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Neda Ulaby

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.

Scouring the various and often overlapping worlds of art, music, television, film, new media and literature, Ulaby's stories reflect political and economic realities, cultural issues, obsessions and transitions.

A twenty-year veteran of NPR, Ulaby started as a temporary production assistant on the cultural desk, opening mail, booking interviews and cutting tape with razor blades. Over the years, she's also worked as a producer and editor and won a Gracie award from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation for hosting a podcast of NPR's best arts stories.

Ulaby also hosted the Emmy-award winning public television series Arab American Stories in 2012 and earned a 2019 Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan. She's also been chosen for fellowships at the Getty Arts Journalism Program at USC Annenberg and the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism.

Before coming to NPR, Ulaby worked as managing editor of Chicago's Windy City Times and co-hosted a local radio program, What's Coming Out at the Movies. A former doctoral student in English literature, Ulaby has contributed to academic journals and taught classes in the humanities at the University of Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University and at high schools serving at-risk students.

Ulaby worked as an intern for the features desk of the Topeka Capital-Journal after graduating from Bryn Mawr College. But her first appearance in print was when she was only four days old. She was pictured on the front page of the New York Times, as a refugee, when she and her parents were evacuated from Amman, Jordan, during the conflict known as Black September.

The chef and restaurant owner who helped change the way Americans think about Chinese food has died. Cecilia Chiang was twice a refugee before she opened the influential San Francisco restaurant The Mandarin and taught Chinese cooking to Julia Child and James Beard. Chiang died Wednesday in San Francisco. She was 100 years old.

One of America's most renowned Modernist painters, Jacob Lawrence, is best known for his powerfully empathic The Migration Series, which chronicled the mass movement of African Americans from the rural South to industrial cities.

When I met him earlier this year, James "Yaya" Hough was surrounded by white buckets of blue and orange paint, working in the downtown Philadelphia studio that came — before coronavirus — along with the first-ever artist residency at the Philadelphia District Attorney's office.

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The popular crowdsourcing site GoFundMe is a go-to place to appeal for help with rent, medicine, child care and favorite causes. Along with donations, supporters leave comments ranging from "Can't wait for you to have the glasses you need!" to "Best of everything big guy," to simply "Get well soon!"

Another hot summer, another heated controversy at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

For an exhibition entitled "Collective Actions: Artist Interventions In A Time of Change," the vaunted New York museum managed to alienate a group of artists it had hoped to celebrate. Several of them charged the museum with propagating systemic racism by not properly compensating BIPOC artists for their work, nor asking permission for the work to be displayed.

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Acclaimed singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle has died at the age of 38. He's the son of alt-country star Steve Earle who earned critical acclaim of his own and multiple awards despite struggles with addiction. NPR's Neda Ulaby has our remembrance.

On Tuesday, President Trump officially pardoned leading suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who died in 1906. He noted she was arrested in 1872 for voting before it was legal for women to do so.

"She was never pardoned!" he exclaimed in a White House ceremony. "Did you know that she was never pardoned? What took so long?"

The timing feels terribly apt.

Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression turned 50 this year. A bestseller in 1970, the book was one of nearly two dozen written by the cheerfully empathetic historian and journalist Studs Terkel.

Legendary newspaperman and author Pete Hamill has died at the age of 85 in New York City, his hometown.

"He fell on Saturday and died this morning of heart and kidney failure," his longtime literary agent Esther Newberg told NPR in an email, adding, "One of a kind."

It's no exaggeration to say this year feels like a horror movie. And now, a few filmmakers are making it official.

Museums seem like immortal places, with their august countenances and treasured holdings. Even in our TikTok era of diminishing attention spans, they draw more than 850 million visitors a year in the U.S., according to the American Alliance of Museums.

Updated at 8:39 p.m. ET Tuesday

The Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office has ruled the death of actor Naya Rivera to be an accidental drowning. She had disappeared on July 8 while boating with her 4-year-old son, and her body was recovered from a Southern California lake on Monday.

Best known for her starring role on the Fox show Glee, Rivera was 33 years old.

Mary Maxon was out raking hay on her tractor yesterday morning when a beep on her phone alerted her to the good news. The arts organization she runs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota had just been awarded a $50,000 grant through the CARES Act.

It's hard enough for any museum trying to reopen right now, but children's museums face especially tough challenges. (Especially those with names like Philadelphia's Please Touch Museum, the Hands On! Discovery Center in Gray, Tenn., and the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum in Michigan.)

Editor's note: This story contains language that may be offensive.

Larry Kramer was one of the first activists against AIDS, back when the disease didn't even have a name. In the early 1980s, Kramer witnessed hundreds, then thousands of gay men die before the government took action to stop the spread of HIV. He became a high-profile, high-volume, one-man crusade against the disease.

Kramer died Wednesday morning of pneumonia in Manhattan, Will Schwalbe, his friend and literary executor, told NPR. He was 84.

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Here's something we have in common with Americans who lived during the Great Depression - not just horrifically high unemployment rates but bitter ideological divides.

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The Great Depression challenged Americans not just with horrifically high unemployment, but ideological divides not utterly unlike the ones we face today. Today, poll after poll show the country deeply split on major issues. Racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are on the rise. Back then, the labor movement was burgeoning; so was membership in the Ku Klux Klan.

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The Pulitzer Prizes were announced today, a month later than usual due to the pandemic. And as NPR's Neda Ulaby tells us, the prizes for journalism, fiction and music were joined by a new category - audio.

The last great pandemic struck the world more than 100 years ago. But voices from that time can still be heard in Radio Influenza, a haunting work of audio art available online.

The voices are not real. They're computerized. They sound tinny and faraway as they read fragments of newspaper stories from 1918, when the so-called Spanish flu ravaged the planet. Still, these fleeting dispatches from the past are uncannily relevant

There's a lot of uncertainty in the world right now. Which explains a major trend in entertainment: People are revisiting favorite TV shows, and listening to music they already know they like.

"When I was on night shift a couple of weeks ago and made mix tapes for my team, I took no musical risks," says Miriam Segura-Harrison, a 36-year-old family medicine resident at Brown University in Providence, R.I. "It was the soundtrack to 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Daft Punk and Wolfgang Gartner — my personal set list that got me through medical school."

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Picture an angry little ball, covered in spikes, perhaps equipped with arms and legs, and definitely an evil grin. That's how cartoonists and animators are anthropomorphizing Covid-19. Which seems to make the coronavirus unique in our long history of anthropomorphizing diseases.

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