Open Studio with Jared Bowen

S8 E41 | FULL EPISODE

Boston Hope, Amanda Gorman, and more

A look at Boston Hope, the medical treatment center at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center that’s caring for COVID-19 patients with medicine and music. Then we hear from the Nation’s Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman and artist, illustrator and writer Gayle Kabaker on The New Yorker magazine covers she created from her Western Mass studio.

AIRED: May 29, 2020 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

>> JARED BOWEN: Welcome toOpen Studio,

WGBH's weekly spotlight on arts and culture

from around the region and the nation.

I'm Jared Bowen, coming up onOpen Studio,

we're here at Boston Hope,

the medical center treating patients both to and with music.

>> I think that when you give it to people,

in the, in appropriate doses, in a sense,

it can be, it can be really healing.

>> BOWEN: Then the nation's youth poet laureate,

Amanda Gorman,

on finding perspective with poetry.

>> This took a village.

We are the impossible image only ever seen

in our ancestors' wildest dreams.

>> BOWEN: We go in the studio with aNew Yorker cover artist.

>> That was really special,

because it really meant a lot to people.

And I got a lot of emails,

and, you know, like, people wrote me.

It was very special.

>> BOWEN: And Native American tribes

weaving heritage.

>> I think it's about bringing the people together

and being able to share the traditions

that have been passed on from generation to generation.

>> BOWEN: It's all coming now onOpen Studio.

First up, we're coming to you from the Seaport,

from the Boston Hope medical center,

the field hospital that's been set up here

at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center

to treat patients recovering from COVID-19.

But inside, it's not just your standard care.

Patients here are treated with daily doses of music.

(playing gentle, slow piece)

Violinist Gabriela Diaz doesn't know who her audience is.

She just knows she has to play music.

>> The most amazing things about music is,

it has the capacity to be whatever you need it to be.

So if you're going through a lot of really tough emotions,

and you don't quite know how to process them

or know how to talk about them,

music can be the thing that helps you access those emotions.

>> BOWEN: Diaz is one of some 100 musicians

who have recorded musical performances

which are part of the treatment plan at Boston Hope,

the massive field hospital

at the city's cavernous convention center

housing patients recovering from COVID-19.

What does it mean to you to know that this has become

a very formalized part of the treatment

at the Boston Hope field hospital?

>> It's like a dream come true. (laughs)

>> Music has the ability to actually decrease heart rate.

It can in sync, it can sync with people's respirations.

You can breathe to certain types of music.

>> BOWEN: Dr. Ron Hirschberg

is the chief medical officer of Boston Hope,

which opened in early April

to literally get patients back on their feet.

>> They're starting to walk, ten to 20 feet.

But they're not safe to go home,

and they may have some lingering problems

in cardiovascular, pulmonary, uh, challenges.

>> BOWEN: As part of their recovery,

he's made music key to their care.

For both health and privacy reasons,

we were not permitted to film inside.

But Dr. Hirschberg did share these images

showing patients receiving what he calls

a daily dosage of medicine by way of music.

>> ♪ 'Cause we're in this together, oh, yeah ♪

>> When you give it to people,

in the, in appropriate doses, in a sense,

it can be, it can be really healing.

>> BOWEN: Patients access the music

either on donated tablets at their bedside

or in a separate theater space,

where they can gather, watch, and listen at a safe distance.

>> Patients are actually connecting with each other

through the music

in a way that we didn't actually anticipate.

>> BOWEN: More than 700 patients

have come through Boston Hope hospital.

Right now, 50% of them are non-English speaking,

which is why it's important, doctors say,

that music, like medicine, is universal.

>> We use different parts of our brain for different things,

for language processing, for emotions, for memory.

And music touches all of those.

>> BOWEN: Dr. Lisa Wong

is co-director of the Arts and Humanities Initiative

at Harvard Medical School.

We met up with her just before she performed

for some of the staff at Boston Hope.

She collaborated with Dr. Hirschberg

to conceive and curate the hospital's daily doses of music

administered as energy in the morning,

engagement at midday, and calm in the evening.

>> ♪ Butterfly, butterfly

♪ Why do you fly so high?

♪ Do you think you're a bird on the wing? ♪

>> By the evening, evening calm,

you need to wind down, and reflect.

And this is when a lot of people start thinking

about their families

and thinking about their futures.

And so we wanted to give them an opportunity

to just sort of let their minds sort of

find a place of rest and beauty.

>> BOWEN: While the study of music and medicine

has intensified only in the last 20 years,

Dr. Wong says its heritage is ancient,

as she points to Apollo,

the god of both medicine and music.

Or just the way people around the world

have instinctively flung open their windows

and found solace in song throughout the pandemic.

>> ♪ And I'll rise up, I'll rise like the day ♪

♪ I'll rise unafraid, I'll rise up ♪

>> A traumatized patient doesn't have to speak about their,

their traumas.

Instead, they can just listen to music,

and sometimes, it brings out things

that they could never otherwise have, um, expressed.

(playing slow, gentle piece)

>> BOWEN: Trauma is what led Gabriela Diaz

to a career in music.

She comes from a family of celebrated musicians,

but discovered the healing powers of music

when she was 16 and diagnosed with cancer.

>> Sometimes you don't even know how you're feeling,

and then something in a piece of music

can all of a sudden tap into something

that you didn't even realize you were feeling.

It really is sort of magical.

I'm glad that people are studying it

to find out what it actually is.

>> BOWEN: And that is the plan.

Boston Hope, a hospital like no other

with a treatment plan like no other,

will now serve as a laboratory

for studying the blended fields of art and medicine.

Although it isn't always a science.

Diaz's second submission to Boston Hope

is based simply on emotion.

Her choice?

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

(playing "Over the Rainbow")

>> That's the song that I think has

a lot of deep meaning for many of us,

just the words of the song, which are so hopeful

for a day, tomorrow,

that will be a little bit different than today,

and even more beautiful than the day you just had.

(continues playing "Over the Rainbow")

>> BOWEN: Next, since 2017,

the nation's first-ever youth poet laureate,

Amanda Gorman,

has been reciting poetry around the country,

including with the Boston Pops at the Fourth of July.

>> From our struggle comes our strength,

for the lengths we fight for what is right

is the fullest measure of our country's might.

>> BOWEN: Yesterday, Gorman graduated

from Harvard University,

and she joined me recently

to talk about commencement and creativity during COVID-19.

But first, here's a poem she wrote

to inspire hope in this moment

that's called "The Miracle of Morning."

>> I thought I'd awaken to a world in mourning.

Heavy clouds crowding, a society storming,

but there's something different on this golden morning.

Something magical in the sunlight, wide and warming.

I see a dad with a stroller taking a jog.

Across the street, a bright-eyed girl chases her dog.

A grandma, on a porch, fingers her rosaries.

She grins as her young neighbor brings her groceries.

While we might feel small, separate, and all alone,

our people have never been more closely tethered.

The question isn't if we will weather this unknown,

but how we will weather this unknown, together.

So on this meaningful morn, we mourn and we mend like light.

We can't be broken, even when we bend.

We ignite

not in the light, but in lack thereof,

for it is in loss that we truly learn to love.

In this chaos, we will discover clarity.

In suffering, we must seek solidarity.

We'll observe how the burdens braved by humankind

are also the moments that make us humans kind.

Let each morning find us courageous,

brought closer,

heeding the light before the fight is over.

When this ends, we'll smile sweetly, finally seeing,

in testing times, we became the best of beings.

>> BOWEN: Amanda Gorman,

it's such a pleasure to have you here, thank you so much.

>> Thanks so much for having me, I'm so excited.

>> BOWEN: I'll pick up where you've just left off,

with "The Miracle of Morning."

This is a poem that you wrote in this moment.

Tell me about how it came to be.

>> I felt like my world and my country

was in a very dark place.

And so we decided to try to write this poem

as a type of reminder of all the things

that we have to be grateful and hopeful for.

And really, the inspiration for the poem

came from watching people in their daily lives.

>> BOWEN: Well, it's funny, because that was going to be

one of the questions I asked you,

is, is it difficult to write?

Is it difficult to be creative in this time

where so many people are struggling?

>> I will, I will be honest and say that the struggle is there.

As I reflect and I was writing that poem, I was thinking about,

you know, Martin Luther King writing from a Birmingham jail

a letter on racial injustice.

I was thinking about Nelson Mandela writing and reading

while he was in jail for decades.

I was thinking of Anne Frank writing

while she was hiding from Nazis.

And so all that is to say,

I was thinking about, what do humans do

when they are scared and alone

and isolated from the rest of the world?

And often it's truth-telling

and it's telling stories that matter.

>> BOWEN: You're the nation's first youth poet laureate.

What, what opportunity, what responsibility does that bring?

>> Mmm, I would say an incredible responsibility.

I remember when I was named the inaugural youth poet laureate,

there was this feeling of pressure,

because I knew I was the guinea pig,

I knew I was the first one.

And beyond that, my naming was a provocation in itself,

and that I was black, I'm female, I'm young.

And so there are all these kind of intersectionalities

of my identity,

which made this beyond the status quo.

And so there was an extreme, I think, duty,

a sense of proving that this title is worthwhile

in giving it to youth voices,

and especially marginalized voices.

>> BOWEN: With your mom as an English teacher,

was there any other path for you

other than to be the nation's youth poet laureate?

>> It's so funny that you say that, because I remember,

when I told my mom I wanted to be a writer,

her reaction was kind of, like, "Oh, God."

My mom's been incredibly supportive of me.

She is my number-one cheerleader.

But when she looked in my eyes, and I was even still young,

and saw that I was very serious,

that this was the career that I wanted for myself,

she knew that the journey of a writer can be hard.

It can be lonely, it can be strenuous,

and you're not always compensated

in the ways that you should be.

And so I think my mom was kind of, like,

"I want any other path, if possible."

>> BOWEN: You have had these incredible brushes already

with Hillary Clinton and Lin-Manuel Miranda,

most recently Oprah Winfrey.

>> Right.

>> BOWEN: And as, you're so young to have this happen,

but what does that mean to you?

Is it, is it giving license to poets or, or...

Yeah, what does it mean to have that wind at your sails?

>> Right, that's such a great question,

because even I look up and I'm, like, "What is my life?

What is going on?"

I mean, when I met Oprah, it was just, it was literally, like,

I was living a dream.

>> BOWEN: You've just had your graduation from Harvard.

What is it to graduate in this time

and to be deprived of that physical gathering?

>> To be honest, not having that in that kind of traditional way

has just taught me what's most important about those moments.

If I can still find a way to celebrate and be joyous

with my family...

You know, I bring up the fact

that I'm the descendant of slaves.

Moreover, I'm the descendant of a slave named Amanda.

So that type of trajectory, from my family being property

to generations later,

and me graduating from a place like Harvard,

that speaks to such a larger legacy than myself.

And just because I might not be in an auditorium

does not belittle that accomplishment

in any way, shape, or form.

>> BOWEN: Before we leave, I know you have one other poem

that you're going to perform.

I heard from my producers you didn't,

as of about two hours ago, have a title for it.

I'm wondering if you have a title now.

>> Oh! >> BOWEN: Uh-oh!

>> I did come up with one,

and then I was, like, I just, like, scratched it.

Um, I will, TBD, name this

"The New World."

Um, but to give you some contextualization,

this is a poem that I kind of wrote

reflecting on what it means to graduate here and now,

in the times that we are in,

and what that means for the world.

>> BOWEN: Well, Amanda Gorman,

it's been such a pleasure to speak with you.

You are making a world of difference already,

and especially right now.

Thank you so much for being with us today.

>> Thank you so much.

Today, we burst into a new world.

Around the globe, you might not be wearing your robe,

but this is our moment, our ode,

so let's own it, let's smile,

because we didn't mount this milestone alone.

This took a village.

We are the impossible image

only ever seen in our ancestors' wildest dreams.

This is a rite of passage,

but more so, the passage of light

to we, the bright torch that never stops burning,

never quits learning.

This night, too, shall pass, and when it does,

this 2020 class won't just navigate a new normal.

Together, we'll build a better one.

We come to this commencement to search no more.

We're the good news we've been looking for,

demonstrating that every desk

holds a dawn disguised within it.

Today, we don't burst into a new world.

We begin it.

>> BOWEN: When Gayle Kabaker moved from San Francisco

to western Massachusetts,

her friends took bets on how long she'd last.

Well, more than 30 years later, she's established here.

The artist, illustrator, and writer

has created covers forThe New Yorker,

and she recently had an exhibition

at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

>> I met my husband, Peter Kitchell,

in San Francisco, where we were both living,

and his dad was an architect in Amherst.

And Peter had bought land out here

when he was visiting his dad.

So when I met him, he had this property already,

and I kind of ended up just tagging along for the ride.

Well, I'd always loved to draw.

Ever since I was a kid, I was, like,

the one who could draw.

When I was in high school,

there was kind of never any other idea

other than I'd go to art school.

I wanted to be a fashion illustrator,

and I wanted to go to school in New York.

My parents moved to L.A.,

but they didn't want me that far away,

so we compromised on San Francisco,

because the Academy of Art had a fashion illustration program.

So I went there for four years and got out,

and was a fashion illustrator for a few years

until I came here,

and that's when I had to branch out into...

everything else.

I paint the old-fashioned way, with paint and paper,

and then I scan it

and, uh, finish it in Photoshop.

I entered a contest

that the art director from The New Yorker was doing.

Each week, she was posting a topic

that was similar to the realNew Yorker,

and people were submitting.

And then she'd pick, at the end of the week,

she'd pick the top ten and a winner.

So I started playing, and the first week or two,

I got into, like, number two.

And I was, like, "Wow, this is fun."

And then the topic was gay marriage.

And I submitted my brides,

and I got an email from her saying,

"We'd like to hold this out

for consideration for the actual magazine."

That was really special,

because it really meant a lot to people.

And I got a lot of emails,

and, you know, like, people wrote me.

It was very special, and, uh...

(laughs): And then I thought, "Oh, I'm in now," you know,

like, my, "I'll be doing all kinds of covers."

Well, I submitted for four years, and nothing.

And then four years later,

the woman sledding downhill got chosen.

I think the style cover was next, which was really fun,

since I started out as a fashion illustrator.

That was extra-special.

And then the jump cover, that was another special one.

I don't know why, some of them just feel more special.

Like, people seem to respond to them.

But that was, like, announcing that summer was here,

and that was the woman jumping off the dock.

And then the last one was the woman skiing with her dogs,

and Charlie was in it.

So that was extra-special, because, you know, he's my...

I paint him a lot.

I got involved withVital Voices three years ago.

And this is a series of 100 portraits

to celebrate the 100 years of women getting the vote,

and also to just, you know, really call out these women

who are doing really important things--

some famous, some not famous, from all over the world.

You know, it's tough out there right now.

A lot of scary stuff.

And, and I think that there's a place for art

to really make a difference.

So, however, I can use my art

to support causes that I want to, that I believe in,

or to get information out to people...

You know, every once in a while,

you can make a really big impact,

and that's pretty cool.

>> BOWEN: We head to the West Coast now,

where the California Indian Basketweavers' Association

brings tribes together to share culture, embrace tradition,

and produce wonderfully woven baskets.

>> Everything is connected,

and that's what makes you know, string,

and especially some of these other materials so special,

is that it's part of this life cycle, it's part of the Earth,

it's part of these things that are native to this area,

just like we are.

>> Each basket tells a story.

Some stories have purpose,

some stories have meanings for each individual person.

You might be going through a hard time,

and so you would just make a basket

to help you out of that, that dark space.

I think it's about bringing the people together

and being able to share the traditions

that have been passed on from generation to generation

from our ancestors.

>> Flat...

So you just eyeball it,

about where it's gonna be at.

I've been doing tule now for about...

I'll say 15 years, and, uh...

What I like from it is

talking to the kids about, we have a plant

that has given its life to us,

and we need to treat that life with care, respect it.

It's part of our culture.

Our kids sometimes will get caught up with the games

that they can play on their phones or the TVs.

(people laughing in background)

I don't think we're losing it.

I think we're just not taking the time

to, to understand it and gather it,

and that's what we need to do.

>> I think today a lot of youth are having a hard time

figuring out who they are, what it means to be Indian,

or, or anything like that.

>> (laughs)

>> Growing up, we didn't have the luxury

of knowing a lot of things traditionally.

You know, a lot of them we've learned later.

And so the connection was kind of...

I think it was disconnected just slightly,

and it's nice to know that we're making it again,

and that hopefully nobody forgets,

and we don't have any type of other thing

that interrupts that knowledge again.

>> Basketry tells a story of how our people have survived.

It's the one thing that remains constant

in our, in our culture.

>> Because for us, everything is connected,

especially, you know,

speaking as a Native person in general, you know,

everybody always separates things,

but everything is connected:

the baskets and the ceremonies

and the string and the food

and the land and the stories and the animals.

>> (laughs)

>> Attention, everybody.

We had a young lady last year, she did a tule mat,

and she came back and she did a bigger one.

Her name's Sally.

(people cheering and applauding)

>> Look at this beautiful piece of artwork that you made.

That's, that's special

because not everybody can do that, you know?

And so we see value in every single thing that's done.

You know, you have little kids right now at our gathering

and they're making little tule ducks

or tule mats, you know?

And for us, those are, like, the most beautiful things ever,

because that's...

That's what this is all about, is passing on that tradition.

>> Everybody that makes something

is part of this big collective of people

that are creative and that can make something out of nothing.

Seeking those people out that know how to do it

and, you know, and sharing their knowledge,

and then, you know, and that's the wonderful thing about this,

is people teaching other people.

>> So I think that's what we're trying to do is,

we're trying to preserve that knowledge

and promote it in different ways.

It's, like, the essence of our community, you know,

and so it's, it's a part of us.

>> BOWEN: And that is all for this edition ofOpen Studio.

But before we go, I want to offer a very public thank you

to Dan Watson.

He is the longtime editor ofOpen Studio.

We have worked side-by-side

for virtually my entire career at WGBH.

He has taught me so much about storytelling, ethics,

excellence in journalism.

He is retiring, much to my dismay,

but we wish him all the best.

Well, we are off for the next couple of weeks.

But as always, you can catch my latest art news and reviews

every Thursday with Joe Mathieu onMorning Edition

and regularly with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan

onBoston Public Radio.

Until then, I'm Jared Bowen, thanks for joining us.

As always, you can visit us online at wgbh.org/OpenStudio,

and you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter,

@OpenStudioWGBH.

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