David and Art

Monday 4:44am, 6:44am, 8:44am and 5:44pm

Art reveals the world to us in new ways.  On KWBU, we have a new weekly feature focusing on art.

The module is hosted by David Smith, an American historian with broad interests in his field.  He’s been at Baylor University since 2002 teaching classes in American history, military history, and cultural history.  For eight years he wrote an arts and culture column for the Waco Tribune-Herald, and his writings on history, art, and culture have appeared in other newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to the Dallas Morning News.

The very first record he remembers listening to when he was little was Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic’s recording of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and that set him on a lifelong path of loving music and the arts.  He’s loved history for almost as long, and finally saw them come together in his career.  He believes that history illuminates the arts and the arts illuminate history—that they co-exist and are best understood together.

Follow David on Twitter @DavidASmith12

David and Art - "See His Face"

Jul 13, 2020
Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

Street art can be some of the best commemoration for things we need to remember. 

By the Thursday after George Floyd’s death on a Monday, a group of artists were painting a mural on the wall of the Cup Foods store very near where he died.  You’ve probably seen it in news coverage from Minneapolis.  It’s a predominantly yellow and blue mural with an image of Floyd’s face in the center, flanked left and right by his name.  In the yellow letters of his name are individuals rendered in light blue minimalisticaly with fists raised in solidarity.  The background is an enormous sunflower, in the heart of which are names of people who have suffered a fate similar to that of Floyd.  The choice 

David and Art - "Alabama"

Jul 6, 2020
Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

How one of America's jazz greats took on one of the greatests outrages in the American Civil Rights Movement. 

On a bright Sunday morning in Birmingham, Alabama, a bomb exploded under the rear steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church.  Four young girls who were in the basement changing into their choir robes for the youth service that morning, were killed.  Another 20 people or so were wounded.  The explosion left a crater five feet wide and two feet deep in the basement.  The bomb was placed there by four members of the Ku Klux Klan.  It was September 15, 1963. 

Two months later saxophonist John Coltrane stepped into a studio to record a song that he had written in tribune to the girls who were killed.  It was called simply “Alabama.”  A few

David and Art - "Remembering Christo"

Jun 29, 2020
Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

Looking back at the career of an artist whose projects transformed landscapes for a few days.

A visionary and world-famous artist died at the end of May.  Christo Javacheff was born in Bulgaria in 1935 and from his youth studied art.  In 1956 he escaped from Bulgaria and made his way to Vienna, Geneva, and finally to Paris.  He and his wife, who was his regular collaborator, moved to New York in 1964 and he became an American citizen in 1973.

Christo began his career as a painter but under the influence of revolutionary artists like

David and Art - "Moss Hart"

Jun 22, 2020
Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

On this weeks episode of David and Art, a  mostly forgotten name from Broadway casts a long shadow on the art world.

Last week, in its “Broadway Fridays” series of free online offerings, the Lincoln Center Theater made available a play called “Act One,” taken from the autobiography of an American playwright named Moss Hart.  His name is largely forgotten these days outside of Broadway circles, but for a while, his was one of the biggest names in American culture.

Moss Hart was born in the Bronx in 1904 and grew up in poverty. His father immigrated from 

David and Art - "Art and Entertainment"

Jun 15, 2020
Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

The difference between art and entertainment is a subtle but significant one.

I was talking to a friend who is a pastor recently, and he was telling me about the ins and outs of writing sermons.  It might be a little surprising to know that pastors get writers block, too.  Actually, it was a little bit encouraging.  He was thinking about the ways he tries to break through it when it comes.

He said that many times when he can’t find a nugget around which to build a sermon, he’ll turn to art.  He’s been inspired by paintings especially, but he’s also dipped into poetry, plays, and music. When he does so, he’s not as much searching for a topic as he’s trying to just get into a creative frame of mind.  “Creativity inspires creativity,” he said.  I wish I’d said that.  He told me the story of a Manet 

David and Art - Opening Theaters

Jun 8, 2020
Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

The world of live theater is a significant portion of the art community and in some places, an economic engine like all of the arts.  When it will open back up however is anyone’s guess.

Last week we talked about art museums that were cautiously opening, and the attitudes and procedures adopted by places like the Houston Museum of Fine Arts.  For the rest of the art world, questions about reopening are just as vivid and urgent, and arts backers around the country are rightly concerned about all the factors involved, from safety to finances to jobs.  For live theater in NYC, the date you hear 

Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

The art world is eager to open up from the quarantine, in part because the arts provide something to a society that it gets from no other source.

A couple of weekends ago, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston became the first major American art museum to reopen since the country went into lockdown back in March.  On Saturday morning May 23, a score of museum devotees, all in masks and observing proper distancing etiquette,

Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

Whether dancers, painters, or sax players, artists are a central part of American society.  When economic trouble hits, it’s good if the rest of us remember that.

Last week I mentioned that within the relief and recovery programs of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Great Depression, there were measures specifically designed to help artists who needed relief as much as any American worker.  In helping artists, these programs also nourished American culture.

When you look over the roster of artists who were involved with the New Deal, you’ll find some names you’ve likely heard of.  People like Jackson Pollock, Marsden Hartley, Diego Rivera, Philip Guston, Mark Rothko, John Sloan, Stuart Davis, and  

Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

Artists are not some kind of abstraction in our culture.  They are real people with real concerns.  It’s good for governments to remember that.

I have to admit, that when I taught the Great Depression this semester, both I and many of my students were struck by the parallels to today. Anyone who knows about American history in the 1930s knows the rough outline. And today, again, when we turn on the news or listen to the radio we’re met by headlines like an unemployment number that’s the highest it’s been since Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated.  Right now, the federal government is enacting economic assistance programs of the sort that were 

David and Art - "Popular"

May 11, 2020
Joe Riley

(Local productions are on hold during the social distance requirements due to Covid-19.  This segment originally aired June 26, 2018.)

David  muses on the widsom of following the crowd.

David and Art - "Changes"

May 4, 2020
Joe Riley

(Local productions are on hold during the social distance requirements due to Covid-19.  This segment originally aired June 4, 2018.)

Art reveals the world to us in new ways.

David and Art has been a segment on Conversations with Creative Waco and is now a regular Monday feature during Morning Edition and All Things Considered. 

Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

*This segment originially aired October 22, 2018.

Is art elitist? Is there something in it that’s automatically exclusionary, reserved for only a few people, leaving everyone else outside, puzzled, irate or indifferent? 

I know a lot of people believe this but it bears very little resemblance to what art is really about.

To be sure, great art itself is elite.  Everyone can be creative, but that’s not the same thing. Many people like to draw, but most can’t turn out a masterpiece. I can hum and sing and even make up a tune now and then, but no one will mistake me for a good singer, let alone a composer.  There just isn’t a lot of really

David and Art - "Learning the Classics"

Apr 20, 2020
Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

If you like classical music, do you remember where and how you acquired your taste for it?  This is no small question these days.  Any number of studies indicate that the audiences for symphony orchestras are slowly shrinking.  Therefore, getting what’s known as “classical” music into the ears of more people is an important mission for any orchestra, and a daunting challenge as well.

There’s something of a consensus that such tastes are largely developed in youth, and that may well be the case. My earliest memory of classical music is of an album my parents had of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, recorded back in 1960.  I was captivated by it, and vividly remember listening to it over and over.  I listened to it on the way in to work this morning.  It’s still good.

Bernstein himself was dedicated to educating young people about orchestral music.  Beginning in 1958 when rock and roll was sweeping the country, he took over the New York 

David and Art - Jazz

Apr 13, 2020
Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

Why is it that Jazz music is often regarded as one of the most distictively American art forms?  (Reworked from original November 26, 2018 broadcast.)

Jazz occupies a curious place in the cultural landscape of America.  Throughout the 20th century its level of sophistication seemed to depend in large part upon the person listening to it.  Highbrows (for lack of a better word) thought of it as too vulgar and associated it with speakeasies or drug infested clubs.  Lowbrows on the other hand often thought of it—particularly in the 1950s—as too complicated,

David and Art - Remembering McCoy Tyner

Apr 6, 2020
Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

McCoy Tyner was a pianist whose influence can be heard across half a century.

In 1990, I was… Quite a bit younger. My musical tastes were relatively typical: I was into pop music, some hard rock stuff.  I was a bass player so I was into the group Rush.  I hadn’t yet discovered Earth, Wind and Fire.  I thought I knew jazz because back in high school I’d played in the jazz band and sorta dug some big band recordings like Glen Miller and Count Basie.

Somehow there drifted into my CD collection an album of solo jazz piano by an artist that I’d never heard of.  I ordered it from some place but to this day I don’t know why I bought McCoy Tyner’s 1988 album Revelations.

Tyner was born in Philadelphia in 1938.  Like Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane and Miles, he was a