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Town Hall Seattle Arts & Culture Series

Arts & Culture Podcasts

The Arts & Culture series enriches our community with imagination and creativity. Whether reinventing the classics for a new audience or presenting an innovative new art form, these events are aimed at expanding horizons. From poetry to music to storytelling, this series leaves our audiences inspired, encouraged, and seeing the world with new eyes.


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The Arts & Culture series enriches our community with imagination and creativity. Whether reinventing the classics for a new audience or presenting an innovative new art form, these events are aimed at expanding horizons. From poetry to music to storytelling, this series leaves our audiences inspired, encouraged, and seeing the world with new eyes.








217. Tom Breihan with Tom Nissley: What the Top Hits Tell Us About Pop Music

The Billboard Hot 100 began in 1958, and for many, that little countdown list provokes some strong feelings of nostalgia. Did you listen in while gathered around a family-room radio? A walkman? Blasted through a car stereo, waiting in the driveway until you heard the #1 song of the week? The way we access music might have changed drastically over the decades, but the Billboard Hot 100 still reigns supreme as the industry-standard record chart. And it has a story to tell. Beloved music...


216. Erin Langner with Jen Graves: Las Vegas in Lyric Essays

As an art critic and a museum staffer, Erin Langner was skeptical of what she would find when she visited the Las Vegas Strip for the first time in the mid-2000s. To her surprise, she returned whenever the opportunity arose, seeking to understand her attraction to this “escape” destination — and the personal histories it conjured. The architecture of the Mirage casino surfaced the vacations to Florida that bandaged her grieving family together in the wake of her mother’s death. An encounter...


215. David Sax: Our Not-So-Digital Future

For years, consumers have been promised a simple, carefree digital future. We could live, work, learn, and play from the comforts of our homes, and have whatever we desire brought to our door with the flick of a finger. Instant communication would bring us together. All this technological convenience would give us more time to focus on what really mattered. When the pandemic hit, for many, that future transformed into the present almost overnight. But the reviews aren’t great. It turns out...


214. Amy Gallo with Ruchika Tulshyan How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People)

There’s no denying it: Work relationships can be hard. The stress of dealing with difficult people can dampen creativity and productivity, degrade the ability to think clearly and make sound decisions, and cause people to disengage. We might lie awake at night worrying, withdraw from work, or react in ways we later regret — rolling our eyes in a meeting, snapping at colleagues, or staying silent when we should speak up. Too often we grin and bear it as if we have no choice. But people can...


213. Penn Jillette: A Crime Caper That Leaves Everything to Chance

Imagine a world where decisions are decided by the roll of a pair of dice. What to eat? Roll the dice. Who to marry? Roll again. How to die, and when? Get rolling. We can only imagine how different our lives might be if we surrendered every decision to the unpredictable fall of two numbered cubes. From Penn Jillette — yes, that Penn Jillette of the legendary duo Penn & Teller — comes Random: a crime novel that aims to bring Jillette’s magic from the stage to the page, inviting readers into...


212. Kate Beaton with Claire Dederer: Alberta’s Oil Boom, Through a Cartoonist’s Eyes

Before there was Kate Beaton, the New York Times bestselling cartoonist of Hark! A Vagrant, there was Katie Beaton of the Cape Breton Beatons — specifically Mabou, a tight-knit seaside community where lobster is as abundant as beaches, fiddles, and Gaelic folk songs. With the singular goal of paying off her student loans, Katie heads out west to take advantage of Alberta’s oil rush — part of the long tradition of East Coasters who seek gainful employment elsewhere when they can’t find it in...


211. Jonathan Franzen with Tom Nissley Crossroads: A Vivid Take on Contemporary America

Jonathan Franzen is known for being, well, a little bit of everything: cantankerous and compelling, celebrated and controversial. Known for his vivid character development, his six novels have provoked commentary of all sorts from each end of the spectrum and everywhere in-between. Unsurprisingly, when Franzen — dubbed by TIME as “The Great American Novelist”— releases a new book, people pay attention; his latest novel, Crossroads, is no exception. In Crossroads, it’s December 23, 1971, and...


210. Alli Frank and Asha Youmans with Tara Conklin: A Baptist, a Baker, and a New Jewish Neighbor

From the authors of 2020’s Tiny Imperfections comes a new novel that takes a humorous but candid look at issues like race, religion, parenting, and love through the lens of female friendship. Never Meant to Meet You features protagonist Marjette Lewis, a self-proclaimed “fixer” and kindergarten teacher facing the challenges of raising a son on the verge of manhood, entering her first year without her best friend (the campus “Black-up”) at the private school, and dealing with an ex-husband...


209. Erika Hayasaki with Grace Madigan: A Story of Adoption, Identity, and the Meaning of Family

Imagine having an identical twin on the other side of the world — one you had no idea existed. That was the reality for sisters Isabella and Hà, born in Việt Nam but adopted and raised separately across the globe. One sister remained in a rural Vietnamese village that often went without electricity; the other grew up with a wealthy white family in the American suburbs. Their respective upbringings were worlds apart, both geographically and otherwise. The pair were reunited in their teenage...


208. Susan Linn with Nancy Pearl - How Big Tech is Hijacking Childhood

Most kids’ today are very tech savvy, whether they’re playing video games, watching streaming services, interacting on social media, or even — as the pandemic quickly showed us — attending school virtually. Tech companies have become a huge part of kids’ lives, but at what cost? Who benefits and how does technology and consumer capitalism affect child development? Susan Linn, one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of technology on children, is working to find the answers to these...


207. Juan Alonso-Rodríguez with Scott Méxcal - Stories from an Accidental Artist

Juan Alonso-Rodríguez describes his paintings and sculptures as an on-going exploration of abstraction based on forms both found in nature, and those conceived by human ingenuity. From horizon lines to his father’s wrought iron railing designs, memories of sights and sounds of his Caribbean origins always play an integral part in his creativity. He is influenced by the organized balance, pattern, and symmetry found in nature as well as that of architecture that lives in harmony with the...


206. Ellen Jovin - A Seat at the Grammar Table

Do you have a strong opinion about things like the Oxford comma, splitting infinitives, or whether to use punctuation in a text message? Well, you’re not alone. When Ellen Jovin set up her first Grammar Table outside her Manhattan apartment building and invited people to ask her questions, it took only around thirty seconds for the first visitor to arrive. Dozens more followed with their own grammatical inquiries and Grammar Table became an instant hit. Word of its success spread —...


205. Zibby Owens with Julia Quinn: Books, Writing, and Letting Our Stories Unfold

When someone recommends a book to you that you end up loving, something special happens: you feel closer to that person somehow, understood on some unspoken level. That could be one of the reasons why Zibby Owens, a top influencer in the book publishing world, has garnered a passionate fanbase of her own as the host of the award-winning podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books™. While Owens spends most of her time discussing other author’s books, she’s now ready to tell her own story,...


204. Gene Andrew Jarrett with Tom Morgan - Paul Laurence Dunbar: The Life and Times of a Caged Bird

Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, widely known for penning the famous words, “I know why the caged bird sings!” in his poem, Sympathy. Born in 1872, Dunbar was one of the first African American writers to be internationally recognized in the wake of emancipation. But while his extraordinary talent was celebrated, a deeper examination of his life reveals much about Black fame, and the cultural response to it, near the turn of the century. In a meticulously researched biography, author and scholar...


203. Nabil Ayers with Cheryl Waters: Music, Roots, and Redefining Family

Nabil Ayers has been part of the music scene in many capacities: musician, record-label creator, band manager, music executive, and founder of Seattle’s Sonic Boom Records. He is also an author, writing about music and race for the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and many others. Now Ayers has written a new memoir, My Life in the Sunshine: Searching for My Father and Discovering My Family, about his relationship with his father, Black jazz musician Roy Ayers; being a mixed-race person in the...


202. David Duchovny with Jess Walter—The Reservoir: A Twisted Rom-Com for our Distanced Time

David Duchovny is best known for his television roles as FBI agent Fox Mulder on The X-Files (1993-2002 and 2016-2018) and writer Hank Moody on Californication (2007-2014), both of which earned him Golden Globe awards. Beyond his extensive on-screen accomplishments, which include dozens of other films and television shows, he’s also a musician and the writer of four novels. Duchovny last joined us at Town Hall to talk about his 2016 book, Bucky F*cking Dent; this June, we’re pleased to...


201. Ceasar Hart—Drag Culture: Beyond Entertainment

Typically held at bars and nightclubs, drag is a form of entertainment in which a performer uses clothing and makeup to impersonate a particular gender identity, usually of the opposite sex. Yet drag is so much more than nightclub entertainment — it provides community, instills self-confidence, and can even save lives. Join drag king performer Ceasar Hart and explore the history of drag culture and why it is so important for many in the LGBTQ+ community. Discover the impact of this art...


200. Peter Bacho with Robert Flor: Mostly True Stories of Filipino Seattle

According to census data, the greater Seattle area is home to the fifth-largest Filipino American population in the U.S — the majority of which arrived in the area after 1965. From the 1950s to 1970s, Filipino Americans, or Pinoys, faced serious hardships and struggles with racism, discrimination, and exploitation. It was a difficult life for many. The struggle persists today, with the U.S. seeing a steep rise in discrimination and violence against Asian Americans since the beginning of the...


199. Mimi Gardner Gates with Lynda V. Mapes and Catharina Manchanda: The Innovation of the Olympic Sculpture Park

When the Seattle Art Museum opened the Olympic Sculpture Park on the urban waterfront in 2007, it changed the way people could interact with art and experience the city’s environment. The fact that it’s free and open to everyone makes the park one of the most inclusive places to see art in the Pacific Northwest. The sculpture park contains pieces like Alexander Calder’s red sculpture The Eagle, Jaume Plensa’s giant head Echo, and Neukom Vivarium, a 60-foot nurse log in a custom-designed...


198. Don Lee with Rob Arnold: Stories of Heartbreak, Identity, and Belonging

It’s no surprise that people love short stories. They hold all the elements of a great novel — an intriguing theme, characters that seem to come to life, and storytelling that lingers even after the last page — all packaged in a brief, delightfully readable package. It’s no wonder that award-winning author Don Lee has returned to short stories in his latest book, The Partition, 21 years after his landmark debut collection, Yellow, was published. In The Partition, Lee explored Asian American...