Longing for rain

I reached artist and writer Maggie Barrett in her attic studio on a late fall afternoon.  Her Tuscan garden has been longing for rain, and so has mine, an ocean away.  

Tea, pots and listening to the world

For more than a year, I've spent a few minutes each day sipping tea from beautiful handmade yunomi (Japanese tea cups that have no handles) and listening to the world in my backyard.  I've begun to share the sounds of spring as it begins in wet earnest here in the northeast, and will post my daily tea meditations on the Spark blog.  Or if you like, subscribe on iTunes and you'll get a little taste of spring every morning!  You can subscribe here.

Here are the last few mostly rainy days, still filled with birdsong.

Invoking the ancient to create something entirely new.

The temperature in the room at ‪#‎TEDxMet‬ changed as Tanya Tagaq performed. At times she seemed to be inhabited by an ancient voice from another world, at other times her voice seemed completely her own, a lovely barefoot woman on the stage at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  I was spellbound -- and think you may be too.

You can find out more about Tanya Tagaq here.

Haunting beauty

The first session of ‪#‎TEDxMet‬ on 9/26 ended with a performance that entranced the audience with its haunting beauty. Choreographed and danced by New York City Ballet principal dancer Amar Ramasar, with three musicians who are an integral part of the performance.

Looking at images that are hard to see

Last spring, when I began working with The Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Ian Altaveer, I encouraged him to tell a story that only he could tell. A few weeks later, he moved me to tears with this story about the power of art in a time of sorrow and loss. Please watch and share this heartfelt‪#‎TEDxMet‬ talk.

Type 1 Diabetes: from Cubism to a Cure

"You can't see it until you see it." Dr. Robin Goland is talking about cubism -- and also about the process of scientific discovery. Art and science are both messy, non-linear, and breakthroughs are often considered impossible, until we see it.

I loved working with Robin as she prepared this talk about how she and her colleagues at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center are working to put themselves out of business, because their goal is offer patients care until they find the cure for this disease. Please watch and share her moving and important TEDxMet talk!

In Praise of Complexity

TEDxMet on 9/26 was filled with complexity, tenderness, and compassion. And art, of course! Over the next few weeks I'll share one talk or performance a day. It was a tremendous pleasure to work with the speakers, each of whom put their hearts into their talks and brought the audience to laughter and tears.

I'll start today with the start to the day, a complex, beautiful and thought-provoking talk by novelist Susan Fales-Hill, who says "History is therapy for nations. If you lie your way through therapy, you're going to remain mentally ill." Susan offered a brave and moving open to TEDxMet on Saturday. She told her own story, and wove connections to our founding fathers and the current controversy over "Go Set a Watchman." 

"Like falling in love"

The architect Steven Holl studied in Rome as a young man, and fell in love with the city, and with the Pantheon.  He told me about his experiences in this ancient building when he was one of my guests for Spark at The Met.  His story was so evocative that I asked him to tell it again for Studio 360:


 Steven Holl also mentions his beautiful design for the Nelson Atkins Museum.  Here is his watercolor sketch for that collection of buildings -- he creates all his designs in watercolor, and paints every morning before he goes to work.  

A tragedy, a mystery, a revelation about how memory works

Dr. Wendy Suzuki

Dr. Wendy Suzuki

Dr. Brenda Milner

Dr. Brenda Milner

Over the past few months I have had the wonderful opportunity to explore a world that was completely new to me -- neuroscience.  I've been working with neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki to create a new podcast series called Totally Cerebral for Transistor, a new initiative from PRX.  I have loved learning about the creativity that is at the heart of great discoveries.

In our first episode, Wendy talks to pioneering experimental psychologist Brenda Milner, who in 1957 completely changed how we think about learning and memory.  Brenda studied the famous amnesic patient HM, and the story is a tragedy, a mystery, and a revelation about how memory works.  I'm thrilled to share it here:

Exploring dualities

  In her art, Miya Ando explores dualities -- one of her favorite forms is the kimono, fluid and feminine, which she makes into armor, formed from thousands of squares of anodized aluminum. I met Miya in her studio, where she told me stories about growing up in two cultures, apprenticing to a swordmaker in Japan, and fixing cars in California.

Miya will be one of my guests for a Spark Talk on December 2 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I'm eager to talk with her about armor, along with Met curator Pierre Terjanian and Game of Thrones costume designer Michele Clapton. To see more of her work, visit miyaando.com.

Ideas that Spread; Dressed to Kill

I'm thrilled to announce this fall's Spark Talks at The Met, on December 1 and 2!  More information about the talks and how to get tickets here.

On Monday, December 1, we'll explore ideas that spread -- from the 16th century to today.  This is connected with a new special exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of tapestries, books, and paintings by the Renaissance master Pieter Coecke van Aelst, whose art was sought after by the most discerning rulers in 16th-century Europe, from Henry VIII to the Hapsburgs and Medicis. As his ideas spread, the artist changed and shaped his world.  That's a photo of his beautiful Eve from his series of tapestries about Creation.

In this SPARK conversation, Met curator Elizabeth Cleland will talk with me about this Renaissance entrepreneur.  And we'll be joined by best-selling author Seth Godin, whose books and talks have inspired millions (including me!) and who is an expert on how to spread ideas in the 21st century. 

The next evening, I am excited to be talking about arms, armor, and art with Game of Thrones costume designer Michele Clapton, who will give us a behind-the -scenes look at how she creates the intricate armor for the Lannisters and Starks; artist Miya Ando, who will tell us about the influence of her sword-making ancestors on her 21st-century stainless steel kimono; and Met curator Pierre Terjanian who will offer an intimate glimpse into the Museum’s popular Arms and Armor galleries. 

I hope you can join us!  


Sound, Space, and Awe

Last month, I had the pleasure of talking about music, architecture, and awe with the architect Steven Holl, neuroscientist Robert Zatorre, and musician and theologian Peter Bouteneff.   Our inspiration was the music of Arvo Part.  It's just been announced that Arvo Part and Steven Holl are both being awarded the Praemium Imperiale!  

You can listen to our conversation here, in which neuroscientist Robert Zatorre explains how music can engage the reward system deep in our brains—the same system that responds to food and sex; Steven Holl describes making spaces for music, and shows how music influences his work; and Peter Bouteneff talks about the thread of spirituality that weaves throughout Pärt’s masterpieces.

Bill T. Jones - national treasure

It was just announced that Bill T. Jones will receive a National Medal of Arts on July 28.  He is a national treasure, his art, his honesty, and his powerful presence have had a profound influence on this country.

Last summer, I had the extraordinary pleasure to work with Bill as he prepared to speak at TEDxMet.  I loved our wide-ranging conversations, and he crafted a moving talk to open the day.  I'm thrilled to share it here.



In Jody Oberfelder's 4Chambers, we're pulled into the power of the heart by dancers who let us feel their heartbeats -- and make us aware of our own.  In my story for Studio 360, dancer Mercedes Searer offers a visceral experience of being in the piece -- and shows us it's possible to dance on the radio!

Sseko Sandals in Paris

The lovely Liz Forkin Bohannon has been chosen as a finalist for Cartier's Women's Initiative Award!  Liz was my first interview for Pursuit of Spark, and her story about creating Sseko Sandals is inspiring.  

talking about money

Negotiating your salary -- especially your first salary -- can be tricky.  This week in Work Mysteries, Dick Nodell offers some wisdom.

Work Mysteries

Dick Nodell is a wise and generous man, and I am delighted to share some of his wisdom in our podcast series Work Mysteries.  This month, we focus on a transition so many people are experiencing right now --  from college to work -- starting with the challenges and opportunities of being an intern.

Four lessons in creativity

It was such a thrill to speak at the TED conference in 2012, and I am delighted that my talk has reached more than a million viewers since TED put it on their website!  Here it is: 

My great thanks to the many people who made this possible at TED, at Studio 360, at WNYC and PRI; to Miriam Katin for her wonderful drawings; to Joy Yagid for photographing my little clay pot, and to the artists whose stories I share in this talk.  Thanks also to Seth Godin for telling me I needed to break something (easier said than done!); my friends and family for listening to me rehearse until they knew the talk by heart; Bob Miller, who gave me the chance to write Spark; to Laureen Rowland for her wise and insigtful guidance; Julia Cheiffetz for her thoughtful editing and inspired title choice; to Louise Cort at the Smithsonian for the beautiful photographs of the Japanese teabowls; to Tom Neugebauer for his raku photographs; and all of you who are brave enough to pursue your creative spark!