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NPR’s Susan Stamberg On The Power Of Art: ‘It Really Changes You’

Florangela Davila
Susan Stamberg and Florangela Davila

Let’s take a minute to consider what it’s sometimes like when you go see art. You walk into a museum. You take a look around and you’re just not feeling it. It’s as if someone’s thrown a party and everyone else but you is having a really good time.

Susan Stamberg, however, has been demystifying the arts for the public for decades through her stories on NPR.  Now a special correspondent, Stamberg was the first woman to anchor a nightly news program and has been with the network since its inception in 1971.

“First Lady of Radio,” I say to her.

“Thank you,” she replies.

The legendary Stamberg was in Seattle recently visiting from Washington D.C. to talk about arts coverage at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. She stopped by KPLU’s Seattle newsroom for an interview.

Here are some highlights:

On ephemeral art such as dance and live theater versus art found in museums:

“I tend to like things that hang on walls. I like to stand in front of them and look them over.”

On the kind of visual art that absorbs her:

“I tend to like sketches, color. I try to get a little more modern but that gets me maybe as far as the 1970s.”

On a recent trip to the Met Breuer in New York City where she saw a show called “Unfinished.” She came across an assemblage of four white panels by Robert Rauschenberg:

“It was a big square with four white panels, identically white. Now that’s something that in any museum I would have raced past. But I was with this curator. She said, ‘Walk with me. ‘And we cast shadows on it. You could see our silhouettes as shadows. Rauschenberg was dealing with the idea of the viewer getting involved in making the art and completing the work. And I thought, ‘My gosh, that really was interesting.’

You can listen to the full interview here:

Editor’s note:  The music at the end of the story is one of Susan Stamberg’s favorite songs of late, “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” from the Bill Evans’ album “Some Other Time: The Lost Session from the Black Forest.”