More than ever people are turning to podcasts as a source for ‘edutainment’. This year it’s estimated that twenty-two million people in the US will tune in weekly to podcasts (Infinite Dial, 2019). That’s a ton! Granted, not all those millions are seeking episodes with the education slant, yet there are great numbers who seek both entertainment and education and some (like me) are looking for arts and museum shows.
Yet finding them is a challenge—quality podcasts in the museum and cultural arts realm are scarce. But I found a handful; I shared my favorite five in an article in April and since then I’ve found another three I share here. They’re all quite different, but each ranks high in quality of content and delivery.
1. National Gallery of Art
This show features lectures on the collection and special exhibitions of the National Gallery of Art (NGA), Washington, D.C. I’ve listened to several episodes in the past and found them somewhat dry (episodes are recordings of lectures delivered to audiences at the museum, without the benefit of visuals). However, I’ve re-discovered the show. It’s now one of my favorites due to the 14-part series with NGA’s senior lecturer, David Gariff. The lecture series, Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art coincides with the museum’s newly renovated East building featuring its 20th century collection in a chronological story.
Even without images the hour-long episodes are excellent—engaging, interesting, sometimes funny. Garriff doesn’t read from a script but tells stories of the artists and various art movements. Some of his best episodes: German Expressionism and Degenerate Art and Henri Matisse and Fauvism. These episodes along with the others were posted in August 2018.
I typically listen on-the-go, but if you are able to access the web while listening, you can look up the images of artworks Gariff refers to. Check out www.nga.gov or google. The visuals enrich the experience but aren’t necessary; I learned a great deal just by listening.
2. Museum Archipelago
A terrific show that delves into issues and challenges with museums and cultural institutions with bite-sized episodes, no more than fifteen minutes each. The host, Ian Elsner interviews museum founders, directors and people working in the museum world. What’s unique is Elsner seeks out smaller institutions, museums outside of the United States, and people working in the museum-world, some not associated with large institutions. Perspectives shared are fresh, and real.
Three of my favorite episodes: #46, with Vessela Gercheva, Director of the first children’s museum in Bulgaria, #45 with Margaret Middleton, an independent museum professional who designs children’s exhibits. Her perspective on making museums approachable for both visitors and people working in the field is thought-provoking. Episode #61 features Dr. Jody Steele who manages Australia’s Port Historical Authority and sites like the Female Factory which tells the story of female convicts transported from Britain to Australia in the 1800s. Really interesting.
“The show believes that no museum is an island and that museums are not neutral” — museumarchipelao.com
3. Great Lives, BBC Radio 4
Great Lives is not about art or museums specifically but features biographies of ‘great’ people of history—individuals from antiquity to those who have recently passed. Episodes, thirty-minutes in length, are never dull, are always interesting. I love the host, Matthew Parker, who interviews a guest (usually famous in some way or another) who nominates a ‘great life’ along with an expert, someone with deep knowledge of the nominee.
Episodes have featured artists, like the episode on Marcel Duchamp, nominated by artist Cornelia Parker, with the expert, a Professor of the History of Art at the Royal Academy in London (aired December 12, 2017). Others have highlighted patrons of the arts, like Catherine de Medici (April 18, 2019) and Catherine the Great, (June 1, 2018).
There are numerous episodes on authors, musicians and one of my favorites—the episode on Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein (May 17, 2019).
Podcasts are hot right now. A recent report on digital media trends, The Infinite Dial 2019 describes how the podcasting genre is exploding while social media use is stalling (Facebook usage continues to drop). It’s no wonder--podcasts are a portable, entertaining media for consumption, ideal for people on the go. There are thousands of podcasts to choose from with new ones coming out every week. Yet good museum and arts podcasts are tough to find and after listening to several I found five (very) good shows I share here. They are current (recent episodes in 2019), range between 30 and 60 minutes, have excellent production quality, and most importantly feature engaging, enriching discussions and interviews—I look forward to new episodes.
Each covers a different aspect of culture; The Art Newspaper shares current news in the arts world, ArtTactic shares cutting edge initiatives in the arts world, and each show features interviews with artists on a regular basis. I’m always on the lookout for new shows. I’ll keep updating my Museum Resources page, so check back regularly.
Arts + Ideas, The Getty
Love this podcast for the variety of guests and topics, the quality and depth of interviews. It’s hosted by Jim Cuno, president of the J Paul Getty Trust. Cuno meets (usually in person) with artists, writers, curators, architects, conservators and others to discuss their work (his guests are usually affiliated with The Getty in some way). Published bi-weekly. Highlights: Cuno keeps the conversation grounded, relevant and interesting. He puts the listener first, frequently asking guests to “describe this art piece for our listeners” or “share with our listeners”. Favorite episodes were with architect Richard Gehry and one about the conservation work done on the Salk Institute.
The Art Newspaper
An excellent program out of the UK that covers current and trending topics in the world of art and culture. It’s sponsored by Bonham’s, long-time auctioneers based in London and hosted by Ben Luke. There’s also the Art Newspaper newsletter. It covers art and culture events worldwide—everything from art fairs, shows, museum exhibits and events, art auction results, AND discusses political and social issues, as well as current events related to artists, culture and museums.Published weekly. Highlights: The breadth of topics—rarely dull, frequently captivating. Sometimes features panels of guests which adds variety and diversity of perspectives.
Recently found this podcast; glad I did; it’s different and interesting. It features innovative and unique news, artists and companies involved with the art market. Interesting stuff. It’s sponsored by the company ArtTactic, a UK-based company which is (as described on its website) a progressive art market analysis firm that offers dynamic and bespoke market intelligence on the fast-paced and ever-changing global art market. Published bi-monthly. Highlights: Unique and thought-provoking. Forward thinking guests offer insights into new opportunities and ways of thinking about art, museums, exhibits and technology.
Interesting podcast by NPR; it’s tag line “a behind the scenes look at museums”, is pretty accurate. It features a variety of guests that includes museum directors and curators from from small, lesser known museums. Some episodes feature professionals affiliated with art, such as art conservators and authors. It’s hosted by Jeff Martin of Philbrook Museum of Art and produced by Scott Gregory with Public Radio Tulsa. Published bi-monthly. Highlights: features unique museums with fresh perspectives. Hosts.
The Modern Art Notes Podcast
Highly acclaimed podcast that features in-depth interviews—usually an hour long, with artists, historians, authors, curators and conservators who are usually from the United States. This was the first arts podcast I found; and loved it! It was hard to find others that met the standard of this show; the bar is high. Though sometimes some of the guests on the show, usually artists, ramble on at length discussing technical aspects of their work, but overall the episodes are interesting and thoughtful. The host Tyler Green, does a good job drawing out his guests. Published weekly. Highlights: the episode webpage usually features (numerous) excellent images of the works discussed in each show.