In a major expansion of GBH’s local arts and culture programming, GBH News has launched The Culture Show, a one-hour daily radio program that airs on GBH 89.7 weekdays from 2–3pm, following Boston Public Radio. GBH Executive Arts Editor Jared Bowen is host, joined by Callie Crossley, the host of Under the Radar with Callie Crossley; Edgar B. Herwick III, host of The Curiosity Desk; and a panel of cultural correspondents. James Bennett II, a GBH News arts and culture reporter and CRB Classical 99.5 contributor, is slated to join them as a co-host in the future. “The Culture Show builds on GBH’s deep legacy in the arts and culture space,” said Pam Johnston, general manager of news at GBH. Bowen took us behind the scenes for a glimpse at the inner workings of the program.
What is your vision for The Culture Show?
We want to cover the arts and culture far and wide, everything from food to theater to film, to dance and sports — and all the places where they come together. Paramount for me is making the arts accessible. Not everyone can experience what we're talking about — visit theaters, attend museum exhibitions, go to concerts. This is our way of bringing artists and their work directly to people.
What impact do you hope that program will have?
This show comes at a critical time when arts organizations are suffering in the wake of the pandemic. We've seen closures, drops in attendance and organizations struggling to retain staff. This show is a way to celebrate art and culture and remind society how vital the arts are, especially in these times. But it doesn't mean we don't keep a critical lens trained on it. I don't think that there's another show like it, with the expanse of arts that we’re covering, how we're covering them and the voices we’re bringing in.
How do you go about creating the Friday week-in-review show?
We all come together on Thursday morning, having collected the arts and culture stories that caught our attention during the week. The hosts, executive producer Chelsea Merz and the production team talk through all the ideas and pretty quickly we realize which ones are generating the liveliest conversation. But we try to put a quick end to it so that we can save the material for radio. We don’t script or rehearse the program, and it’s broadcast live.
How would you describe the camaraderie among the co-hosts?
We are having a lot of fun. Callie, Edgar and I have known each other for a long time. There is something a bit magical happening as we come together. We're all in the studio about a half hour before the show begins. There is a lot of laughter and joking. It really works and has felt comfortable from day one.
Tell us about the music and the vibe of the program.
I wanted it to feel a bit like a cocktail party from the 1960s — have a martini, some laughs and enjoy being together. I gave the team a few musical prompts. Molly McCaul, our associate producer, went through the American Public Media library and they came up with “Beer Pocket” by Benedict Lamdin and Riaan Vosloo.
How is the program being received?
People tell us they are learning about and going to events they didn't expect to have an interest in, and that's the ultimate goal. The dream is to have people be so moved that they want to see and experience new things.
How might the program evolve in the future?
We have every intention of this being more than a radio program, and I’d like it to be as visual as possible going forward with video streaming. But, in the meantime, we use Instagram (@thecultureshowgbh) to provide visuals.
How do you prepare for the program?
When I'm in a museum, as I'm looking at the art, I'm already thinking about how I'm going to describe it on the air. What I'm trying to do is capture in language form how I'm feeling and why I'm feeling it. I’m a runner and there's something about the adrenaline and the changes in body chemistry that just frees up the synapses in my brain. While I’m running, I ruminate on why I felt the way I did. Why did my whole chemistry seem to change when I saw that Mark Rothko show? And then I figure out how to translate that for our audience.
Who do you hope is listening?
The audience is everyone. It’s for people who love the arts, but we also want to break it down for people who don't think they have an interest in the arts. We want to help them understand that they absolutely belong, that this is for them.
Listen to The Culture Show on GBH 89.7 weekdays 2-3pm, via livestream on gbhnews.org and on the GBH News App.