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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Arts & Life
1:15 am
Tue October 22, 2013

Charity Watchdog Shakes Up Ratings To Focus On Results

Dennis Chestnut stands next to a stretch of the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 2. Chestnut, who has been working to clean up the Anacostia for decades, says it can take a long time for a nonprofit to see an end result.
Abbey Oldham NPR

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 8:29 am

There's one area of the economy that's growing faster than business or government.

According to the Urban Institute, in the 10 years between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. But most of them aren't very good at measuring their effectiveness — at least, that's the conclusion of the nonprofit watchdog Charity Navigator, which rates thousands of nonprofits to help donors make decisions on their giving.

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Movies
1:23 am
Fri October 18, 2013

'Carrie' Had The Power, But Mom Had The Scary Going On

In Stephen King's novel and the film adaptations, Carrie (played by Sissy Spacek, left, in the 1976 version) is the one with the supernatural powers, but for NPR's Elizabeth Blair, Carrie's mother Margaret (Piper Laurie) was the truly scary character.
United Artists/The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Fri October 18, 2013 10:23 am

Just in time for Halloween comes a new movie version of Stephen King's horror novel Carrie. While the teenaged Carrie White is clearly at the center of the story, I think her mother is the more fascinating character.

Carrie — about a shy misfit whose coming of age collides with her mother's fearful religious fundamentalism and her schoolmates' pack-animal cruelty, with combustible results — scared the bejesus out of me when I was a teenager. Carrie turned out to be dangerous, sure. But it was her mother, Margaret White, who made my heart stop.

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Arts & Life
3:21 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Congressional Impasse Leaves Museums Empty, Monuments Shut

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

Originally published on Tue October 1, 2013 4:38 pm

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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Movies
4:12 am
Mon September 23, 2013

Disney Experiments With 2-Screen Experience Involves iPads

Originally published on Tue September 24, 2013 3:35 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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Business
4:42 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Latino Buying Power Gets Movie Studios' Attention

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

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 9:12 am

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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Keys To The Whole World: American Public Libraries
3:41 am
Sun September 1, 2013

With Modern Makeovers, America's Libraries Are Branching Out

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C., has opened a Digital Commons that features rows of desktop computers, portable electronic devices and even a 3D printer.
DC Public Library/The Freelon Group

Originally published on Sun September 8, 2013 1:58 pm

It's not exactly a building boom, but several public libraries around the country are getting makeovers. The Central Library in Austin, Texas just broke ground on a new building that promises such new features as outdoor reading porches and a cafe. In Madison, Wis., they're about to open a newly remodeled library that has, among other improvements, more natural light and a new auditorium. Historic libraries in Boston and New York City are looking at significant renovations.

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Keys To The Whole World: American Public Libraries
2:32 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Beyond Books: Libraries Lend Fishing Poles, Pans And People

At a Human Library event at the Santa Monica Public Library, a police detective "book" talks to two "readers." Human Library events and projects, which are held at libraries across the country, allow participants to "check out" volunteers and have conversations about their life experiences.
Annie Wyndham Solomon (Wynsolo Photography) Santa Monica Public Library

Originally published on Tue August 13, 2013 4:31 pm

What's the point of a library in the digital age? It's a question that makes librarians bristle. They are quick to remind you that they are not just repositories for printed books and DVDs. Regular patrons know this, but public libraries want to reach beyond the faithful. To that end, many librarians are finding creative ways to get people through the doors despite their limited resources.

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Movies
3:35 am
Thu July 25, 2013

Big Summer Movies Go Belly Up At The Box Office

Originally published on Thu July 25, 2013 5:58 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE. HOST: Hollywood movies are full of bombs this summer, and I mean both literally and figuratively. There have been a lot of big expensive movies, often action movies, that have not done very well at the box office. NPR's Elizabeth Blair says think "After Earth," "The Lone Ranger," and "White House Down."

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: First, there have been some hits this summer, mostly sequels like "Iron Man 3."

(SOUNDBITE FROM FILM, "IRON MAN 3")

ROBERT DOWNEY, JR.: (as Tony Stark) We can do this, Heather.

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Arts & Life
3:07 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

Emmy Nods for Netflix, The New Kid On The Block

Originally published on Fri July 19, 2013 8:15 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Emmy nominations were announced in Los Angeles today. The big winners were the FX miniseries "American Horror Story," with 17 nominations, and HBO's "Game of Thrones" with 16. And then there's Netflix. The company that began as a DVD mail service is now producing its own shows and today, three of them picked up Emmy nods, including nine for "House of Cards," as we hear from NPR's Elizabeth Blair.

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Code Switch
1:20 am
Thu July 18, 2013

Comedian Hari Kondabolu On Diversity, Race And Burger King

Originally published on Thu July 18, 2013 1:20 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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The Record
3:42 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Thu July 11, 2013 4:30 pm

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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Code Switch
2:46 am
Tue June 25, 2013

As Demographics Shift, Kids' Books Stay Stubbornly White

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

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 9:14 am

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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Movies
3:03 am
Sat June 22, 2013

'Me' Too: For Gru, Another Shot At Global Domination

He's still a would-be world-conquerer by day, but Gru (left, with minions) has been settling into his role as an adoptive dad by night. His new responsibilities make him a likely recruit for the Anti-Villain League, which asks him to ... well, we shouldn't give too much away.
Universal

Originally published on Sat June 22, 2013 11:07 am

There will be hits and misses at movie houses this summer, but it's a decent bet Despicable Me 2 will end up in the that-went-well column.

The star, a would-be world-dominating supervillain named Gru, is a hulking, blustering figure with an appetite for mayhem — and a surprising soft spot. He'll boast that he's about to pull off "the crime of the century," then sit down to read his little girls — he's recently, reluctantly, adopted three of them, and they're adorable — a bedtime story.

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Monkey See
2:27 am
Thu June 13, 2013

How To Introduce Kids To Tough Topics? Art And TV Can Help

Sue Glader wrote Nowhere Hair after finding many children's books about cancer that were too depressing or scary.
Courtesy Sue Glader

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 4:31 am

Parents steer their kids to media for all kinds of things: as a distraction so they can make dinner, to teach letters and numbers, and for pure entertainment. There are also times when parents rely on books, TV, museums and other media when they aren't quite sure how to approach a difficult topic by themselves.

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Art & Design
1:39 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Plans For Smithsonian Museum 'Bubble' May Have Burst

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

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 8:04 am

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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The Record
3:15 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Georges Moustaki, Who Wrote Songs For Edith Piaf, Dies

Georges Moustaki with Edith Piaf in New York in 1958. Moustaki wrote the lyrics to "Milord," one of Piaf's biggest hits.
Keystone-France Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 23, 2013 6:23 pm

Georges Moustaki, one of France's most beloved songwriters, died Thursday in Nice after a long illness. He was 79. Moustaki was known for infusing French song with sounds from around the world.

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Code Switch
3:58 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Fri May 17, 2013 4:52 pm

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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Education
12:41 pm
Thu April 18, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Thu April 18, 2013 8:26 pm

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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Education
3:37 pm
Wed April 17, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Thu April 18, 2013 3:30 pm

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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Education
3:46 pm
Tue April 16, 2013

Creative Classes: An Artful Approach To Improving Performance

Jionni Anderson is a third grader at Savoy Elementary School. Anderson raises her hand to answer a question in Mr. Scott's keyboard class.
Lizzie Chen NPR

Originally published on Thu April 18, 2013 3:31 pm

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

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Theater
10:48 pm
Sun March 17, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Mon March 18, 2013 10:38 am

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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World
5:58 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

In Moscow, Scandals Shake A Storied Ballet

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

Originally published on Tue February 5, 2013 11:47 am

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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Media
2:10 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

For Super Bowl Ads, More Social-Media Savvy

Deutsch LA

Originally published on Fri February 1, 2013 5:17 pm

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Movies
12:46 am
Fri January 25, 2013

For Would-Be Sundancers, Kickstarter Can Fuel Films

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

Originally published on Fri January 25, 2013 7:14 am

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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U.S.
3:12 pm
Wed January 23, 2013

Rand Paul Calls Out Hillary Clinton Over Indian Comedy Tour

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 6:53 pm

Sen. Rand Paul asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday if she knew that the State Department sent three comedians on a tour of India. We talk to one of the comedians about what it's like to be a political football.

Books News & Features
1:20 am
Tue January 15, 2013

Hold On To Your Tighty Whities, Captain Underpants Is Back!

Cover image

Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 2:22 am

Let's face it. When you're a kid, sometimes adults can be a real drag. The new Captain Underpants book puts it this way: "Did you ever notice how grown-ups hate it when kids are having fun?"

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History
3:34 am
Sat January 12, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Sat January 12, 2013 10:08 am

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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Music News
4:45 am
Sun December 30, 2012

The Strange Story Of The Man Behind 'Strange Fruit'

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 10:45 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. The song "Strange Fruit" has been recorded by many musicians, but it belongs to Billie Holiday. She made it famous but she did not write it. The man who did did not have a big career as a songwriter but he did have an amazing life story, as NPR's Elizabeth Blair tells us.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: The man is Abel Meeropol and he really has two stories. They both begin at a public high school in the Bronx.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHATTER)

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Music
2:18 pm
Fri December 28, 2012

Remembering Fontella Bass, Voice Of A Soul Classic

Originally published on Fri December 28, 2012 3:06 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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Television
1:51 pm
Mon December 24, 2012

Beyond 'Downton': BBC Imports That Got Away

Trixie (Helen George, left), Chummy (Miranda Hart), Jenny (Jessica Raine) and Cynthia (Bryony Hannah) are midwives serving London's poor East End in the 1950s.
Laurence Cendrowicz PBS

Originally published on Tue December 25, 2012 5:50 am

There was so much great stuff in arts and entertainment this year that we just couldn't report on all of it as it was happening. So we're playing a little catch-up on the ones that got by us.

In 2012, the BBC delivered some thrilling new TV dramas to its two primary outlets in the U.S.: PBS, which has been programming its shows for decades, and the cable channel BBC America.

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