Elizabeth Blair

Elizabeth Blair is a Senior Producer on the Arts Desk of NPR News.

On a daily basis, she produces, edits and reports arts and cultural segments that air on NPR News magazines including Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Her recent stories explored the rise of public humiliation in popular culture, consumers' changing media habits and the intersection of the arts and education.

In this position that she has held since 2003, Blair's varied work has included profiles of actor Neil Patrick Harris, rapper K'Naan, and the band Pearl Jam. She has written and produced long-form documentaries on such cultural icons as Paul Robeson and Billie Holiday. Blair oversaw the production of some of NPR's most popular special projects including "50 Great Voices," the NPR series on awe-inspiring voices from around the world and across time in, and the "In Character" series which explored famous American fictional characters.

Over the years, Blair has received several honors for her work including two Peabody Awards and a Gracie.

For three and a half years, Blair lived in Paris, France, where she co-produced Le Jazz Club From Paris with Dee Dee Bridgewater, and the monthly magazine Postcard From Paris.

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4:44pm

Thu July 17, 2014
Theater

Actress Elaine Stritch, 'Her Own Greatest Character,' Dies At 89

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 3:19 pm

Stritch first appeared on Broadway in 1944 — and was still performing occasionally even at age 89. She is pictured above in 1955.
AP

Elaine Stritch — one of Broadway's boldest and brassiest performers — has died. With that gravelly voice — and those long legs — and that utter command of the stage, Stritch was a bona fide Broadway star. Not as a classic leading lady, necessarily, but as the hardened-yet-vulnerable performer audiences couldn't forget. Stritch died of natural causes Thursday morning at her home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89.

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1:36am

Tue May 27, 2014
Business

Pfizer Drops $119 Billion Bid For AstraZeneca

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 7:57 am

William Vazquez AP

It would have been the biggest deal the pharmaceutical industry has seen in more than a decade. But for now, it's off the table.

Pfizer has withdrawn its offer to buy British drug company AstraZeneca for about $119 billion.

American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which makes Lipitor and Viagra, has been circling its smaller rival AstraZeneca for months.

AstraZeneca, which makes Nexium and Crestor, has rejected every offer saying Pfizer undervalues the company, and that it wants to remain independent.

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5:17pm

Mon May 26, 2014
Remembrances

Remembering The 'Father' Of G.I. Joe

Originally published on Mon May 26, 2014 5:43 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. Now we're going to remember the man who was known as the father of G.I. Joe. Donald Levine was a toy industry executive in the early 1960s, when the iconic action figure stormed playrooms across the country. Levine died of cancer late last week. He was 86. NPR's Elizabeth Blair does this appreciation.

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4:08pm

Thu April 10, 2014
Television

Colbert Plans To Take Up The Late Night Mic For CBS

Originally published on Thu April 10, 2014 8:12 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The coveted spot held by David Letterman for 21 years will go to Stephen Colbert. CBS made the announcement today. As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, diehard fans of the Emmy Award-winning "Colbert Report" are mourning this news and others are excited to see what the real Colbert has in store.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: First, Stephen Colbert has said he will not be doing "The Late Show" in character, meaning the over-the-top, right-wing narcissistic character he created for Comedy Central.

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5:03pm

Mon March 24, 2014
Television

Fans Of 'The Good Wife' Rocked By [Spoiler Alert]

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 6:46 pm

Matthew Goode (left) as Finn Polmar and Josh Charles (right) as Will Gardner in Sunday night's episode of CBS's The Good Wife.
CBS

The CBS legal drama The Good Wife centers on smart, attractive Chicago lawyer Alicia Florrick. She's "the good wife" because she stood by her politician husband when he cheated on her.

But the show's most compelling story line has always been between Alicia and another lawyer, Will Gardner. And if you don't want to know what happened in that storyline last night, stop reading NOW.

No, Really: Major Spoiler Ahead

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2:06pm

Mon March 10, 2014
The Two-Way

Smithsonian Institution Gets A New Director

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 3:36 pm

Cornell University President David Skorton speaks during a news conference Monday in Washington, D.C.
Carolyn Kaster AP

The new head of the Smithsonian Institution was announced Monday. David Skorton will leave his job as president of Cornell University to become the institution's 13th secretary since its founding in 1846.

Skorton becomes the first physician to lead the Smithsonian. He's a board-certified cardiologist and amateur jazz musician. Most importantly for the Smithsonian, he's a skilled fundraiser. Skorton led a team that raised $5 billion during his eight years at Cornell.

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10:05am

Sat February 8, 2014
Pop Culture

For Top-Flight Animators, The Gag Is An Art All Its Own

Originally published on Sat February 8, 2014 12:05 pm

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Lego Movie opened last night in theaters across the country. It's latest example of the magic of animation, filmmakers who bring plastic to life, make animals talk and send toys singing and dancing across a big screen. But animators also love to hurl our most beloved characters over cliffs. They blow them up with dynamite, flatten them with speeding trains. Seconds later, they pop back up and dust themselves off.

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7:06pm

Sun February 2, 2014
Remembrances

Philip Seymour Hoffman: An 'Uncanny' Actor Of Stage And Screen

Originally published on Mon February 3, 2014 2:53 pm

Hoffman (left) and Eddie Marsan, in a scene from the film God's Pocket, released in January.
Lance Acord AP

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead on Sunday in his Manhattan apartment. He was 46.

Hoffman was steeped in his profession — in film, on stage, in the spotlight and behind the scenes.

In 2005, he won the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of Truman Capote. The movie focuses on Capote's interviews with two murderers on death row for his nonfiction novel In Cold Blood.

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5:22pm

Fri January 24, 2014
Business

In The Super Bowl Ad Game, One Small Business Will Win Big

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 8:55 pm

Super Bowl suspense is building — for the game and the commercials. With an audience of over 100 million people, advertisers covet this space, but at a reported $4 million a spot, only the mightiest corporations can afford Super Bowl exposure. This year, though, there's an exception. One lucky little business will get one of those primo slots — free.

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5:12pm

Mon January 13, 2014
Arts & Life

Foundations Keep Detroit Art Off The Auction Block

Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 8:53 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

A federal bankruptcy judge in Detroit has mediated a deal that could potentially solve two of the city's biggest problems. The plan would raise money for retirees' pension funds and keep masterpieces from the Detroit Institute of Art from being auctioned off. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

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3:20am

Wed December 25, 2013
Arts & Life

Detroit Needs Money. Can A 'Grand Bargain' Save The City's Art?

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 7:04 pm

Gladioli, Claude Monet, ca. 1876, oil on canvas.
Detroit Institute of Arts

Can wealthy art lovers help save Detroit's pension funds — and one of its museums?

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5:08pm

Mon November 25, 2013
Code Switch

What Do We Mean When We Talk About 'Latino Art'?

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 6:42 pm

Radiante, Olga Albizu
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

When the Whitney Museum of American Art announced the artists for its 2014 biennial, people took to the Internet to chime in about who's been included and who's been left out; the last biennial had been blasted for ignoring Latino artists. But when a new show opened at the Smithsonian American Art Museum featuring only Latino artists — "Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art" — it was blasted for other reasons.

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5:44pm

Tue October 1, 2013
Arts & Life

Congressional Impasse Leaves Museums Empty, Monuments Shut

Originally published on Tue October 1, 2013 6:38 pm

Shutdown signs have been posted at the National Museum of American History and other Smithsonian Institution museums, which will remain closed as long as the government is.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Federal bureaucracies aren't the only ones scaling back operations during the government shutdown. It's also meant that kids couldn't take field trips to the Smithsonian.

In fact most of the popular Washington attractions funded by the government are closed. That includes the Smithsonian's 19 museums and the National Zoo, plus Ford's Theatre and the National Gallery of Art.

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5:52am

Mon September 23, 2013
Movies

Disney Experiments With 2-Screen Experience Involves iPads

Originally published on Tue September 24, 2013 5:35 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

I don't know about you, but I'm a little troubled when I hear about people who watch multiple screens. You know what I'm talking about. Maybe you're watching a movie at home while live tweeting, or while keeping track at a ballgame. At least movie theaters are a sacred space, immune to these changes.

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6:51am

Wed September 4, 2013
Business

Latino Buying Power Gets Movie Studios' Attention

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 11:12 am

Instructions Not Included, a film starring and directed by Eugenio Derbez, was made specifically for a Mexican and U.S. Latino audience.
Pantelion Films

One of the surprise movie hits this past weekend was almost entirely in Spanish. Instructions Not Included made an enormous amount of money per screen, more than $22,000, playing in fewer than 350 theaters. The boys in One Direction had the number one film, but they pulled in less than $6000 per screen. That's a huge victory for star Eugenio Derbez, a household name in Mexico, and for Pantelion films, which has been trying to find a Spanish-language hit in the U.S. film market for a few years now.

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3:20am

Thu July 18, 2013
Code Switch

Comedian Hari Kondabolu On Diversity, Race And Burger King

Originally published on Thu July 18, 2013 3:20 pm

Hari Kondabolu is a brainy comedian who cuts through the polite talk around race and gender. He's made a lot of key people laugh with his incisive anecdotes, including Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O'Brien and John Oliver.

A full-time writer on the FX show Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, he recently did a comedy bit on the National Spelling Bee, or "as I like to call it," he joked, "the Indian Super Bowl."

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6:03pm

Thu July 11, 2013
The Record

Toshi Seeger, Wife Of Folk Singer Pete Seeger, Dies At 91

Originally published on Thu July 11, 2013 6:30 pm

Toshi Seeger with her husband, folk singer Pete Seeger, in 2009.
Bennett Raglin Getty Images

Anyone who worked closely with Pete Seeger knew the legendary folk singer's wife. For seven decades, Toshi Seeger organized his festivals and handled his travel and correspondence. The social activist died Tuesday. She was 91.

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2:59am

Tue June 25, 2013
Code Switch

As Demographics Shift, Kids' Books Stay Stubbornly White

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 11:14 am

At a San Jose, Calif. library, a young reader browses a shelf of books featuring a variety of main characters: ducks, hens, white kids, black kids. Libraries help drive demand for children's books with nonwhite characters, but book publishers say there aren't enough libraries to make those books best-sellers.
San Jose Library Flickr

When it comes to diversity, children's books are sorely lacking; instead of presenting a representative range of faces, they're overwhelmingly white. How bad is the disconnect?

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3:39am

Tue May 28, 2013
Art & Design

Plans For Smithsonian Museum 'Bubble' May Have Burst

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 10:04 am

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden proposed adding a giant, inflatable structure that would balloon out of its top and side.
Roger L. Wollenberg UPI/Landov

Call it the Smithsonian's bubble problem. One of the Smithsonian museums — the Hirshhorn museum for contemporary art — came up with an ambitious new design to add more space: Why not build a giant, inflatable structure that would be big enough for people to walk around in?

But some of the Smithsonian's trustees in Washington, D.C., haven't been blown away by the bubble.

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5:36pm

Fri May 17, 2013
Code Switch

'Venus And Serena': An Extraordinary Story, Told On Film

Originally published on Fri May 17, 2013 6:52 pm

Serena (right) and Venus Williams pose with their gold medals during the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Stefan Wermuth Reuters/Landov

It's Cinderella plus Jackie Robinson times two. When Venus and Serena Williams burst onto the lily-white world of tennis, they changed the game and made history: They were sisters. From a poor neighborhood. Who brought unprecedented power to the game. And both reached No. 1.

Their journey is the subject of a new documentary called Venus and Serena, showing in select theaters around the country.

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2:41pm

Thu April 18, 2013
Education

In D.C., Art Program Turns Boys' Lives Into 'Masterpieces'

Originally published on Thu April 18, 2013 10:26 pm

Life Pieces to Masterpieces is an arts program that serves the neighborhood of Ward 7 in Washington, D.C. Boys work with mentors to create works of art.
Lizzie Chen NPR

This is the third in a three-part series about the intersection of education and the arts.

Life Pieces to Masterpieces is an arts program that's not entirely about the art. It's an after-school program based in a struggling neighborhood in Washington, D.C., that teaches black boys and young men what they call "the four C's": "Connect, create, contribute, celebrate." From ages 3-25, they learn to express themselves by conceiving their paintings together. And those paintings will often reflect what's going on in their lives.

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5:07pm

Wed April 17, 2013
Education

More Than 50 Years Of Putting Kids' Creativity To The Test

Originally published on Thu April 18, 2013 5:30 pm

E. Paul Torrance, shown here in the mid-'80s, spent most of his career studying and encouraging students' creativity.
Courtesy University of Georgia

This is the second in a three-part series about the intersection of education and the arts.

Let's start with a question from a standardized test: "How would the world be different if we all had a third eye in the back of our heads?"

It's not a typical standardized question, but as part of the Next Generation Creativity Survey, it's used to help measure creativity a bit like an IQ test measures intelligence. And it's not the only creativity test out there.

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12:48am

Mon March 18, 2013
Theater

Familiar Folks Make Up A Play's 'Good People'

Originally published on Mon March 18, 2013 12:38 pm

Johanna Day as Margie and Andrew Long as Mike in the recent Arena Stage production of David Lindsay-Abaire's Good People. The childhood friends drift apart as their lives take on very different socioeconomic dimensions.
Margot Schulman Arena Stage

How we end up in life has a lot to do with where we came from. That theory gets a good workout in the play Good People, from Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire. When the show was on Broadway two years ago, the trade magazine Variety proclaimed that "If Good People isn't a hit, there is no justice in the land."

As it turns out, justice has been served: Good People is the most produced play in America this theatrical season. By the end of this summer, it will have been on stage in 17 different cities.

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7:58pm

Mon February 4, 2013
World

In Moscow, Scandals Shake A Storied Ballet

Originally published on Tue February 5, 2013 1:47 pm

Sergei Filin, artistic director of the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre's Bolshoi Ballet, was nearly blinded by an attacker on Jan. 17.
Yuri Kadobnov AFP/Getty Images

It's a story right out of the movies: The artistic director of one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world is violently attacked. His attacker and the motive are shrouded in mystery. But behind these sensational headlines is a ballet company that is both legendary and plagued with scandals and infighting.

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4:10pm

Fri February 1, 2013
Media

For Super Bowl Ads, More Social-Media Savvy

Originally published on Fri February 1, 2013 7:17 pm

Deutsch LA

2:46am

Fri January 25, 2013
Movies

For Would-Be Sundancers, Kickstarter Can Fuel Films

Originally published on Fri January 25, 2013 9:14 am

A scene from 99% — The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film, a Sundance documentary that raised more than $23,000 on Kickstarter.
Ari Ress Sundance Film Festival

If you want to make a movie, you generally need a lot of money. And filmmakers have to be creative about raising it.

Just ask the filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival, taking place this week in Park City, Utah. Some 10 percent of the films selected for this year's iteration of the prestigious festival raised money through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter.

In the three years since the website launched, Kickstarter-funded films have been nominated for Oscars, picked up by Showtime and HBO, and honored with awards at Sundance, South By Southwest and Cannes.

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5:34am

Sat January 12, 2013
History

World War II Exhibit Asks Visitors, 'What Would You Do?'

Originally published on Sat January 12, 2013 12:08 pm

Using touchscreens, visitors decide how they would make wartime choices.
Courtesy National WWII Museum

For many, the stakes and the scale of World War II are hard to fathom. It was a war fought around the world, against powerful, determined regimes in Europe and the Pacific; some 65 million people died. And as the number of people who have actual memories of the war dwindle — as of next year, there will be fewer than 1 million living veterans — the mission of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans becomes all the more urgent.

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4:18pm

Fri December 28, 2012
NPR Story

Remembering Fontella Bass, Voice Of A Soul Classic

Originally published on Fri December 28, 2012 5:06 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The voice of a great soul classic has died. Fontella Bass sang the 1965 hit "Rescue Me." She was 72 years old and died from complications caused by a recent heart attack. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: It's a perfect song with a perfect voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RESCUE ME")

FONTELLA BASS: (Singing) Rescue me. Take me in your arms. Rescue me. I love your tender charms. I'm rather lonely and I'm blue. I need you and your love, too. Come on and rescue me.

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3:21am

Thu December 13, 2012
Business

Etsy Crafts A Strategy For Staying Handmade And Profitable

Originally published on Thu December 13, 2012 9:03 am

Etsy, which began as a place for home crafters and small businesses to sell their goods, has experienced growing pains as it surpasses 800,000 sellers.
Courtesy of Etsy

Etsy has gotten very big, very fast. This year, sales are at about $800 million.

"Their growth on all the major metrics you want to look at has accelerated really consistently," says journalist Rob Walker.

Walker recently wrote a story for Wired Magazine with the headline, "Can Etsy Go Pro Without Losing Its Soul?" Here's why: Etsy makes money from its sellers: 20 cents every time they list an item and 3.5 percent of every sale. Today, there are some 800,000 sellers.

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5:43am

Sat December 1, 2012
Performing Arts

Hispanics Call For Kennedy Center Honors

Originally published on Sat December 1, 2012 10:41 am

Honorees (from left) James Levine, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Simon, Chita Rivera and James Earl Jones stand beside first lady Laura Bush and President George W. Bush during the 25th Kennedy Center Honors in 2002. Rivera was the last Hispanic recipient of the award.
Shawn Thew AFP/Getty Images

This weekend, some big names are coming to Washington for a red-carpet event. Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, ballerina Natalia Makarova, blues guitarist Buddy Guy and the British rock band Led Zeppelin will be receiving the annual Kennedy Center Honors.

It's a prestigious award given to only a handful of performers each year. But over the past few months there's been controversy surrounding the awards. In its 35-year history, only two honorees have been Hispanic, despite the fact that Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States.

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