Art and Vox Pop with Tamar Avishai

Art and Vox Pop with Tamar Avishai
Art and Vox Pop with Tamar Avishai

Mar 02 2023 | 00:55:38

Episode 0 March 02, 2023 00:55:38

Hosted By

Stuart Barefoot

Show Notes

Stuart and Tamar go inside her critically acclaimed podcast, The Lonely Palette. The Lonely Palatte started its wonderful journey in 2016, a different time for podcasts where things were both uncomplicated but also uncharted. Tamar talks about her experiences in podcasting, the importance of art history, how to bring visual art to an auditory medium, and different types of guests and what they can bring to a show.

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Today you’ll learn about:

  • Art history’s branding problem and accessibility
  • The similarities between art history and sports
  • Visual versus audio mediums for visual topics like art
  • The difference between an expert guest and other types of guests
  • Bringing interpretations and descriptions out of your guests
  • Using the perspectives of your guests and letting them guide the episode
  • Making quality shows versus making “sellable” shows
  • To Patreon or not to Patreon?


The Lonely Palatte: 

Tamar Avishai: 

Castos Academy: 

Castos, private podcast: 

Castos, website: 

Castos, YouTube:  

Clubhouse video: 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Vox pop has kind of become an umbrella term for journalists who, in some way or another interact with the public. It could be like those man on the street interviews you see on tv, live call in radio programs, or every four years during presidential elections when news networks descend on small town diners all over the Midwest. Voxbox Pop or Fox Poppi is Latin for voice of the people. And while many journalists have mixed feelings about the method, it could be a handy little tool in audio storytelling. Speaker 1 00:00:32 They're not the experts, and I think that if you want to grab people who are listening and make them feel comfortable, you don't start with an expert. You start with somebody who's like them. Speaker 0 00:00:46 Next, you'll hear how an art educator turned her passion for teaching into an inclusive and informative podcast that aims to return art history to the masses. My name is Stuart, and this is Audience, a Casto original series. So join me as I explore the world of audio creation and the creators behind some of the best shows. Speaker 0 00:01:12 It seems like one of the best ways to learn how to do something is to go directly to the people who are top of their class. So at Casto, we do just that. Each episode of audience features some of the most talented and creative podcasters around, and we hope it'll inspire more creativity in your work as you dive into the journey that is audio creation. Along the way. Casto wants to be part of your journey. From our suite of tools feature rich hosting platform, and even our production services, we're here to help connect directly with us by emailing hello or by clicking on the link in the show notes. Speaker 1 00:01:54 It's cliche to say this now that this American life kind of was the guiding force, but, but it was 2005, you know, 2004, 2005, when I started listening to this American Life, Speaker 0 00:02:04 Tamar Aviche didn't begin her career in radio or podcasting, or really even media for that matter. She joined the workforce as an art school grad with a master's degree, balancing teaching jobs and working at Starbucks all while navigating the great recession of 2008. But she was also listening to radio programs like this American Life, which must have been plant some creative seeds in her mind Speaker 1 00:02:28 At that point. It was pretty niche, you know, I mean, it was public radio and, but if you were into public radio, that was a pretty niche nerdy thing to be Speaker 0 00:02:40 After some twists and turns, including working in finance and a stent at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Tamar combined her passion for teaching art history and her love of niche audio into a podcast called The Lonely Palette. It first launched in 2016, and since then has produced more than 50 episodes, each one focusing on a different piece of art and the history behind that piece. The types of art featured in the show run the gamut from classic paintings, from Monet icons like American Gothic and more abstract pieces like a giant tube of toothpaste. That's a really good episode, by the way. Each episode begins with a montage of voices explaining in layman's terms, the piece of art they're looking at. All of this is in service to, as Tamar puts it, returning art history to the masses. One object at a time, Speaker 1 00:03:33 Like the Lonely Palette bloomed from realizing that I, I was allowed to start focusing on the work that I loved again, and that it didn't just have to be practical decisions. To have a job that got me health insurance and a 401k, and, you know, that I could actually like, get back on the road that I believed school was, was meant to put me on. Speaker 0 00:03:58 Well, I think it's in your tagline, right? I mean, you, you refer to the Lonely Palette as returning art to the masses or art history to the masses. Did you have experiences in your early art education or in your time as an art student that made you think, eh, maybe this could be more accessible? Speaker 1 00:04:14 Oh, definitely. And it, it, uh, I was my first Guinea pig too, because I had to figure out what made art interesting to me because it's, it's kind of misapprehension to think that every art history student is into all art. You know, you have to talk yourself into objects that are foreign to you just as much as the average Joe on the street. And really, you know, art historians are historians by training. You know, they look at artworks and they think, okay, what context, what larger historical context does this fit into? And if you're not that interested in the larger historical context, you're not gonna be that into the art. When I was in college, I had to take courses from, you know, all across the, the timeline. And that meant that, you know, me, who was like, so into like World War II history and European, you know, world War I, European history, like, you know, give me the 20th century all day long. Speaker 1 00:05:14 You know, I also had to take some pretty high level courses on ancient art, for example, and that meant like bowls, <laugh> and vase, and, you know, stuff that to me wasn't even the definition of art that I had come to fall in love with. Because what I loved about artworks were, you know, if you're looking at modern art, you have artists who have very long views, they have old masters to draw on. They are no longer being patronized or really, you know, their, their work isn't like mandated in the same way. So you have these, these particular geniuses who are, are able to articulate themselves in particularly interesting ways. And that to me is like the best stuff. A bowl from, you know, ancient Greece, super interesting. If you're into that period of history, archeology, you know, a lot of times you're looking at objects that were used and, you know, had these kinds of, um, you know, utilitarian functions. Speaker 1 00:06:24 And so you think, okay, what, what would the f you know, and why did they decorate it? And, you know, if you go into this cave, why did they tell this story or that story? It's, it's a lot of the same stuff. It's a lot of like interesting storytelling and like, like understanding why and how humans do what they do. But it just wasn't like my jam <laugh>. And so I had to find the interesting stories for myself that said, okay, if I have to write a 25 page seminar paper on this bull, you know, what's, what's really the, there there, you know, what, what human story is gonna make this really, really interesting to me? And when I started fi, you know, and I, I'm, I'm not gonna give myself too much credit for finding that in college, even in grad school, it was a bit of a stretch. Speaker 1 00:07:13 And of course, in grad school, you get to pick and choose what you wanna study a lot more. But when I was teaching in grad school and I had to teach students about the bowl, and they weren't even art history majors necessarily, you know, especially at Harvard. They were, they were gen ed students. You know, you took an art history course because you had to, and so you had like government students and math students and you know, like students who knew that they weren't gonna major in art history, you really had to tell them why this stuff mattered and you had to turn it into a good story. And so that was like really early practice for me to then, you know, I taught for a number of years and then I, I worked at the Museum of Fine Arts as lecturer, and, you know, I always had to assume <laugh>. Speaker 1 00:08:02 I always had to assume that my audience didn't wanna be there. And that was like my starting point. And I would think of myself as a student in that ancient art course who didn't wanna be there and try to pull out, you know, little nuggets, little anecdotal stories that reminded everybody that the, the people who used who like maiden used that bowl were human beings just like you. And you have interesting stories. They have interesting stories, you know, that like Joe Blow in the middle of Nebraska that you listened to on this American life has an interesting story. You just gotta find it. Speaker 0 00:08:41 And that was probably such a good exercise in storytelling. And it's something I actually stumbled across in college too. Cause I was working in college radio and college radio does typically kind of live up to, its its reputation in many respects. And I was, I was in charge of doing sports programming for a part of the community that didn't particularly care about sports. So I had to start finding ways, well, how do, how do I make baseball? Which if you don't wa start watching baseball from the time you're born, it's not something you can really get into later in life, <laugh>. Cause it is so kind of weird and boring in many respects. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and it's something I've carried over actually into like my professional life too. Like in my spare time I make like audio documentaries about sports, mostly baseball. And something I've learned to do is, or, or my belief about baseball is the hi, the story of baseball tells the story of America. Speaker 0 00:09:32 And when you understand that, then you start thinking, well, you can't really understand early 20th century baseball without first understanding, say, uh, the industrial revolution and America shift from an agriculture to being more industrial. Uh, you can't understand the history of the Negro Leagues without understanding racism in America. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And you can't understand, say the steroid era without first grasping how corporate media and consumerism affects us every single day. And when you put it through that filter, now you no longer have a podcast that's just about baseball or about art history. Now you have a story that anyone can relate to. And when you find that sweet spot of, all right, baseball fans or artificial autos will like obscure ball or the lonely pal. Exactly. But someone who's never watched the game of baseball in their life, if they start finding out, wait a minute, you mean you had umpires and team owners colluding with Tammany Hall Speaker 1 00:10:30 <laugh>, Speaker 0 00:10:30 Now you have a story that all right, people might tune into and maybe that'll be a little window into baseball and maybe they'll, they'll try to catch a game or maybe they'll just have a good listening experience. But ha having said all that, do you think of the lonely palette? Is it for art aficionados or is it for say, newbies like me? Speaker 1 00:10:50 It's funny that you should talk about sports and art, you know, two things that you think might touch different demographics of people, but at the same time, those happen to be two subjects that have their own cu Like I talk about art history as having a bit of a branding problem because it's very important and it has been for a very long time for art history to appear inaccessible. And that's been kind of its thing for a while, you know, that we're talking about a very highfalutin subject matter. And even though sports necessary, you know, I don't think anybody would say that sports are inaccessible. I was talking to a journalist once where he said, you know, if you go to the sports section, it's one of the only sections in the newspaper that is still allowed to not give itself away to newbies. Like, if you pull up an a sports article, you kind of have to know what you're looking for to be able to read it and understand it. Speaker 1 00:11:51 And I thought that that was really interesting because I had always, you know, I never go to the sports section because I don't follow the teams. And so if I don't follow it, I'm not gonna pick up a sports section and, and learn about it. I have to already know as opposed to, you know, I think there's a lot more of an effort on, you know, the front page or, you know, various other session sections that they're going to kind of teach. Like they expect that somebody might not know everything. And so they're gonna tell the whole story all over again to bring you in. Um, you know, sports section doesn't do that. And I think that, you know, art history for the longest time, people assume that it wouldn't do that either. That if you don't understand Picasso, you're not gonna be able to walk up to a Picasso and, and like play Ball <laugh>, you know, like you can't be brought in in the same way because you didn't have the background. Speaker 1 00:12:41 And so the question of whether or not the show is, is like, who's it for? Ideally it's for everybody. You know, I, I want so much for newbies to feel like they can listen to an episode and that they're not, you know, that they're not being condescended to, but they are able to, you know, that I, I extend my hand and they reach their hand out and I can pull them in and say, okay, you're coming at this fresh, you know, let me set this up with maybe how a painting like this could make you feel. This is how it made me feel. Here is some historical context so that by the time you get to the end of it, even if you don't know anything else about, you know, Picasso's background or, or his, you know, Spanish period, or once he moves to Paris and you know, what Dema Zol does to his career and to cubism and then what his relationship with Brock does and moving on and on and on, you know, even if you're just focusing on this one period, you can say, okay, this painting makes more sense to me than it did when I started. Speaker 1 00:13:48 It's when actually I get nice feedback from other art historians, like other professors that, you know, professors or, or colleagues or old classmates when they say that the show spoke to them, that's really awesome too. That's like amazing because I love the idea that talking about art in this way can also teach them about teaching. And so, yeah, I would say that it is meant to be for newbies, but that I think if I, if I play it right, it can speak to anybody because I, I don't think that, you know, it doesn't matter how many PhDs you have in art history. A you might not have ever really studied this or that period because there's just, it's, you know, you're a historian, you know, you're not gonna be an expert on everything. But b you might have also had a really different like, emotional experience with a Rothko or with Mary Kelly or with, you know, some artist who, you know, like a different experience than I did. And so maybe you can articulate yours. I can articulate mine and we can learn from each other that way. Speaker 0 00:14:59 Yeah. I want to read a review on Apple podcast that someone wrote <laugh>. It says, as an art advisor, an art lover, I love the Lonely Palette because it makes looking and thinking about art easy for everyone to learn about artworks and make them less afraid to visit museums, galleries, and art faires. Speaker 1 00:15:17 Uh, yeah. I love that one. Speaker 0 00:15:19 <laugh>. Yeah. That's gotta feel pretty good. Yeah, it feels great. It's, it's one of, well, and it's one of those things, and you can, you can set me straight if I, if I, if I'm wrong here, but I am married to a museum professional, so I have a little bit of insight into what that world is like. And from what I understand, superintendents higher ups, people who sit on boards are very, very hesitant sometimes to embrace change in ways of making things more accessible. Cause they're maybe as afraid to upset like their usual patrons. You, you come from that world. Was that your experience? Speaker 1 00:15:55 So it's a super conservative discipline, and I don't mean that necessarily politically, although, you know, sometimes, but, uh, you know, just in, in the, in the meaning of the word, you know, people are conserving <laugh> every day. They're conserving these objects from the past. And so there's only so progressive you can be in the way that it's taught and the way that, and certainly in the way that it's, it's preserved. So that also means, you know, I my knowledge of who goes into study art history is 15, 20 years out of date also, you know, I don't know necessarily, like I can talk about my classmates and, you know, some people were, were interested in pushing the medium, you know, the industry forward. Some people wanted to study what they could in order to get PhD spots that weren't as competitive over, you know, like people were making really practical decisions like, well, if I study modern European art, the competition is really fierce to get those PhD spots. Speaker 1 00:17:07 So if I study as Syrian art, you know, ancient asy art, I might get a better chance of getting into Harvard. You know, like I definitely had conversations with people like that. So I don't know, you know, what they were planning on doing with ancient Assyrian art. Some people say, okay, well the story's already been told, but if I put on some sort of identitarian, you know, woman focused or queer focused lens, then that will give me something fresh to say. And sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. You know, sometimes you can, and sometimes the work doesn't actually lend itself to that, so you find yourself kind of in a bit of a box, you know, like, so those were like the more progressive people. And then there were other people who just loved the, like, rules of it all. You know, they loved the conservatism, lowercase c you know, like, they loved that. Speaker 1 00:17:59 There was kind of a script that you could already follow and say, okay, this is what this object means, and I'm not gonna be the one to change that. Meaning they embraced the connoisseurship of it more. And then I had some internships and I worked in some museums, and I saw the interminable push pull between older rich donors and what they expect to see in a museum and maybe younger, you know, more forward thinking curators, you know, who felt pretty hogtied. And then you have the director who's, who's stuck in the middle and you know, you wanna think about that person as having so much power, but, but they're really, you know, they're kind of pinned because these museums need money to function. You need a lot of money to preserve and protect these objects. And who are we, you know, we are passing through these objects have been around a lot longer than we have and, and hopefully will continue to. So you kind of understand why like, money is a really important thing, but then you also don't want money setting the rules for how this work is taught. So it's a really complicated stew of when you walk into a museum, you think that these objects are just kind of like immaculate and there's a clear story, and none of that is true. Speaker 0 00:19:24 I am curious as a person who deals mostly with the visual medium of art mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? How did you settle on a podcast? Very <laugh>, very much an audio medium. I mean, why, why not? Why not go the route of a blog or a YouTube channel or, or TikTok? Uh, what, how'd you settle on that question? Yeah, Speaker 1 00:19:44 <laugh>, it always sneaks in. I think some people who want to make art history more accessible should do it on YouTube. I think other people should do it on, on TikTok. I was never the kind of art historian who depended on the art <laugh> that was like, like, and I used to be embarrassed about that. I remember I was leaving to go give a spotlight talk. I was hanging out in kind of the, the bowels of the mfa, which is where the offices are, and I was getting ready to go up and, and do my thing. And I walked past the, uh, the director of education, like her door was open, and at the time, you know, she was a, she was like an older woman. She was close to retirement. She was pretty no nonsense. You know, she wasn't the kind of like soft and cuddly like young, like elementary school teacher that you kind of expect the director of education, like, you know, she was, she was like old school. Speaker 1 00:20:39 And I, you know, was sucking up a little bit and, and telling her how excited I was to, you know, go up and, and do this talk. And I think she asked me, I don't even know like how the conversation got to this place, but I said, oh, well, I always read the wall text first. You know, I feel like the text is just always kind of more my, my gateway into the picture than even the picture. And she just looked at me, she was like, why are you an art historian <laugh>? And it was like a slap across the face. I was like, not everybody does this. Like, am am I weird? Like, am I wrong? Am I doing it wrong? And I realized that my interests were always like way outside the frame. I was always just personally, you know, you get art historians who love, they can just sit and like, look at a painting for hours. Speaker 1 00:21:38 I'm really interested in the history and that makes me more interested in the story. And that's when I fall back on my own, my old chestnut, that you can have books without pictures, you know, if the writing is good enough, your imagination will do so much of the work. And yes, I am talking about a painting and you can go online and you can look at the painting, but what is the real aim here? The aim is to understand the story of how this painting came to be. And in that way, I think podcasting is a really great medium for that, because it's so good for storytelling. It allows for so much conversational, informal, you know, you listen to my voice, you can hear me laugh when I think something is funny. You can hear me get really intense and serious when something has become intense and serious. Speaker 1 00:22:33 It taps into kind of what podcasting was when I launched it in 2016, which was, oh, there's a podcast about this. I don't care what it's about. I'm gonna listen. Because a podcast is interesting. Uh, an art lecture is not, you know, the audio guide that you get at the museum is boring, but a podcast is interesting. And so it gave me the opportunity to make art history as interesting as people thought podcasts were. And so I, I don't know, I I don't think that it loses anything by being a primarily oral medium to understand art. Speaker 0 00:23:10 You mentioned 2016, you know, now at the time of this recording, almost seven years since you <laugh>, uh, began it now more than a hundred in episodes into this journey. How has the Lonely palette evolved over time? Speaker 1 00:23:25 Well, it's not a hundred episodes. There have been some re-releases and some interviews. I, I stand correctly. So it's, uh, it's only about 60 episodes. And I, I would've thought when I started that I would have way more by now. But I think that's part of the evolution is that, yeah, join Club Speaker 0 00:23:40 <laugh> Speaker 1 00:23:40 <laugh>, right? Yeah. In order for these episodes to be what I want them to be, it's, it's kind of like terrifying how long they, they take to make. But at first, so I had worked at the mfa, like I said, giving short talks, giving spotlight talks, where I would stand in front of a painting and, you know, whoever was in the room was suddenly, uh, blessed enough to be in the presence of someone giving a talk. And they either had to, you know, back awkwardly out or stay. And because they were short talks, hopefully it wasn't too much of an ask, but that was, you know, it was a program that the MFA offered where all of a sudden, you know, art just left out of the corner and, and, you know, art education just left out of the corner and you could just be there for it. Speaker 1 00:24:21 And so it gave me a really great, you know, opportunity to practice giving a 15 minute lecture that had beginning, middle, and end and like a hook and come around at the end again, so that you felt like you stayed for a reason. It wasn't just somebody standing in front of a painting and, and kind of reading the Wikipedia page of it, you know, just kind of giving the bullet points. But it gave me the opportunity to really practice storytelling. And so, again, because people didn't have a book in front of them, they didn't know if it was worth staying for like a podcast. You know, like if you're just listening, you don't know if it's worth sticking around to the end. You have to be like in the palm of their hand the entire time, you know, the person who's giving the lecture. And so I really tried to learn how to talk about these artworks in a way that made the listener feel kind of held and pulled along. Speaker 1 00:25:18 So that's what the early podcasts were, were basically, I would take these 15 minute talks and I said, okay, what if I turn this into a podcast? What would the script look like? And then slowly they just got more and more evolved, you know, like slowly they got denser and deeper and richer. And I wanted to pull in older episode ideas, and I wanted to really tell a more in-depth story. So yeah, my first couple episodes are like 11, 15 minutes long, and, you know, I've, I've released one that was as long as almost an hour. And that's a lot of script writing and a lot of script tweaking to tell a story that goes on that many kind of journeys and then hopefully, you know, ties up in a, in a clear and concise and understandable place. Speaker 0 00:26:15 You also incorporate, I think, one of the most classic tropes in storytelling, which is what some people call man on the street interviews, <laugh> or, or, or vox pop it. It's interesting, and I'll kind of paint a picture here for the listeners, broadly speaking. You know, you could probably break a lot of your episodes down into two segments. Segment one is, and, and each, I should say, each episode centers around one piece of art, and you kind of work from the inside out. You start telling a much broader story, but you start by painting a picture figuratively of the piece of art you're gonna be featuring. And you do that through the use of other people's voices. So you go to these places, you're getting these filled recordings, and, and you're having people describe what they're seeing in layman's terms. Uh, so what do those voices add to an episode that say maybe talking to the curator of that museum, what, what do they provide that, you know, the expert couldn't? Speaker 1 00:27:09 Yeah. Well, that's just it. They're not the experts. And I think that if you want to grab people who are listening and make them feel comfortable, you don't start with an expert. You start with somebody who's like them, you know? So those voices, they do two things. One is they describe what you're about to see or what you're not seeing at all. Because like I said, it's, you know, like we talked about, it's a podcast. And so if you can't necessarily see the image, you can have it described for you in ways that you never think art can be described, which is to say in layman's terms, you know, this is not somebody, this is not an expert or a curator telling you, like they just can't help themselves. <laugh>, I I had an experience once where I was standing with a curator and some other people and my husband, and we were looking at, uh, the great wave, and we had this like, backstage access where we were allowed to see these prints in the, you know, also in the bowels of the mfa. Speaker 1 00:28:18 And I asked the curator if she would, if she didn't mind being recorded, and if she wouldn't mind being one of those voices that I then used to kind of stitch together that opening segment. And I swear to God, she could not just describe what she saw, she couldn't do it, like she had to go into an interpretive place. She had to explain right away how this object was affected by these larger social contexts, or this historical context, or this or that. And it was like she, like couldn't do it. And the average person at a museum can, you know, once you give them permission to talk about art the way they, they actually want to and not the way they think they're supposed to, then you get awesome descriptions. You get, I mean, I always use the same ones over and over again. And I, I, they're just, they're so good. Speaker 1 00:29:14 You know, the person who talked about the Monet Ruan Cathedral surface, like it was like a sponge that had been filled with water, but then half rung out and you know, that it has that kind of texture, like that's what it looked like. Or looking at a Mondrian and it looks like a computer screen. It's just like really, really flat and feels like untouched by human hands. Or Jackson Pollock that looks like a honey. You know, like if you do any baking, if you ever made like one of those, um, you know, like cream puff things that are covered with sponge sugar, you know, like that, you know, that ki but you can't talk about it. And I'm doing this right now without like, moving your hand and moving your hand and moving your body. Or my personal favorite, actually some that might date me. Speaker 1 00:30:00 Somebody who described a Ansel Adams photograph as when you take the cover, like you peel the cover back from a Zi cup and it has that like dark and light just like next to each other, that really high contrast, I love it. You know, like, that is such a good way to describe this work for somebody who either isn't seeing it or maybe has seen it, but never thought that their descriptions of it would be valid. Because art historians are pretty highfalutin and, and, you know, talking about it, like a hoodsie cuff doesn't say anything about the history of an Ansel Adams photograph, but it does help explain what the hell you're looking at. And it really like puts it in these terms that people can understand and relate to that high contrast is what you're seeing. And that a curator sees that too. They just don't linger on that level of interpretation for very long. Speaker 1 00:30:58 But you can. And so that's what I feel like having those voices at the beginning do. A they describe it so that people's mind's, eyes can imagine what they're looking at, and b, they validate that. If you were looking at the Ansel Adams, it's okay if you see a Hood Z Cup too. That is our starting point because that high contrast matter so much, you know, that sponge and that texture matters, that flatness of a Mondrian matters, and we're gonna explain why, but it's okay. Like this curator, this quote unquote expert me, I see that too, you know? And by starting it from that perspective, it shows that that's, you know, a, we're all seeing the same thing. And B, what you're seeing is great because it's gonna help explain, you know, like, you know, what you see is is what's going to explain the entire object to you. So you're not starting at a disadvantage by not knowing the history of it. You just haven't learned it yet. Speaker 0 00:32:06 Well, let's, let's show, I've got a clip that we can all listen to together, and this is a good example of people giving their interpretation of the art you're showing them. This is from episode 54, first published in September of 2021, and it's a piece I think a lot of people are gonna be familiar with. It's American Gothic by Grant Woods. So let's listen to the voice of the people and then we'll, we'll connect on the other side to talk about it. Speaker 3 00:32:34 If it were a photograph, he'd be looking directly at the camera and she is almost, oh, for heaven's sake, take this, take the picture and get it over with. Yeah, I, the whole thing, this is stoicism. I think, you know, somebody saying like, you know, this is the lot we were given and it's not gonna get any better. Yeah. Obviously the title must take its name from the very austerity of the two figures and the window, which is a gothic arch. Speaker 4 00:33:04 Okay, well, I'm seeing two very dower looking people. There's one man and one woman, um, the man is balding with spectacles and he has round spectacles and crazy eyebrows. Um, a flat line smile, no smile, old, hardworking, but Speaker 3 00:33:24 Look at the man's face. I mean, he's a very, he's ground down. He's very unforgiving, Speaker 5 00:33:30 Very serious, very kind of determined, um, in a way, Speaker 4 00:33:37 Um, very lean and looks like an iconic farmer wearing a pinstripe shirt, maybe almost like an old laundry day shirt, <laugh> with overalls. And then he's holding a pitchfork, Speaker 3 00:33:54 Holding this pitchfork, you know, is he's, he's almost saying, you know, Speaker 5 00:33:59 Holding onto life, you Speaker 3 00:34:00 Know, you know, this is, this is it, come and get it. You know, it's not, this is all there is. Speaker 4 00:34:07 And his presumed wife is standing behind him, Speaker 3 00:34:11 His daughter, and she's supposed to be his unmarried daughter, just looks beyond expectation. I mean, her possibilities are very limited if you look at even her breasts are sagging, you know, but she's still, she dressed up. Speaker 4 00:34:30 She has a beautiful little cameo broach that's probably the most, like, luxurious thing in the whole painting, is her little broach. Um, and she has an apron, just tower, boring color dress and apron. And then she has her hair pulled back into a low bun, and it's blonde, and she has very, very piercing blue eyes. Speaker 6 00:34:55 I notice the little block hair that's coming down on the Speaker 4 00:34:58 Purple. I know, I, it's such a little touch. That's Speaker 6 00:35:01 Like the hairstyle I wanted for my wedding Speaker 4 00:35:03 <laugh> Speaker 6 00:35:04 That I couldn't quite get. Speaker 0 00:35:08 I think you were at the Art Institute in Chicago when you made that one. So yeah, like, do you have some like memories or good behind the scenes stories about making this episode? Speaker 1 00:35:18 That was a fun one because you walk up to American Gothic, it is, as everybody says, you know, like smaller than you think. And it didn't really do anything for me. And I knew that it was a really, you know, of course it's a really famous painting. I knew that when I produced produced that episode, it was going to be one of the more popular ones, which it was, but I didn't see things until people stood there and described it for me. And so that was a, a nice experience because sometimes I go into those recordings and, you know, so many people say no, like, you don't hear those recordings, you know, the people who politely decline to be recorded. So then of the people who say yes, a lot of them are very uncomfortable, and you have to coax them for a little while. Speaker 1 00:36:10 So I get 30 great seconds out of six minutes of telling somebody that it's okay, it's okay, you know, everybody's scared to talk about art, especially on tape. And so then you end up with, you know, these little like nuggets of gold in, you know, in the midst of a lot of, you know, kind of rock. And so I will often have an idea of what I really wish people would say, especially if it's a painting that I know really well, or if it's one that I was giving a spotlight talk on at the time. And, you know, there were just like beats that I would hope that they would hit. And with, uh, with American Gothic, I didn't know what I wanted to say about it. I didn't think it was that interesting a painting. And I was really pleasantly surprised that other people noticed so much that it helped. It was like my tip off point for what I was going to address because, you know, again, it was like, if this was the stuff that, that they noticed, who am I writing for? It's, it's them. And so they are showing me like they are guiding me. What is worth talking about? You know, they are identifying to me the texture of that Monet, you know what I mean? Speaker 0 00:37:21 People are always kind of a wild card. You say you have beats, you're hoping they hit, do they ever actually hit those beats? Speaker 1 00:37:28 Yeah, they do. Yeah, they do. Because my, you know, my beats aren't crazy. It's, uh, okay, <laugh>, it's, you know, if, if I was teaching this painting, what are the things that I would teach? It's what the painting looks like, <laugh>, you know, so people are going to identify, you know, if it's about a story that is being represented, people will be able to identify the story. You know, if it's about something that's particularly interesting or resonant in the way that the paint is used, people know how to say that and how to articulate it. What's great is when they articulate it in particularly great descriptive ways that translate onto radio so well, like, you know, somebody looking at an ego Sheila painting and saying that his arm looked like a, a kind of over roasted chicken wing, you know, like it does. And also Speaker 0 00:38:20 Ew Speaker 1 00:38:21 <laugh>, you know, but it's like that, that captures somebody's ear in a really great way. And then as a great starting off point to talk about, like, yeah, he would draw himself in incredibly like bony and raw ways. Speaker 0 00:38:32 Yeah, and I mean, I think, like we touched on it earlier in our conversation, but I think it's worth coming back to this painting bite by Grant Wood. It was kind of a springboard to maybe a bit of a broader conversation, right? Rural America in the 1930s and the Great depression and the cultural divide between more learned urban cosmopolitan folks and you know, Americans in the Midwest. And that's a cultural divide that kind of mirrors some of the conversations we have today. And all of a sudden, there it is. That's something maybe at least my takeaway from listening to this episode in particular was, wow, here we are more than 90 years later, having some of the same conversation, some of the same debates that, or grandparents or great grandparents were having. Speaker 1 00:39:18 Yeah, that was really important to me. In writing that episode, what was interesting to me was to look at American Gothic and say, okay, here is the quintessential rural couple. This is a painting that has been parodied. It's a painting that's been kind of lionized. Like this is like, do we wanna go back to a time like this where these were like salt of the earth people tilling the land, except they look so miserable, except maybe they look really dignified, except do we want to return to a place like this? But are these people basically like heroes or should we pity them? And that depends what part of the country you're from, but there were people who were Iowa farmers who when this painting was painted and won prizes in Chicago, you know, in the big city, they were like pissed that they felt like they were being represented as Rubes. Speaker 1 00:40:10 There's an interesting historical story in that moment, and what I think makes it really interesting is looking at, at Grant Woods's desire, you know, like, what did he want to paint? It doesn't necessarily have to affect the way that you perceive the image, but like, what did, what was he trying to do? And it turned out what he was trying to do was, was pay these people a lot of respect. And so, okay, that shifted the way that I looked at it, and I thought, you know, this was really important to Grant wood, to show that where he was from was a place that he felt like was disappearing, and the respect for it was disappearing. And that to me is a more interesting way. Me, who's from Boston, who's always been, you know, a quote unquote coastal elite, it, this painting isn't gonna change my politics, but it did open me up to an artist who was opened up to a kind of compassion and who, who appreciated these people in good faith. Speaker 1 00:41:09 And maybe there is a lesson there to take that into our moment and say, you know, and this is kind of where I end the episode, you know, you can't shame somebody out of loving where they're from, if they love where they're from. Shame is not gonna do anything. It's only gonna make them protect it in a fiercer way, and that's pretty human. I don't think that that's a controversial statement. So Grant Wood loved where he was from, he passed this house. It felt like it articulated something that was very meaningful to him. You know, the house was already there. It had this, this cool gothic window that reminded him of also being in France. It studied painting in France. He, he felt like, okay, how interesting that like, I can bring, or that France has already been brought to Iowa, you know, like that's a beautiful cross-pollinization of cultures and ideas. Speaker 1 00:42:07 And so, you know, what does that say to me? Maybe there's more dignity, more cultural dignity in this place that I'm from, or, or close to it than I had realized before. So I'm gonna set up some models. I'm gonna set up my dentist and my sister and have them be this kind of Byzantine, you know, like, I'm gonna mirror like a byzantine uh, composition in front of this house, and I'm gonna just like say my piece. And you end up with just like an interesting idea that boils down to nostalgia and, and pride in being from somewhere that, between that window and that dignity elevates everything more than you would've thought. And I think that there's a lesson there. I think that there's a lesson in opening your eyes to the world around you and having a little, you know, seeing more dignity in everybody than you would have necessarily thought, especially when you're dismissing them out of hand because they might not agree with your politics. Speaker 1 00:43:12 And that's interesting to me. You know, you, you said earlier about, you know, Twitter and TikTok and, and the way that our discourse has been shaped a lot by what it takes to kind of promote your show, but also your ideas. And I'm a long form gal, you know, I don't think you can have a productive political conversation over Twitter. I think you have to actually sit with somebody and hear where they're from and hear what shaped them in order to have any chance of really connecting and resonating and maybe finding a middle ground that is more like palatable to your own political interests, you know, because there's a, there's a humanness that connects us all, like it or not. And I think that these artworks, if you look for that kind of story and, you know, choose to take lessons from the past and apply it to the present there, there could be something really productive there. Speaker 0 00:44:11 As far as like SAP support goes too, you're also involved with the Hub and Spoke network. What's that type of collaboration? Well, first of all, what is, what is Hub and Spoke and what's that done, uh, for your podcast? Speaker 1 00:44:23 Well, it's funny, hub and Spoke has grown up, uh, next to us in 2017. So I launched my show in 2016, in 2017, hooked up with some other independent podcasters in Boston, Wade Rouch, uh, of who had launched his show, soonish and Zach Davis and Nick Anderson, who had launched Ministry of Ideas. And we had, we had our shows and we were like, we are lonely, we are isolated. Let's just become a collective. You know, we, we only recently, I don't even know if How Spoke is kind of considered a network, but we are certainly a collective. We wanted to, you know, we looked at Radiotopia out of P R X and we said, okay, you know what a Radiotopia show is? There's really good branding there. It's a show that's going to be intelligent, it's going to be well produced, it's going to have, uh, you know, a charismatic host who you trust. Speaker 1 00:45:23 You know, like, we, we want in, we want, we wanna make something like that too. And, um, when we started Hub and Spoke, we weren't sure yet what we wanted to do with it. We just didn't wanna be so lonely anymore, and we wanted to feel like we were part of something. And podcasting was in such a growth place and out of so much intelligence and like compassion for the listener and, and excitement as a producer that we just thought like, let's just make something and see what happens. You know, that was 2017 here in 2023. We are on the other side of this like corporate takeover of podcasting where even some of the most humane and, you know, recognizable shows out of places like Radiotopia and Gimlet and, you know, have been bought and sold. And, and we are kind of left. I mean, we don't wanna <laugh>, we kind of jokingly call ourselves like the cockroaches here. Speaker 1 00:46:21 Like we're still here as independent shows, and we don't plan on changing our model anytime soon. We want to stay independent shows that, that are just kind of uninteresting to corporate interests, but we represent a part of an ecosystem that's kind of drying up right now because podcasting, there are so many podcasts out there that in order to stay viable for advertisers and all of the money that's been put into however much Spotify has spent on this or that show for their exclusivity or whatever, you know, you have to make money. And we never really expected our shows to make money. We didn't come of age in a time where podcasts were expected to make money. We wanted to make good shows and figure out the money part later, which is hard. Don't get me wrong. We're not like, you know, this altruism stuff is hard <laugh> because, you know, we are not getting paid. Speaker 1 00:47:18 You know, most of us, what our shows are are, I think, worth, but we also are not beholden to any kind of corporate structure that is telling us to make a show that is sellable. And the kinds of shows that we make and the kinds of shows that we came up with and, and were really inspired by aren't particularly sellable either. They just hit the market at the right time. So Hub and Spoke is, uh, a collective, a network that is really trying to hold on hard to those principles. And we've had an incredible year actually. Like, it's been incredibly inspiring. One of our shows in particular, rumble Strip has gotten so much attention this year. I mean, Erica Helman the host, she, she doesn't know what to do with herself. <laugh>, you know, she made gentle, beautiful, curious shows about Vermont, you know, just like Vermont from every angle, that's what Rumble Strip is about. Speaker 1 00:48:17 And the entire idea of a Rumble strip is something that forces you to slow down, you know, it's that like, like on the side of a highway, and that's her goal is just slow down. You never would've noticed this person or that person or this, this idea about Vermont if you didn't live here and you weren't, you know, kind of experiencing it in real time. So just slow down and take a minute and, and take 17 minutes and you'll listen to this story. It's a, it's a quiet, soulful little show, and it won a Peabody this past year. It was, you know, it got a New Yorker review. It was one of the New York Times Best of the Year. I mean, that says something very positive about the powers that be kind of cutting through a lot of the podcast noise, and especially the corporate podcast noise, and recognizing why we do this in the first place and why people listen in the first place, like why people were drawn to podcasting at all. Speaker 0 00:49:13 You mentioned money, so I did quickly want to touch on, you know, how you utilize Patreon. Obviously, it's one of those things that seems obvious to a lot of people, but the execution, I feel like can be pretty hard. My, my sort of take on Patreon is it's gotta be a recipro, it's gotta be reciprocated. If you want something from people, if you want them to, to donate, typically people are, are, are giving something back. So I know you offer access to sometimes bonus, uh, features, exclusive features, and I think a little bit of merch too, right? So Speaker 1 00:49:43 More merch. I, yeah, more mech. I tried to do the bonus stuff and I just, I, I couldn't, I just couldn't, I didn't have the time. Yeah. I wonder if that's true. I wonder if you have to give in order to get on top of what you're already creating. I'm always kind of surprised at how many people kind of take the, uh, you know, like what Radiohead taught us in 2008 when they dropped, uh, in Rainbows and it was a pay what you want, and people paid. I paid, I didn't have any money at the time, and I paid, I remember five pounds for that album. And it was like this, this mind blowing thing that people will pay for something that is ostensibly free because they believe that it is worth paying for. I think that there are a real handful of people who are patrons of the Lonely Palette who just wanna support it, you know, they just wanna support the show. Speaker 1 00:50:39 Yeah. Then I offer swag and I certainly feel guilty. F you know, if I take too long to send something out, I feel like, oh my God, they think that they bought, you know, like, they bought this. And it's like, well, they, you know, obviously I should get something out on time. But I also think that, like, I think I put too much energy into worrying that people feel like they're not getting their money's worth when they are supporting the show. That is what Patron, you know, art history teaches us this, this is what the Me Cheese did. They wanted to keep these artists creating. And that's what, you know, I mean, Patreon, ck this is what this is for, is to keep people creating. I think if you want a successful model, you do have to give a little bit more. I think that that what you can't get with Swag and, you know, my, my own experience of Patreon has evolved. Speaker 1 00:51:32 I wrote an article about like how to get patrons, uh, uh, many years ago. I, I think that it's pretty obsolete at this point. I think that bonus content really is the way I know that the people that I support on Patreon, I get bonus content and that's why I do it. But also just access, you know, people wanna feel closer. You, you know, you love a podcast. You spend so much time with somebody's voice in your ears. They're not actors, they're real people. You know, it's like they're not playing a role that you really feel like you're hearing them be themselves. So when you do have a little bit of extra access to it, you really, you know, people love that. It's getting a little closer and offering support to something that you feel like should exist in the world, which, you know, otherwise is, is free. Speaker 0 00:52:18 A special thanks to Tamar for this conversation and for her insight and to how she makes this incredible show. You can listen to full episodes of The Lonely Palette anywhere they have podcasts or There you can also find her bonus material long form interviews with other audio creators like Avery Truffleman, a personal favorite of mine, singer songwriter Dar Williams, and a bunch of other creators across all mediums. Tamar is an extremely talented and kind person who is so much more than a podcaster. Even if I had an entire data chat with her, I seriously doubt we could cover everything she does. Her personal website is tomorrow, and if you go there, you can see all of the cool stuff she's doing. Hopefully her story will inspire more creativity in your work. Cause if you're thinking of starting a podcast, come on in. The water's warm and there's plenty of space for you. Don't forget that Casto is here to help. has all the information you need to get started. And now time for our podcasting tip, where our featured guests will share some advice that could be helpful for you. Speaker 1 00:53:27 My name is Tamara Aviche. I am the creator and host of The Lonely Palette. And my podcasting tip is if you have scripted something, read it out loud to yourself, read it out loud. You think you're gonna walk right into the booth and you're gonna be able to just read it for the first time, but it's not gonna read the same way. You have to hear how it sounds through your voice, not just through your eyes and your fingertips. So read it out loud, shorten your sentences, be ready to, you know, cut and paste and delete and, and toss in sentences, and toss in periods, and, you know, all that stuff that, that gets underlined in green and Microsoft Word, because it's a fragment. That actually is the best stuff to read out loud with your voice, and then you go into the booth and I promise you it'll be a better episode. Speaker 0 00:54:20 Audience is a Casto original series. Our founder and executive producer is Craig Hewitt. Production assistance is provided by Jocelyn Devore, ISEL Brill and Marni Hills. Our website and logo design is courtesy of Fran Schwab Brill, our head of product here at Casto. All of our music comes from the Story Blocks Library. Also, a very special thank you to Matt Madeiros for his collaboration and friendship over these past two years. This show would not be what it is without his guidance and support. This episode was written, edited, narrated, and produced by me. I'm Stuart Barefoot. Our previous episodes can be streamed anywhere you listen to podcast and Next time on audience, I chat with the creators of the critically acclaimed podcast. Endless Thread, Speaker 7 00:55:11 Endless thread has always had this kind of aspect of like the power of online communities, both good and bad and, and looking carefully at that. So that's the kind of, I guess, 30,000 foot view of how the show got started and, and how it's progressed over time. I think we've always stuck to that idea of like the, the power, the, you know, the power of internet communities for good and for otherwise. And, and looking at that in the show.

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