on War

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Art and war.

When I think of these two words together, Picasso’s Guernica is the first work that comes to mind. It’s his powerful protest against the Nazis’ 1937 bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish civil war, a riotous snapshot of death and chaos. The famous story goes that when the Gestapa pointed to the painting and asked Picasso, did you do this, he replied, no, you did. Art history overflows with examples of war art – Trajan’s column, Washington Crossing the Delaware, Goya’s The Third of May, the list goes on. Artists understandably find it hard to ignore war. Art marks the moment, vents grief, tells the story.

Today, I’m turning my attention to Armenia and the war that’s been raging in that ancient land in the southern Caucasus mountains at the border of Europe and Asia. If that conflict – between the largely Christian Armenians and the largely Muslim Azerbaijianis — has not been on your radar, it’s likely because it’s largely ignored by the American media, consumed as it is with the pandemic and the aftershocks of the election. But it might also be because, as one of our guests today observes, Armenians can be resistant to having their story told. The four Armenian artists who will join us today are among those telling the story nonetheless.

Along the way, you will hear the word “genocide.”  Though Turkey has made it an actual crime to mention its systematic mass murder and expulsion of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians between 1914 and 1923, it happened. Another word you’ll hear is Artsakh. That’s the Armenian term for the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic against whom Armenia were fighting. In the few days since this interview was recorded, a deal was brokered by Russia that ended the fighting but to call that peace is a misnomer. As Mari Firkatian, one of our artists, put it: “It is a land grab of historic proportions,” as that land has been pafrt of historic Armenia for over two millenia. Mari recently helped organize a rally in West Hartford, Connecticut, in support of beleaguered Armenia. We’ll hear a little audio from that – the last voice you’ll hear at the rally is Mari’s – and then the interview. Thanks for listening!

Nubar Alexanian

Link to the trailer of his documentary:

Left: “Girl — Hussenig” in Kharpert, Turkey, and right, “Chengiler,” in Yalova, Turkey, villages from which Nubar’s maternal and paternal grandmothers, respectively, fled the genocide. 

Mari Firkatian

Marsha Nouritza Obadashian (

Left, “Broken,” onion skin dye and drawing media on paper. 23″x30″. And ” Altamira,” onion skin dye, collage, drawing materials, and acrylic paint on paper. 84″x124″


Arevik Tserunyun

From the “Clouds” series.


JOY: It’s work, man

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In a pre-election conversation that risked jinxing the results, Matt Croasmun, a biblical scholar at Yale Divinity School who shepherds a New Haven church, and printmaker Jenni Freidman, who teaches at Hartford Art School, take up the subject of joy.

You can learn more about Matt at

Below are some of Jenni’s creations. You can find more of her work at society6.con/jennifreidman.




The wrong water fountain and other traumas. Bob Selby makes art from memories of the Jim Crow South.

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New England artist Bob Selby’s instatllation, “The Doors of Segregation Project,” is a metaphor for the obstacles to racial unity that exist despite the progress that’s been made breaking down walls.

Having had a long career as an award-winning illustrator and college art professor, Bob is now painting his soul in retirement.

To see more of his work and his complete bio, go to


Welcome to Open Studio! Conversations on Art and Why It Matters

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In this new program, I’ll be talking to artists — mostly visual artists — about their motivation, their process, and their inspirations.

This inaugural episode is a visit with Cat Balco, a Connecticut-based artist who exhibits her paintings in New York City and teaches at Hartford Art School. I’m honored to call her my teacher.

When I asked her why, in these difficult times, making art is the most productive use of one’s time, she said, simply, “Art preserves what’s best about people.”

In her own development, as a student at Yale of the artist Robert Reed, she absorbed his teaching that “the work of painting is somehow related to the development of character” It’s a “mystical activity,” says Cat, a soul-nourishing activity.

Teaching, too, excites her – being present to her students and encouraging them along while carefully refraining from imposing her own ideas on their work.

Cat is the perfect artist to kick off Open Studio. You can find her work at her website and at her gallery And see the previous post for photos.

“My Exploding Stars” by Cat Balco, 2019