The ever-expanding world of podcasts is unruly at best, and random refinements of search engines, the algorithm’s suggestions, and “what should I listen to?” posts on Twitter don’t always get your queue where you want it to be. With podcasts about art and literature, the situation is both better and worse. On the one hand, for discussions of visual art, one prefers, well, visuals — there’s an old joke about “art on the radio” and podcasts face the same problem. This has engendered a variety of creative solutions such as corresponding Instagram, etc. accounts where you can find images from the episodes. While art history does rather lend itself to the storytelling, unsolved mystery, salacious or redemptive biography, and even true crime formats, contemporary art programming benefits from visual bells and whistles. Poetry and spoken word on the other hand are ideally suited for the world of voice and sound, and some of the most intriguing poetry podcasts go beyond emotive readings and incorporate interviews and audio experiments.
If you’re looking for a place to start your liberal arts podcasting adventure, the following is a handful of selected art and poetry titles from the L.A.-local to the internationally topical, plus a spotlight on the Luminary platform that centers the arts and creative formats across its accessible subscription service of original and curated content with an emphasis on writers and artists.
Indie & Local
Not Real Art. Artists Sourdough, Man One, and Erin Yoshi curate the podcasting wing of the Not Real Art indie visual culture clearing house, which also produces events, symposiums, exhibitions, editorial, and public projects uplifting independent artists of Los Angeles across — especially those with an urban, street culture flair and fierce, unique visions. The podcast itself is interview-based, with an emphasis on personality, community, and unconventional pathways to success. notrealart.com/podcast.
What Artists Listen To. Artist Pia Pack created this podcast’s deceptively simple premise as a way to explore and strengthen connectivity between artists — so often to be found alone in their studios — and their colleagues and audiences. More than traditional interview sessions, these episodes begin by unpacking the music the artists have playing in their studios and use that as a way into their life stories — and by extension, as a path to a more profound insight into the meaning and processes of their work. whatartistslistento.com.
Rodeo Drive. Now in its third season, the Rodeo Drive podcast unapologetically celebrates the sun-soaked glamor and influencer-forward expensiveness of the iconic Beverly Hills fashion and design character. But to its immense credit and the benefit of listeners, the program takes its representation of what this luxury can be seriously, regularly featuring visual artists, forward-thinking fashion and object designers, food and car aficionados, and other extraordinary creative voices for their takes on the evolution of the California dream. rodeodrive-bh.com/podcast.
Poems on Air. The Los Angeles Public Library hosts a classic, simple, inspirational weekly reading of poetry by L.A.’s Poet Laureate Lynne Thompson — her own and others’ with an emphasis on the new and local — making for the perfect curated inspiration that always comes at the right time. lapl.org/books-emedia/podcasts/poems-on-air.
Art World Deep Dive: National & International
The Lonely Palette. Los Angeles institutions could do worse than take inspiration from Tamar Avishai’s Boston Museum of Fine Arts podcast, which combines saucy art history with soothing tones and unexpectedly emotional man-on-the-street interviews with museumgoers — all with the purpose of deep dives into single masterpieces from the collection. If you’re here, you already care about art, but this is the kind of program that can make you remember why and how that care began. thelonelypalette.com.
Art History for All. Allyson Healy’s background in the history of art and architecture, plus her experience in the field of public-facing contemporary art gallery curation, inform her desire to offer conversational entry points into great moments of art history — with a special emphasis on art’s timeless aspects that make lasting images and objects relevant to cultures hundreds or thousands of years and half a world away, today. arthistoryforall.com.
The Great Women Artists. Katy Hessel has an answer to art historian Linda Nochlin’s cheeky provocation — Why have there been no great women artists? — with the only possible response: a series of interviews with women artists on their careers, plus curators, writers, collectors and art lovers speaking on the female artist who means the most to them, from art history and today. instagram.com/thegreatwomenartists.
Luminary is an affordable and accessible platform whose $2.99/month subscription offers access to its library of a few dozen original series and a roster of curated/hosted programs — all with an emphasis on the arts, including poetry and theater, as well as perspectives on history, pop culture, and eccentric storytelling.
Highlights of its lovingly crafted originals menu include The Roxane Gay Agenda’s “bad feminist podcast of your dreams,” and Poetics — a behind-the-lyrics storytelling juggernaut of marquee hip-hop writers hosted by Omari Hardwick. Talib Kweli has a huge presence on the site, with several series and one-off titles exploding at the intersection of music, spoken word, and cultural urgencies. Kweli also is part of what appears to be a new experiment for Luminary — the exclusive release of an album, as he reunites with yasiin bey for a new Black Star drop after 24 years, called, fittingly, No Fear of Time.
The Poetry Foundation produces a series of titles found on Luminary, from sweeping literary trends to local scenes like spoken word in Chicago. Poetry Off the Shelf, Poem of the Day from Poetry Magazine, and VS all are places where classic “reading” experiences collide with poets going deeper into the big ideas that inspire them, within and outside their own work. Up The Arts is a weekly podcast uplifting the LGBTQ+ community in theater, music, art and literature.
In The Art of Arting, host Matt Mazany interviews and paints an expressive portrait of his guest while they talk about creating and appreciating visual art. ART ART ART is a weekly podcast hosted by Jonathan Wolfe and teen NFT phenom and rolling thunderball of pure joy Fewocious, talking about their experiences as young artists, detailing their creative process, interviewing artists they love, and more. It’s a little random in the best possible way.
There’s a lot on Luminary touching on geopolitics, world history, feminist thought, confessional comedy, and much more — but let’s end with the title that first drew me to the platform: Metaphysical Milkshake. This weekly pod is hosted by scholar of world religions and creative/entertainment writer Reza Aslan and his perhaps unlikely bestie, actor Rainn Wilson, and when they claim to tackle “Life’s Big Questions,” they aren’t kidding. They talk about things like death, love, the supernatural, fear of intimacy, justice, the meaning of life, parenthood, art, comedy, self-destruction, war, certainty, faith, morality, wisdom, religion, gender, beauty, addiction, inspiration, being alone, being together, and being ourselves. Their guests range from topical experts (who often are quite hilarious) to their comedian friends (who often are shockingly deep and philosophical), and their repartee and willingness to “go deep and get weird” makes this strange project essential for an instructive but empathetic and superlatively entertaining engagement with reality. luminarypodcasts.com.
Featured Image: Shizu Saldamando from What Artists Listen To, Episode 47