By Caitlin Kelly
As someone who grew up with limited access to television, (spending much of my childhood in boarding school and summer camp), my cultural consumption was books, art and music. (Although every dinner at home in my teens began with the theme music to As It Happens, the nightly CBC radio current events show.)
I do enjoy some television, mostly BBC, PBS, Netflix — original series, not the standard stuff of weekly network shows. Favorites include Wallander (Swedish version), Babylon Berlin, Call The Midwife, Victoria.
I confess — I’m also a fan of Lifetime’s Project Runway, now heading into its 17th season.
My favorite media are radio and film.
I listen to radio daily, (NPR, WFUV. WKCR, TSF Jazz from Paris) and typically watch two to three movies a week, either on TV or in the theater. (Not a fan of horror films, which I avoid; writing a book that included gun violence was quite enough!)
Only in later life did I appreciate what beauty I enjoyed in my parents’ homes, filled with Japanese ukiyo-e prints, Inuit sculpture, mirrored Indian textiles and more. That visual feast much shaped my own tastes — whether a Mexican wooden mask or a vintage photograph.
Today, thanks to the Internet, we all have ready and free access to millions of exquisite images, through the British Museum (37,000 images) and many more. Even if you live very far from a gallery or museum, even just scrolling through Instagram, you can stumble across an incredible array of beauty and history.
I’m not as familiar with, or fond of, contemporary art and design (I try!); I do love the work of Julie Mehretu.
Growing up in Toronto, a large and multi-cultural city with good museums and galleries, also helped me develop my taste. Travel to Paris, Venice, Florence, London, Berlin, Boston, D.C. and San Francisco, (to name a few places), has showed me more amazing art.
Two of our favorite museums focus on Asian design — the Sackler in Washington, D.C. and the Guimet in Paris.
A very rare event for me — I went to this auction and bought two 1920s French prints (Dufy, Vlaminck)
Musically, I feel woefully behind! I haven’t (she says embarassedly) yet tried Spotify, so I need to expand my horizons, although I’m not a fan of rap, hip-hop or country.
Only in the past month have I seen two operas, the first for me in decades, and enjoyed both. I don’t attend as many classical music performances as I could — in New York and environs, there are so many to choose from! — but enjoy it when I do.
As for popular music concerts…sigh. Some of the people I want to see sell out within minutes, generally.
I recently loved Old Stock, a terrific Canadian musical that’s just ended a two-month Manhattan run, and is headed for Bristol, England and Edmonton, Alberta.
I also saw a dark/powerful art show, “Berlin, Before and After”, at New York’s Neue Galerie, one of my favorite (small!) museums.
Living anywhere near New York City costs a fortune: highway and bridge tolls, taxes, commuting costs, crazy-high rent so you have to take advantage of all its various cultural offerings.
A daily list of low to no-cost NYC fun is The Skint; (“skint” is a British word for broke.)
This amazing image was in the hallway across my room in a boutique hotel in Rovinj, Croatia
I do read a lot, but mostly non-fiction, magazines and newspapers. I just finished astronaut Scott Kelly’s memoir, “Endurance” and am now reading “Berlin Alexanderplatz,” from 1929.
I write for a living (as some of you know!) so am always hungry for inspiration.
How about you?
What has shaped your cultural tastes — friends? family? the internet? TV? YouTube? formal education?
Any terrific recommendations to share?