Life & Arts

Entertainment, live performance, food, cuisine, dining, theater, film, television, art, broadcasting, SXSW, and other arts and culture news in and around Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson

Arius Holifield, Tyeschea West

Last year, the folks at Northern-Southern gallery started a project called Where Is Here, which is both a document and celebration of the residents of East Austin. It’s a large exhibition of photographs, including portraits of eastside denizens from ages 0 to 100.

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Cheryl Grace, senior vice president of strategic community alliances and consumer engagement at Nielsen. According to Nielsen, African-American consumers make up $1.3 trillion in annual buying power.

From Six Square, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:


Six Square – Austin’s Black Cultural District (formerly known as Austin’s African American Cultural Heritage District) is the first black cultural district in the state of Texas and the only cultural arts district in the city of Austin. The organization was created in 2013 as an outgrowth of the City Council’s African American Quality of Life Initiative, which detailed widespread disparities, racial biases, and a decreasing Black population. Since inception, Six Square has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for African American residents through preservation of historic Black spaces, artistic cultivation, and by serving as a catalyst for social and economic development.

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Howard Bryant, ESPN senior writer, NPR’s Weekend Edition contributor and author of Full Dissidence: Notes From an Uneven Playing Field. Whether the issues are protests, labor, patriotism, or class division, it’s clear that professional sports are no longer simply fun and games.

In his book, Bryant talks about the player-owner relationship, the militarization of sports, the myth of integration and the erasure of African-American identity as a condition of success.

A packed crowd listens to Abhi The Nomad at 2019's ACL Fest.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUTX

Austin City Limits Music Festival has been officially canceled this year, with the festival saying it's "the only responsible solution" given the current COVID-19 situation in Texas.

The organizers of the two-weekend event hope to return to Zilker Park to celebrate the festival's 20th anniversary Oct. 1-3 and Oct. 8-10, 2021. 

Artist Benjamin Muñoz loves to create art, but he might like talking with people about the art he has created even more. It’s the dialogue he enjoys, he says – simply giving an artist talk to a crowd often feels too one-sided for his liking. “I think I get the most out of my own work when I hear how other people react to it,” Muñoz says. 

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. presents highlights of the 33rd Super Bowl Breakfast featuring the Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award.

Featured on the program are James Brown, sportscaster on CBS Sports; Eli Manning, the 2020 recipient of the Bart Starr Award; Calais Campbell, the 2019 recipient of the Bart Starr Award; Warrick Dunn, the 2008 recipient of the Bart Starr Award; and Super Bowl champion coach Tony Dungy.

UT’s Blanton Museum of Art, like the rest of the university, closed its doors to visitors on March 13 and has remained closed ever since. But the museum still has art on display and a staff full of people who want to share that art with the community, so the team quickly began planning ways to share their exhibitions and permanent displays in a virtual way. 

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Michael and Pele Bennett. Michael is a professional football player, Super Bowl Champion, activist, author and co-host of the podcast Mouthpeace. Pele is a food advocate, a skilled Polynesian dancer, co-founder of the Bennett Foundation and co-host of Mouthpeace.

Even a couple of months ago, the organizers of Stay Black and Live were hoping to put on a traditional Juneteenth event, complete with a parade and lots of people gathering together to celebrate. “Like a lot of nonprofits and organizations doing signature events, we kept thinking okay, let’s not call it yet, let’s not pivot yet. It could happen,” says Pamela Benson Owens, the acting executive director of Six Square and a member of the team that’s creating the festival.

Barracuda's Closing A Harbinger Of Things To Come

Jun 12, 2020
Barracuda music venue in the Red River Cultural District
Julia Reihs / KUT

This week, the Barracuda, in business on 611 East Seventh Street for nearly five years, announced it was closing its doors for good.

Barracuda joins a growing list of Austin businesses that have fallen during the pandemic, including some, like Threadgills and the Townsend, that also featured live music. Every small business is suffering during the shutdown, but it’s especially true for music venues. Their math only works with big crowds, and even then it can be a struggle.

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Charles Whitaker, the newly appointed dean of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University.

Whitaker talks about his new appointment, working for Ebony magazine, why Medill is a leader in journalism education and the lack of people of color in newsroom management.

During the early weeks of lockdown, Tom Booker of the Institution Theater noticed a facebook posting from his friend  Jeremy Moran, which recounted a dream Moran had the night before. In the dream, there was a big party at the Institution that was broken up because everyone was breaking quarantine. The story of that dream quickly inspired Booker to create Quarantine Dream: The Movie, a collection of short videos submitted by anyone who felt inspired to create something.

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. revisits a conversation with Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr., associate professor of history at the University of New Mexico and author of Brothers in Valor: Battlefield Stories of the 89 African Americans Awarded the Medal of Honor.

Brothers in Valor is a history lesson on 89 men who were awarded the nation’s highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

From El Buen Samaritano, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

El Buen Samaritano is an outreach ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas committed to helping Latino and other families in Central Texas lead healthy, productive and secure lives through high-quality family literacy programs, food assistance, economic-stability services, health education, as well as access to health care.

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. presents an encore discussion with Dr. Albert D. Chester, owner of New Town Pharmacy and founder and director of Capstone Institute, both located in Jacksonville, Fla.

Chester talks about training future health care workers, opening a pharmacy in the neighborhood his grandfather grew up in, and being the primary resource for all health care needs.

Leon Alesi

“At Forklift Danceworks, we make dances with people you don’t think of as dancers,” says Forklift’s associate artistic director Krissie Marty.

That’s very true: Over the years, Forklift has created large-scale dance pieces centered around workers from Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department, city sanitation workers, and firefighters, just to name a few. 

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. presents an encore conversation with Selena Sage, publisher, inspirational speaker and author of Get Free: 7 Simple Steps to Free Your Mind & Live Your Dreams.

Born and raised in Austin, Sage graduated from the LBJ Science Academy (now LASA), and then went on to graduate from Northwestern University's Honors Program of Engineering and Management, with degrees in industrial engineering and business.

With their gallery space still closed for the foreseeable future, the folks at Northern-Southern have been looking for ways to continue to share art with the people of Austin without asking those people to gather together in a room. The result of that quest is the new group show Left in Leaves. “

You know, we have to keep working,” says gallery director Phillip Neimeyer. “This is what we do. So [this is] a way to contextualize, a way that we that we could all work and do what we do and have an effect, a positive effect.”

On this archived edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with the late Ron Banks. The singer was a founding member of the Detroit vocal group The Dramatics, which formed in the mid-1960s and continued to play for avid audiences around the country for years.

Banks talks about growing up in Detroit, not signing with Motown Records, forming the soul group and what distinguishes them from other male vocal groups, and wanting to be a professional baseball player.

Dana Stringer

Seventeen years ago, while living in New York, pianist Peggy Stern attended a jazz festival and was surprised to discover that it was an all-male lineup. “There were no women performing, and certainly no women leading bands,” Stern says. “And so a friend and I got together and created the Wall Street Jazz Festival in Kingston, New York, where all the leaders are women.”

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. presents an encore conversation with Corey Minor Smith, attorney; former Canton, Ohio, City Council member; motivational speaker; and author of #Driven.

Minor Smith talks candidly about her childhood, her path to becoming an attorney and how her family's struggles with mental illness inspired her to become a motivational speaker.

KUT's Digital News Editor Stephanie Federico (along with her assistant editor, Speedy) and KUT/KUTX's Multimedia Producer Gabriel Pérez agree they can still collaborate remotely via Zoom, but nothing replaces working together in person.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

KUT Managing Editor Ben Philpott told the news staff on March 12 almost all of us would be working remotely the next day to practice that routine "just in case."

The next day, the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Austin, and that trial run became the new normal.

Singer Mela Sarajane Dailey hosts a free concert on the lawn of a Northwest Austin home on Saturday.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Singers belted out duets from the front yard of a Northwest Austin home Saturday, as an audience of about 30 physically distanced neighbors watched from the lawn and across the street.

From The SAFE Alliance, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

The SAFE Alliance supports survivors of abuse and works with communities to prevent violence from happening in the first place. We provide shelter, healing, and support in the Austin area to anyone who has experienced domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, or sex trafficking. Learn more at

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. presents a rebroadcast of a conversation with Robert Townsend, comedian, actor, film director/producer, writer and former cable network programming CEO. His projects include Hollywood Shuffle, The Meteor Man and The Five Heartbeats.

Townsend talks about growing up in Chicago, being an independent filmmaker, his first big movie break, working with Eddie Murphy and why he believes The Five Heartbeats is a classic film.

Charlie Pearce

With her new web series Do Better, Amie Darboe is living a childhood dream. “Essentially I’ve been writing since I was probably 7,” she says. “[I] always knew I wanted to write for TV, but I didn’t do anything about it until I was an adult.”

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Dr. Laura W. Cheever, MD, a physician and the associate administrator for the HIV/AIDS Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration.

On Feb. 7, we commemorated the annual observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Austin’s Fusebox Festival was started by Ron Berry over fifteen years ago, and every year since then, it’s brought together local, national and international artists to spend five days performing, interacting, and discussing performance arts of all disciplines. “They’re artists that are coming from all different kinds of artistic backgrounds, but usually there is some element of ‘liveness’ that’s being explored,” Berry says. “So live performance really is at the center of this festival.”

courtesy Trinity Street Players

“One of the things that is very important to us at Trinity Street Players… [is] to build community amongst artists in Austin,” says Trinity Street Players artistic director Ann Zárate. So when the theater closed its doors in March, Zárate started looking for new and different ways to keep the Trinity Street community connected.