Program archives

May 22, 2022. Tori and I knew each other in the ‘90s when she was a Woonsocket, RI, high school student and I was her so-called mentor at the Providence Journal Bulletin, where I was a reporter. Tori is 46 now, living and working, and writing and making visual art, in Boston and she says creativity has been the key to surviving the trauma of having been raped by her stepfather on the eve of her 13th birthday. Because abortion was safe and legal, she was able to rule out suicide. Art was also a lifeline. “How do people deal with their problems if they don’t have a creative outlet?” she wonders.

During the station breaks you’ll hear audio from a pro-choice rally in DC, one of many throughout the country last weekend, as women and men of conscience hit the streets to protest what, as of this writing, seems about to be the Supreme Court’s overturning of federal abortion protections.

May 8, 2022. Today, a walk through a monumental retrospective of the works of painter Milton Avery, whose career began in the late 19th century and continued into the mid 20th, and included some years in Hartford. His flattened forms and unusual color work prompted comparisons to Matisse and he inspired such younger painters as Mark Rothko. We’re lucky that our companion on our tour is one of the curators of the traveling exhibit, Erin Monroe, the Krieble Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the WadsworthAtheneum. The show, having started its journey in Fort Worth, TX, will be up at the Wadsworth through June 5 before moving on to the Royal Academy of the Arts in London. As the Washington Post reviewer put it, the show is “a treat.”

April 24, 2022. Today, an encore episode of last fall’s talk with Kenny Martin, a teacher and artist who lives on the edge. Not only do his high school students wield blowtorches to do metalwork, but Kenny’s hobby is undersea diving – while holding his breath. The images below are from an exhibit of his drawings based on his breath holding free dives that had a good run at Real Art Ways in Hartford. Oh, and Kenny’s also been a boxer, and most recently founded a Fight Club for teens; he’s convincing in making it sound therapeutic. Back when Kenny taught elementary school, he had his students bury tuna carcasses, a lesson in composting. So do I need to tell you Kenny’s an interesting guy? He says he also gives a great haircut.  This is the interview that convinced me I need to have more people from Brooklyn in my life. 

April 10, 2022. Art about war. Weirdly coincidentally, the Clark Art Institute in the Berkshires was in the process of putting together an exhibit on that very subject when, boom, Russia invaded Ukraine. And so it is that the show, “As They Saw It: Artists Witnessing War,” on view, appropriately, through Memorial Day, packs an extra emotional punch. It’s an exhibit of prints, drawings, and photographs of conflicts going back four centuries, all of them from the Clark’s permanent collection, works by such heavy hitters as Degas, Manet, and Goya, and many less familiar names whose work is no less powerful. I saw it a week ago and certain images still stick in my mind. We visit with curator Anne Leonard.

March 27, 2022. Today, a celebration of spring. We’re being treated to a screenshot by screenshot portrait of the artist as a young birder. Jenny Kroik is a freelance painter,  illustrator, conservationist, and, most recently, a fundraiser for humanitarian aid to Ukraine whose work appears in The New Yorker. She was the recent guest of the CT Audubon Society, which allowed us to record Jenny’s episode of its Young, Gifted and Wild About Birds Zoom webinar, in which Jenny traces her development as a birder through her art. She opens up her ever-handy sketchbook for us and tells anecdotes from her birding life, near and far, observing the several the ways art making is not that much different from birdwatching. She answers questions about her painting techniques as she treats us to a demo. It’s a fun hour with a lively guide who – probably like you – loves art and Nature.

March 13, 2022. OMG. Painting and Cape Cod. I hope I never have to choose between them, both are such soul food for me. Today I’m honored that my guests are two Cape Cod painters whose work I’ve been following for some years,  Peter Hocking and Helen Grimm. Each lives in Truro and is represented by the Four Eleven Gallery on Commercial Street in Provincetown, a gallery which, as you’ll hear, has deep roots in the town’s storied history of supporting art and artists. Both Peter and Helen paint landscapes – in Helen’s case, also seascapes and what she calls shellscapes; when you visit the blog, you’ll understand. In our conversation, we got deep into the dunes, as it were, about what it’s like to live on the Cape in all seasons, about why they don’t paint people,  and about just what it is that inspires them about the Cape. Talk about soul food. You’re going to totally love these two.

Feb. 27, 2022. Today, the face of Jesus. Author and previous radio show guest Bob Hudson has written a new book –  one which won a rave review in the New Yorker, by the way. The book, Seeing Jesus: Visionary Encounters from the First Century to the Present, considers one of the most depicted subjects in art: the face of Jesus. Here on Open Studio, we’re most interested in those visions that resulted in works of art. With another of my favorite radio guests, medievalist art historian Fran Altvater, we take up the face of Jesus in art.

Feb. 13, 2022. Last year, I interviewed four recent art school grads. One year later, how are they doing? Well, bottom line: art isn’t easy. Since graduation, each of our five artists have surfed some steep ups and downs – the ups including one new baby, one nearly completed teaching certification, one sidestreet into musicmaking, a string of creative jobs, some exhibited or about to be exhibited work, and one domestic situation that has the artist so content, she wishes she had some strife to paint about. As for the downs , those include bouts of the blues bordering on depression, creative dry spells, dictatorial corporate bosses, lack of studio space, financial hardship, a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with social media, but  what’re ya gonna do, it’s here to stay, and finally, precious little time for serious art making.

Jan. 23, 2022. An encore episode of Open Studio. Last January, I interviewed five artists about whether there is life after art school. I’m rerunning that show now so that, when I check in with them again for the Feb. 13th episode, you’ll have a sense of what’s changed.

Jan. 9, 2022. Today, in our first episode of 2022, a reminder that it’s never too late to start something new, including art-making! My two guests, Nancy Jensen, 76, and Rosemary Malloy, 83, tell how, though their interest in art was thwarted in their youth, that interest has lately been bearing fruit in their senior years as they draw, paint, make collages, and generally express themselves creatively however they darn well please! I know you’ll find them as inspiring as I did.

Dec. 26, 2021. Because film is a visual art, Open Studio celebrates watching – or actually, rewatching — movies – or even just favorite parts of movies – on DVD or by streaming. My go-to film expert Richard Alleva, a semi-retired movie reviewer for Commonweal magazine, has a list of 30 films he likes to revisit periodically. And now, you might think, as a film critic of a certain age, he’d be all pure and principled about the superiority of viewing movies on big screens, with audiences, at a theater. And he says he does look forward to resuming moviegoing if and when Covid eases up. But in the meantime, he’s come to embrace Amazon and Netflix for making available an endless cavalcade of films, whether or not they were box office hits. Richard shares with us today four favorite classics from that list of 30: A silent film, The General, made by and starring Buster Keaton; Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny & Alexander; Jean Renoir’s A Day in the Country; and Francois Truffault’s Shoot the Piano Player. I’d never seen any of these before, but having seen them, I know I’m going to follow Richard’s lead and watch them, in whole or in part, again.

Dec. 12, 2021. Thomas Harlee, Rochelle Robinson, and Gavin Saunders are Hartford Art School students who exemplify the Nina Simone song “Young, Gifted, and Black” and whose work sometimes touches on racial themes. We talked via Zoom about their experience so far and their hopes for the future.

Nov. 28, 2021. Today, I tour the Artemesia Gentilleschi exhibit at the Wadsworth Atheneaum in Hartford with my go-to art historian colleague and friend Fran Altvater. Amnesia Genti-who? you ask, and that’s kind of the point. Artemesia was one of a number of women artists, who, though they were successful and even celebrated, and painting royalty in the courts of their time, which in Artemesia’s case was the Baroque period, they are far from household names today. The Wadsworth exhibit, titled “By Her Hand: Artemesia Gentlieschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500-1800,” intends to rectify that. 

Nov. 14, 2021. Today, we talk with Kenny Martin, a teacher and artist who lives on the edge. Not only do his high school students wield blowtorches to do metalwork, but Kenny’s hobby is undersea diving – while holding his breath. An exhibit of his drawings based on his breath holding free dives is up now at Real Art Ways in Hartford. Oh, and Kenny’s also been a boxer, and most recently founded a Fight Club for teens; he’s convincing in making it sound therapeutic. Back when Kenny taught elementary school, he had his students bury tuna carcasses, a lesson in composting. So do I need to tell you Kenny’s an interesting guy? He says he also gives a great haircut.  This is the interview that convinced me I need to have more people from Brooklyn in my life.

Oct. 10, 2021. Inspired by Christo while in college, Kristin Jones enlisted the help of an army of volunteers to “draw” a parade of she wolves, the emblem of Rome, by powerwashing away biological growth from the walls of the Tiber River. Her hope is to someday animate the procession from her archive of more than 90 drawings. In our visit, she talks about that project; another in Rome, her first there, created from dust; and others, including some in New York City, where she lives. As much as she’s interested in such cosmic subjects as the fluidity of light and the continuum of time, she’d like us to know that, using her years of experience as an architecture model maker, she also work on a miniature scale. Often working collaboratively, her mission is to “render the invisible visible and awaken a sense of wonder.” You can explore her oevre at and

Sept. 26, 2021. Welcome to the 2nd year of visual art on the radio! Today, we visit via Zoom with architect Michael J. Crosbie, a University of Hartford architecture professor who has written a children’s primer about architecture. 

Sept. 12, 2021. Today, we go beyond the Sunday funnies and explore the graphic novel with Prof. Chang and Prof. Charles Baraw, from Southern CT State University’s English dept. Graphic novels, for those unfamiliar with the term, take the comic book into the deep end of the pool. One graphic novel you may have heard of is Art Spiegelman’s Maus, set in Nazi Germany. Another is Alison Bechtel’s Fun Home, which was made into a Broadway musical.

Aug. 22, 2021. Award-winning Brazilian American multidisciplinary artist Chantal Feitosa, of New York, takes us through her exhibit, “Can You Repeat the Question?,” at Hartford’s Real Art Ways through Oct. 17. She was invited to exhibit as a winner, selected from hundreds of applicants, of a $2,500 award for emerging artists living in New England, NJ, and NY. Her work — collages and a video installation — focuses on, among other things, ethnicity and gender and how those differences play out from earliest childhood, in school.

Aug. 8, 2021. Using discarded household plastic, Katharine Owens, an artist and poli sci professor at the University of Hartford, creates life-size wall hangings of sea creatures and birds that are endangered by eating or getting entangled in ocean waste. She hopes to exhibit the series of 46 all together when they’re done.

July 25, 2021. Sicily native Franco Liseo, longtime host of WESU-FM’s Italian language news and music program ‘Avanti Tutta’, celebrates all things Italian — the art, the food, the cars, the language, the people — in a lively conversation at a noisy Middletown cafe.

July 11, 2021. Abstract painter Power Boothe, a professor at Hartford Art School and its former dean, talks about his early development as a painter, including living hand-to-mouth in NYC, and his continuing development as an artist and teacher. Also: what it’s like to be named Power.

June 27, 2021. Today, Mari and Maria’s Big Adventure. Two art buddies go to NYC for a press preview of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest blockbuster exhibition, “The Medici: Portraits and Politics, 1512-1570.” It really has something for everybody. History buffs will enjoy the high drama – the powerful Medici banking dynasty turned Florence from a Republic to effectively a monarchy, complete with Popes, and used art to cement its power. Art aficionados will be awestruck by the portraits – in paint, in bronze, in marble, on medals, lent from repositories all over the world – works by such heavy hitters as Raphael, Pontormo, Cellini, Bronzino and more.

June 13, 2021. Art in the time of Covid: For Hartford painter Matt Best, the pandemic has had a marked effect on his art He feels freer to follow his instincts and not paint in a reliable style. He also believes society as a whole will benefit, that “everything’s going to be restructured in a better way.”

May 23, 2021. The recent four-part Netflix documentary ‘This Is A Robbery: The World’s Greatest Art Heist’ recounted the theft of 13 artworks from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Art historian Fran Altvater tells about some others over the decades, including one just last year. Film critic Richard Alleva reviews ‘This Is A Robbery’ and, for good measure, ‘Mare of Easttown.’

May 9, 2021. Last in a three-part series: a walk downtown to look at what it would take to make way-cool Middletown even cooler by accentuating its considerable positives: its restaurants, classic Main Street, proximity to Wesleyan University, and creative community. 

April 28, 2021. We continue our deep dive into how Middletown, CT, already a way cool city, might become even cooler by developing its potential to be an arts destination. In case you’re unfamiliar with Middletown, it’s well-known for its excellent restaurants. It’s got the Connecticut River running alongside it. It’s got Wesleyan University. And a classic wide main street. And an excellent library. Plus, as I can’t resist pointing out, but which you seem to already know, since you’re listening to it: an amazing college radio station. In this second installment of the series, we talk to Middletown artist Pierre Sylvain, the executive director of the Buttonwood Tree arts venue on Main Street, and last but not least, the mayor himself. What’s he think of the idea of artifying Middletown?

April 11, 2021. Great restaurants. That classic wide main street. Wesleyan. Excellent library. Way-cool college radio station. Middletown’s got it all, right? Well, except for visual art. In the first of a series about how to make Middletown an art destination, Open Studio talks with an artist, a former arts administrator, and a Realtor. They consider the sad proposition that maybe the city just isn’t into art.

March 28, 2021. Artist Holly Whiting and her husband Joe, who’s about to retire from teaching middle school English, have sold nearly all their worldly goods and are about to live on the road in a 100-square-foot school bus they converted themselves.

March 14, 2021. A visit with Connecticut-based artist Peter Waite, whose paintings, mostly of architectural subjects based on his travels in the US and abroad, focus on what he calls the intersection of private and public memory. Find images at

Feb. 28, 2021. Down With Some Art? A Lincoln scholar weighs in on what should be done with problematic — especially Confederate — statuary. Should they be pulled down? Stored in warehouses? Ret. RI Supreme Court Chief Justice votes nay.

Feb. 14, 2021. A Valentine’s Day special! Ten artists’ takes on love, with art historian Fran Altvater, associate dean of the University of Hartford’s Hillyer College. Follow along visually at! Plus! A heart-shaped chocolate box of selected songs about love & art! You never know what you’re gonna get!

Jan. 24, 2021. Building More Diverse Architects: What would architecture look like if not just white men designed it? We hear from underrepresentated architecture students from the University of Hartford and their enlightened white male professor.

Jan. 10, 2021. Is There Life After Art School? Five recent graduates of Hartford Art School (full freight nearing $57,000/yr) discuss how things are going so far. Will the American Dream be forever inaccessible to them? Is it even THEIR dream? Should they make marketable work or paint their souls? Is Instagram the best path to community? How have their expectations and work changed since graduations? Any regrets?

Dec. 27, 2020. Marcy LaBella not only draws, paints, works in clay, makes jewelry, and teaches all over the place — she’s made it her mission to learn the intricacies of disseminating her art online. As of this writing, she has attracted 10.4 K followers — and counting! She’s created a course to show us how to do it, too.

Dec. 13, 2020. John James Audubon was a great artist but, as it turns out, a very bad guy. Patrick Comins, executive director of the CT Audubon Society, talks turkey about the man’s flaws and how the conservation movement that bears his name is dealing with them. Also: book recommendations; news of an upcoming Zoom series, Young, Gifted, and Wild About Birds; and places in Connecticut that are worth a winter hike.

Nov. 22, 2020. Four Armenian artists — Nubar Alexanian, Mari Firkatian, Marsha Odabashian, and Arevik Tserunyun — discuss the effect on their work of centuries of conflict in their ancestral land — and sometimes Armenians’ preference for silence about it.

Nov. 8, 2020. A pre-election-results conversation in which our guests — a theologian and an artist — dare to consider joy.

Oct. 25, 2020. Film critic Richard Alleva on how the changing way we watch movies and TV is changing us. Also: why the term “art film” makes him cringe.

Oct. 11, 2020. On using the wrong water fountain and other traumas. Bob Selby makes art from memories of growing up in the Jim Crow South. His installation piece, “The Doors of Segregation,” is a metaphor for the obstacles that remain despite progress toward racial unity. A former newspaper illustrator and college art professor, Bob now uses his retirement years to paint his soul.

Sept. 27, 2020. Interview with abstract painter Cat Balco, a professor at Hartford Art School who shows in NYC.