Elizabeth Blair

Elizabeth Blair is a Senior Producer/Reporter 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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Science + Technology
3:02 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Whether Green With Envy Or Tickled Pink, We Live In A Color-Coded World

An employee at a frozen foods company in eastern Germany checks carrots for quality.
Michael Urban AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 10, 2014 11:00 am

Red means stop; green means go. You live in a red or a blue state. You feel green with envy, or you're tickled pink. Colors alert, provoke, attract, divide and unite us.

Thinkers from Plato to Einstein to a new cottage industry of color psychologists have studied the importance of color in our daily lives. But, as Joann and Arielle Eckstut write in their book The Secret Language of Color: "Anyone who claims to be an expert on color is a liar."

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Arts + Life
12:50 pm
Wed October 29, 2014

At 83, Dancer Carmen De Lavallade Looks Back At A Life Spent Onstage

Christopher Duggan

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Arts + Life
4:58 pm
Mon August 11, 2014

As Museums Try To Make Ends Meet, 'Deaccession' Is The Art World's Dirty Word

Deaccessioning — the permanent removal of an object from a museum's collection — has been a big issue in Detroit. When the city declared bankruptcy, it had to put all of its assets on the table. Turns out, the most valuable asset was the art collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Bill Pugliano Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 5:57 pm

Sometimes museums get in trouble. Deep trouble. Not because they damage art, or let it get stolen ... but because they sell it. The Delaware Art Museum is the latest target of the art world's ire — for selling one painting from its collection to try and tackle a debt, and for revelations in the past few days that two more paintings are up for sale.

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Arts + Life
3:39 am
Tue August 5, 2014

From 'Good Times' To 'Honey Boo Boo': Who Is Poor On TV?

The Evans family from Good Times. Bern Nadette Stanis is second from left.
The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Tue August 5, 2014 10:47 am

Like it or not, television has the power to shape our perceptions of the world. So what do sitcoms, dramas and reality TV say about poor people?

In life and on TV, "poor" is relative. Take breakfast: For Honey Boo Boo's family, it's microwaved sausage and pancake sandwiches; for children in The Wire's Baltimore ghetto, it's a juice box and a bag of chips before school; and on Good Times, set in the Chicago projects back in the 1970s, it was a healthier choice: oatmeal.

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Arts + Life
10:15 am
Mon July 21, 2014

With Humor, 'Dead And Breathing' Dives Into End-Of-Life Struggles

Lizan Mitchell (left) as the wealthy and crotchety Carolyn and N.L. Graham as Veronika, her nurse, in the play Dead and Breathing.
Seth Freeman

Originally published on Sat July 19, 2014 8:40 pm

The play Dead and Breathing begins boldly. Sixty-eight-year-old Carolyn takes off her towel and steps into a bathtub completely naked. She's bathed by her chatty nurse, Veronika.

The wealthy, cantankerous woman is dying of cancer. Carolyn, played by Lizan Mitchell, wants to die sooner rather than later, and tries to convince the nurse (N.L. Graham) to help her do that.

It's one of the most talked-about new plays at this year's Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, W.Va., which runs through Aug. 3.

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Arts + Life
9:00 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

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

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

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

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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Book Your Trip
4:13 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

In 'Little Engine That Could,' Some See An Early Feminist Hero

Was "I think I can" the great-grandmother of "lean in?" Some readers see the plucky locomotive as a parable about working women, but some versions of the story feature a male protagonist instead.
Platt & Munk, Penguin Young Readers Group

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 8:23 pm

"Chug, chug, chug. Puff, puff, puff. Ding-dong, ding-dong."

The beloved tale of the little blue engine — who helps bring a broken-down train of toys to the good little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain — has been chugging along for a very long time. But despite the locomotive's optimistic refrain — I think I can, I think I can, I think I can — the story has a somewhat checkered past: In its tracks, The Little Engine has left both a legal battle and a debate over whether the little blue engine is male or female.

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Business
1:36 am
Tue May 27, 2014

Pfizer Drops $119 Billion Bid For AstraZeneca

William Vazquez AP

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

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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Remembrances
5:17 pm
Mon May 26, 2014

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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Television
4:08 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

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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Television
5:54 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

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

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

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

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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The Two-Way
2:06 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Smithsonian Institution Gets A New Director

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

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

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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Literature
1:38 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Online, Researcher Says, Teens Do What They've Always Done

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 10:04 am

Researcher danah boyd is obsessed with how teenagers use the Internet. For the legions of adults who are worried about them, that's a good thing.

With a Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley, and a masters from MIT, and as a senior researcher with Microsoft, boyd is something of a star in the world of social media. For her new book It's Complicated, she spent about eight years studying teenagers and how they interact online. She says she wrote the book in part to help parents, educators and journalists relax. "The kids are all right," she says.

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Pop Culture
10:20 am
Sat February 8, 2014

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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Remembrances
7:06 pm
Sun February 2, 2014

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

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

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

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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Business
5:00 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

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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Arts & Life
3:20 am
Wed December 25, 2013

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

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

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

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

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Code Switch
5:06 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

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

Radiante, Olga Albizu
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

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

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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Business
8:38 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 10:29 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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Arts & Life
5:21 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 6:38 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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