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Loie Fuller

Article: The Rebellious Streak: Dancing to Different Rules
They were rebels, they were American, and they dared to be different: the makers of modern dance
Choreographers, Dance, Dance Legends, Innovators & Pioneers, Controversial

Little Dancer

Article: On Stage: Little Dancer
This feature includes background about the musical Little Dancer as well as an interpretive piece for younger audience members about the play’s more sensitive themes
Theater, Ballet, Backstage, Controversial, Dance, Europe, Young Artists

The Story Behind The Picture: White Angel Breadline
In White Angel Breadline, her first documentary photograph, Dorothea Lange enabled Americans to see the tragic effects of the Great Depression. The image evoked national sympathy, rather than scorn, for the hungry and homeless.
America, Controversial, History, Innovators & Pioneers, Visual Arts

Kathryn Bostic

Article: Q&A with Kathryn Bostic
Kathryn Bostic, music arranger for Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963, shares her thoughts on sharing stories through music and music’s central role in the Civil Rights Movement.
America, Backstage, Composers, History, Musicals, Controversial

Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange

Master + Work: Dorothea Lange and Migrant Mother
See how Lange used her camera to tell the story of Depression-era Americans
America, Controversial, Geography, History, Innovators & Pioneers, Visual Arts

Death of a Salesman

Master + Work: Arthur Miller and Death of a Salesman
Arthur Miller’s voice of social conscience and theatrical imagination changed the face of American theater. Meet him through his masterwork, Death of a Salesman.
America, History, Broadway, Playwrights & Plays, Theater, Controversial

Merce Cunningham

Master + Work: Merce Cunningham and BIPED
Discover how Cunningham's abstract choreography was inspired by his innovative use of technology
Choreographers, Controversial, Dance, Dance Legends, Innovators & Pioneers, Science

Inventor

Collection: Innovators, Inventors, & Explorers
Lewis and Clark explored the American West; Japanese artists Maywa Denki invent performance art "products." These resources can help you discover the process of discovering.
Controversial, Geography, History, Innovators & Pioneers, Inventions, Space

Civil War Soldiers

Collection: Civil War
Through songs and letters, explore the stories and people who lived through the American Civil War, including the relationship President Abraham Lincoln had with the music of his time.
America, Controversial, Military, History, Presidents

Theatre with sensitive themes

Article: Dealing with Sensitive Themes Onstage
Staging controversial shows in school theaters presents rewards and risks. Veteran arts educators share insights about the pros and cons of such shows, and how to produce them successfully
Theater, Controversial

Drawing of a Monster

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Monsters
This lesson is intended to have students investigate the idea of "monsters" in society
Controversial, World Cultures

Washington Post Cartoon

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Drawing Political Cartoons
Analyzing political cartoons will allow students to develop both factual knowledge and interpretive skills
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Presidents, Controversial, History

Scene from The Crucible

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Arthur Miller and The Crucible
This lesson examines the consequences of personal conscience in conflict with rigid societal perceptions of what is "right" in human behavior as articulated in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
Theater, Literature, Controversial

Martha Graham

Flash Interactive: A Dancer's Journal: Martha Graham
This interactive explores the life and works of Martha Graham from the perspective of a (fictional) new member of the Martha Graham Dance Company and includes a large library of video and audio clips.
Dance, Choreographers, Dance Legends, Controversial, Jobs in the Arts, Young Artists, Innovators & Pioneers

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Friedrich Nietzsche
"An artist chooses his subjects... that is the way he praises."
Europe, Controversial, Literature

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Carl Gustav Jung
"All art intuitively apprehends coming changes in the collective unconsciousness."
Europe, Controversial, Innovators & Pioneers

arts quote

Arts Quotes: John F. Kennedy
"We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth."
America, Controversial, History, Presidents

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Oscar Wilde
"The stage is not merely the meeting place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life."
Europe, Controversial, Literature, Comedy, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Oscar Wilde
"Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory."
Europe, Controversial, Literature, Comedy, Playwrights & Plays, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Frank Zappa
"Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something."
America, Controversial, Music, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Andy Warhol
"My instinct about painting says, 'if you don't think about it, it's right.'"
America, Controversial, Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture, Visual Arts

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Oscar Wilde
"No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did he would cease to be an artist."
Europe, Controversial, Literature, Comedy, Playwrights & Plays

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Oscar Wilde
"The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it immensely. All art is useless."
Europe, Controversial, Literature, Comedy, Playwrights & Plays

arts quote

Arts Quotes: José Bergamín
"If you really believe music is dangerous, you should let it go in one ear and out the other."
Controversial, Poetry, Literature, Playwrights & Plays, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Paul Cézanne
"Don’t be an art critic, but paint, there lies salvation."
Visual Arts, Controversial

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Emma Goldman
"Art is a part of the rebellion against the realities of its unfulfilled desire."
Controversial

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Paul Gauguin
"Art is either plagiarism or revolution."
Europe, Visual Arts, Controversial

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Lillian Hellman
"Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped."
America, Literature, Playwrights & Plays, Controversial

Arthur Miller

Arts Days: October 17, 1915: A Man of Morals
Arthur Miller's dramatic works probe at various aspects of human nature—all of them—the good, the bad, and the ugly. The Crucible, for example, examines what prompts otherwise good, moral people to make false accusations about others, while Incident at Vichy considers why the Nazis were able to perpetrate the mass slaughter of Jews.

In Death of a Salesman, Miller tells the story of an aging businessman attempting to right the failures of his past, and explores the concept of the "American Dream." This 1984 Kennedy Center Honoree became something of a political lightning rod, too: In 1957 Miller was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee during Congress’ bid to find Communist sympathizers in the ranks of U.S. writers, actors, and others. Miller refused, was convicted of contempt, and became a hero of the political Left.
Broadway, Playwrights & Plays, Theater, Controversial, Literature

The Jazz Singer

Arts Days: October 06, 1927: You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet!
Goodbye silent film, hello talkie. This movie became the first feature-length film with a soundtrack synchronized to what was happening onscreen. In short, it was the first bona fide “talkie,” the movie that heralded the beginning of the end of the silent film. Al Jolson played Jakie Rabinowitz, a man who yearns to be a jazz singer but whose strict Jewish family disapproves of his creative goals.

Jolson performed some of the songs in the movie in blackface, a tradition left over from minstrelsy. While the practice is considered shameful and improper now, scholars have lauded the movie as “the only film where blackface is central to the narrative development.” For all these reasons, The Jazz Singer continues to be a landmark movie all these years later.
Movies & Movie Stars, Controversial, America, Popular Culture

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Arts Days: October 13, 1962: Couples’ Therapy
It’s said that playwright Edward Albee, a 1996 Kennedy Center Honoree, had his own experiences at Connecticut’s Trinity College in mind when he wrote this play about George and Martha, a university professor and his wife. The audience watches as this dysfunctional, middle-aged couple drink heavily, insult one another and their guests, and savagely expose each other’s layers of emotional fragility.

The play’s adult language, themes of infidelity and alcohol abuse, and conflicts between illusion and reality, caused quite a stir after the play opened on this day in 1962. Only a few years later, the controversial drama was adapted into a feature film as a star vehicle for Hollywood’s iconic couple, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Today it is viewed as an important milestone in the development of modernist drama.
Theater, Broadway, Controversial, Playwrights & Plays

West Side Story

Arts Days: September 26, 1957: Tonight, Tonight
Behind the hit musical about the rival white “Jets” and the Puerto Rican “Sharks” is an updated, urban retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The inspiration and innovation was provided by a boatload of talent; Stephen Sondheim wrote the sophisticated lyrics, Leonard Bernstein the historic music.

Jerome Robbins directed and choreographed the revolutionary dance sequences like the Shark Girls’ exuberant “America” and the Jets’ “Cool.” Audiences saw how violent gang warfare shattered the dreams of star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony. The musical drew big crowds, shocking them all with the death of two young men at the end of Act One and of Tony at the close of the play. As stunned viewers exited the theater, few doubted the universality of Shakespeare’s love story.
Broadway, Musicals, America, Choreographers, Composers, Controversial, Playwrights & Plays, Shakespeare, Popular Culture

John Cage

Arts Days: September 05, 1912: Pushing Music’s Boundaries
You might be confused the first time you hear an orchestra perform John Cage’s famous 1952 composition, 4’33” which refers to the length of time the piece lasts: four minutes, 33 seconds. During this time, no one will play their instrument; the concert hall will be completely silent.

Or will it? Cage, one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, believed in “found sound.” He thought that a whole other kind of music could be heard in the hundreds of small noises of a concert hall: someone shifting in her chair, someone coughing, someone else turning the page of a program. His experimental ideas about music and composition are still considered controversial by many.
America, Composers, Controversial, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Music Legends

Marilyn Monroe

Arts Days: September 15, 1954: The Blonde Bombshell
Standing over a subway grate with a train rushing by below, Marilyn Monroe titillated moviegoers when her skirt blew up in the wind.

The director of The Seven-Year Itch, Billy Wilder, had ordered this scene to be filmed repeatedly. The shooting was taking place at Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street in New York City, and as he ordered more takes, more people gathered around to ogle Monroe. She was one of a long line of movie blondes dating back to Jean Harlow, who appeared in the 1933 film, Bombshell. Movie fans have idolized these golden-haired beauties of film and television. Monroe may well be the most famous of them all.
Controversial, Fashion, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

A model wearing a mink trimmed peignoir designed by Elsa Schiaparelli.

Arts Days: September 10, 1890: Shocking Fashionista
Elsa Schiaparelli designed the kind of couture clothes you see on the pages of Vogue and on the backs of celebrities. Known for her sometimes startling, often witty designs, including a shoe-shaped hat, she also created garments that responded to news events. For example, after France declared war on Germany in 1939, she debuted taffeta skirts printed with a camouflage look.

Schiaparelli was the first designer to use shoulder pads and to prominently feature hot pink, a color she called “shocking pink.” Collaborating with important artists of the day, such as Salvador Dali, she created a fancy evening gown decorated with Dali’s drawing of an enormous red lobster. This renegade clothier helped elevate fashion to high art.
Innovators & Pioneers, Fashion, Controversial, Visual Arts

Oh Susanna

Arts Days: September 11, 1847: America’s First Pop Hit
This American folk tune starts with lines that make absolutely no sense: “The sun so hot I froze to death/Susanna don’t you cry.” Yet Stephen Foster, the songwriter, was probably most concerned with just creating a hummable tune. And that he did. The song tells the story of a man going to New Orleans to see his beloved Susanna.

Filled with desire and longing, the man sings of dreaming of his love at night. Foster intended the song to be sung in minstrel shows, during which white performers often performed in blackface makeup. Traditionally the song is sung with only the accompaniment of a guitar and harmonica.
America, Controversial, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture

The Simpsons

Arts Days: December 17, 1989: Springfield Shenanigans
Isn’t it cool that the longest-running American sitcom features an animated mom with a mountain of blue hair? Yes, Marge, Homer, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, and the rest of their gang of neighbors and co-workers in Springfield just happen to be cartoon characters. And they happen to be hilarious, too, as they—helped by the show’s extensive staff of writers—poke fun at American culture and spoof sitcom conventions.

As created by Matt Groening, beer-swilling Homer, sax-playing Lisa and the others muddle through work and school, comment on everything from environmentalism to pop music, and love one another, just like any other normal American family. Blue hair and all.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Comedy, Television, America, Popular Culture, Controversial

The Flamingo Hotel

Arts Days: December 26, 1946: Vegas on the Verge
The gangster Benjamin Siegel—better known as “Bugsy”—was instrumental in the rise of Las Vegas from a patch of desert to an entertainment hub. In early 1946, Siegel met William Wilkerson, who was building a hotel called the Pink Flamingo Hotel and Casino. Siegel’s mentor Meyer Lansky wanted a piece of the Flamingo, and while Siegel initially balked at being away from L.A., he soon became invested in the construction.

He bought building materials on the black market and overrode blueprints for the hotel with his own ideas. Siegel was no architect, though; these decisions ultimately led to huge cost overruns and delays. On opening day, construction racket and drop cloths filled the lobby, and the air-conditioning—a first in this town—was on the fritz.
Art Venues, Popular Culture, Architecture, Controversial, Innovators & Pioneers

Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Jessica Tandy in A Streetcard Named Desire

Arts Days: December 03, 1947: Passion Play
The great American playwright and 1979 Kennedy Center Honoree Tennessee Williams took home the Pulitzer Prize for this Southern Gothic play. Elia Kazan directed the young newcomer Marlon Brando and the veteran Jessica Tandy in the iconic roles of Stanley Kowalski and his sister-in-law Blanche DuBois, whose violence-laced attraction to one another drives much of the action.

Blanche, a frail, helpless relic of the Old South, has come to New Orleans to seek refuge in her sister’s home, only to face psychological and sexual clashes with Stanley. As the play unfolds, the audience witnesses Blanche’s slow descent into insanity. After completing the show's run on Broadway, both Tandy and Brando enjoyed illustrious acting careers; Kazan not only went on to direct the 1951 movie version of Streetcar, but was also named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1983.
Broadway, Playwrights & Plays, Theater, Controversial

Schindler's List

Arts Days: December 15, 1993: Angel in the Darkness
People who went to see director Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List were surprised to find the movie about the Holocaust was filmed in black and white. But the surprise gave way to deep emotion as the story unfolded. Spielberg wanted to shine a light on the little known story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman active in the Nazi party, who saved as many as 1,100 Jewish people from death in German concentration camps by hiring them to work in his factories.

Actor Liam Neeson brought Schindler's character to life on screen, and the film went on to win seven Academy Awards®, including Best Picture and Best Director. The movie—including its final scene, in which real-life people saved by Schindler’s actions, place rocks upon his grave—is deeply moving and has captured the attentions of millions of viewers worldwide.
Movies & Movie Stars, History, Controversial, Europe, Military, Tragedy

John Milton

Arts Days: December 09, 1608: A Man of Letters
John Milton is best known for penning Paradise Lost, a really long poem published in the mid 17th century. How long you ask? So long it filled ten books; a second edition published a few years later filled 12 books. In this epic work, Milton explores man’s fall from grace as told in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. In his version, he incorporates elements from Greek classicism, paganism, and other areas of study.

Milton was a learned man with a broad range of interests, and he wrote about other things, too, like history, travel, marriage, censorship, you name it. Late in life, Milton lost his eyesight completely, but never his rigorous intellect and deep curiosity. He is generally considered the greatest English poet after Shakespeare.
Europe, Poetry, Literature, Controversial

Martin Scorsese

Arts Days: November 17, 1942: One Fearless Filmmaker
No one can argue that Martin Scorsese has brought a gritty new realism to movies. An asthmatic child, young Martin was often confined to bed. But all that solitary time allowed him to watch a lot of movies on TV, which helped to shape the visions behind his works. One of the most accomplished movie directors of our time, Scorsese is fearless behind a camera—unafraid to expose the violent underground of his beloved New York City in films like Mean Streets, Gangs of New York, and the especially unsettling, Taxi Driver.

He explores complex human themes of guilt and redemption, repression, and emotional conflict in films like Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and The King of Comedy. Scorsese, a 2007 Kennedy Center Honoree, has said that the movies he aims to make are “physically expressive, psychologically acute, brutally honest, and emotionally overwhelming.”
Movies & Movie Stars, America, Controversial

Mark Twain

Arts Days: November 30, 1835: America’s Good Humor Man
The author of one of the great American novels, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, wasn’t named Mark Twain at birth. He was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, taking Mark Twain as his pen name later in life. While he’s probably best known for creating characters Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, Twain also wrote travel stories, social commentaries, essays, and lots of other kinds of things, all characterized by his signature satirical humor.

All of his work was informed by his rich array of distinctly American adventures, from his time as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi to his reporting for newspapers across the U.S. Without a doubt, Twain’s humor has remained timeless and relevant. So much so that each year, the Kennedy Center awards the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor to individuals who, like Twain, are social commentators, satirists, creators of characters, and fearless critics of society.
Comedy, Innovators & Pioneers, Literature, America, Controversial

Rolling Stone Magazine

Arts Days: November 09, 1967: The Bible of Rock
Back then, it featured John Lennon on the cover and looked more like a newspaper than a magazine. The inaugural issue of Rolling Stone aimed to report not only on the performers and trends shaping rock and roll, but also, in the words of founder Jann Wenner, “the things and attitudes that music embraces.” As a result, the magazine has consistently printed long articles about politics, the environment, and other topics as well as influential record reviews and detailed question-and-answer pieces with top artists.

While on-staff at the magazine, photographer Annie Leibovitz helped shape the modern look of the publication. Her photos reveal surprising and controversial sides of world-famous celebrities, created through close collaboration with her subjects.
Rock & Roll, Music, Popular Culture, Literature, Controversial

Kurt Vonnegut

Arts Days: November 11, 1922: “A Zany But Moral Mad Scientist”
With a unique voice that melds humor, science fiction, and social commentary with the absurd, Kurt Vonnegut is considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. In novels like The Sirens of Titan and Cat’s Cradle, he explores technology’s effects on the human race, (not always positive), and the dangers of social isolation.

Though his fictional works often paint a picture of a bleak world, he used wildly inventive characters—like the alien race known as the Tralfmadorians who appear in Slaughterhouse-Five—and his trademark black humor to lighten things up a little bit. Later works, such as Breakfast of Champions, are no longer overtly fantastical. As his themes shifted, so did his style in writing about them, becoming more straightforward.
Innovators & Pioneers, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature, Controversial, America

The Catcher in the Rye

Arts Days: July 16, 1951: Teenage Wasteland
Catcher in the Rye takes us into the mind of the self-destructive Holden Caulfield, the teenage protagonist and narrator of the book.

After being expelled from school, Holden’s misadventures in New York City and his profanity-laced comments about people around him, who he considers “phony,” contributed to the book being the most banned in the United States. Still to this day, however controversial the book is for some, it has become a standard text in most high school English classes. The book allows high school students to witness a fellow teen struggling with feelings of alienation from others his age as well as most of his family.

Salinger used the title as a metaphor for Holden’s attempt to protect a child’s innocence, though he is unable to preserve his own.
Controversial, Literature, America

The Rolling Stones I can't get no Satisfaction

Arts Days: July 10, 1965: Satisfaction Guaranteed
That blistering riff from Keith Richards’ guitar kicks off “Satisfaction,” a rock-and-roll song that shook up a lot of teenagers and alarmed some parents with its provocative lyrics. Richards and his fellow Rolling Stone, Mick Jagger, wrote the song together, with Jagger adding lyrics about a very different theme: the push he had seen while in America for material possessions.

The song hit number one on this day and stayed there for a month. It is also an example of the sensation created by a hit record.
Rock & Roll, Controversial, Music, Popular Culture

To Kill a Mockingbird

Arts Days: July 11, 1960: Do the Right Thing
Alabama author Harper Lee published one of the most important works of 20th century fiction. To Kill a Mockingbird examines American attitudes toward race and how those views have shaped our legal system.

To Kill a Mockingbird’s six-year-old narrator, Scout Finch, along with her brother, befriends a reclusive neighbor named Boo Radley, who later becomes the children’s protector after Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, defends an African American man wrongfully accused of a crime. The Finches are said to be modeled on Lee’s own family, including her own father, an attorney who defended two black men in a murder case (and lost).

Lee’s storytelling gifts and the memorable characters she created make To Kill a Mockingbird a moving story about doing the right thing.
Literature, America, Controversial

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Arts Days: March 20, 1852: The Little Lady's Big Book
During the entire 19th century, only one book sold more copies than the Bible. That book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, changed countless minds about the then-accepted practice of slavery or forcing people against their will to perform manual labor in Europe and the United States. Author Harriett Beecher Stowe was a preacher and an abolitionist: someone who believed that slavery was immoral and worked to end it everywhere.

Her book contains the message that Christian love can overcome the evils of slavery, which had such an impact on readers that it’s widely considered to have advanced the long-simmering feud between the northern and southern states toward the Civil War. In fact, when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the time the fighting began, he is reported to have said, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.” The power of Stowe’s words helped dismantle the cruelty of slavery.
America, History, Literature, Controversial

Rudolf Nureyev

Arts Days: March 17, 1938: Ballet's Rebel
Rudolf Nureyev was born on a train, setting the stage for a lifetime of perpetual movement, onstage and off. The premier male ballet dancer of his time, Nureyev began dancing to folk music as a child, attracting the attention of teachers who signed him to a local ballet troupe. He soon moved on to a major Russian ballet company, the Kirov, where he danced lead roles and got permission to leave the Soviet Union to dance in other cities like Vienna and Paris.

His dancing enchanted audiences, but his defection from the USSR in 1961 stunned the dance world. He soon signed with London’s Royal Ballet, the company he remained with until 1970. Nureyev’s creative partnerships with prima ballerinas like Margot Fonteyn are legendary; their pas de deux (“dance for two”) in Giselle and other ballets are exquisite examples of technical prowess and gorgeous artistry.
Ballet, Dance Legends, Dance, Controversial, Innovators & Pioneers

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