Local Arts

Check these 4+ podcasts for some Charlotte arts intrigue. (Got others? Let us know)

Putting on a podcast if you’re not a pro podcaster – or if you are, but your subject isn’t your day-to-day profession – takes passion. Here are four podcasts that periodically peek into an aspect of the arts in Charlotte, from a user’s guide to opera to a philosophic exploration of what gives life meaning (spoiler alert for this context: Sometimes, it’s art!). Who’s hosting and why? Read on.

Xela Pinkerton and Megan Miller: ‘XM Divas’

Xela Pinkerton and Megan Miller are coworkers-turned-friends-turned-podcast-hosts, with an electricity they say made them realize they were perfect to run a Charlotte podcast about opera.

Each episode of “XM Divas” examines something genre-related, from a behind-the-scenes snippet from the latest Opera Carolina show to dispelling the stereotype that all opera singers are fat women – by interviewing a fitness trainer for singers.

Both began working at Opera Carolina as resident company members in 2013. Now Miller is the marketing director, and Pinkerton the customer service manager, and both also still perform regularly. They got their start in connecting with audiences digitally by doing Facebook Live sessions together. Friends suggested a podcast, and they decided to give it a shot. That was six months ago; in that time they’ve produced 13 episodes on a biweekly schedule, each about 30-45 minutes.

“We’ve been able to give opera the voice it deserves, and we’ve been able to talk about what it really is,” Miller says. “Opera is so cool. It is the coolest experience when the curtain goes up and you see no one is amplified on stage, (that) there are no microphones.”

Each episode sets out to show exactly how cool opera is, exploring topics such as technical innovations and fashion decisions. They also try to tie in to everyday life, like the episode for Mother’s Day in which they interviewed their moms about raising two opera singers, or the one they have planned for the coming Super Bowl, in which they’ll analyze commercials that use opera music – something that happens more often than you may think.

The goal? To break down barriers to an art form that Pinkerton and Miller believe many people find unapproachable. Ultimately, the pair hopes to take their podcast beyond Charlotte to international audiences.

Mark Peres: ‘On Life and Meaning’

Most days, Mark Peres is a Johnson & Wales professor, teaching leadership and moral philosophy. But about once a week, he sits down at his kitchen table to produce the ambitious series “On Life and Meaning,” in which he interviews an artist, executive, educator, community leader or someone doing something along those lines: He’s essentially looking for anyone who’s made a creative contribution to the community, he says.

The two sides of Peres are largely separate – he chuckles as he tells you his students don’t listen to the podcast: “The demographic for my show skews a little older.”

His inspiration comes from “The Mike Wallace Interview” show, a TV series that originally aired in the late ’50s. Peres said he was inspired by what he calls the “gallery of people” Wallace chose, and began looking for his own gallery in Charlotte. Many are involved in the arts community; Peres has been interested in that aspect of life for years, founding, then leading the arts/culture magazine Charlotte Viewpoint for nearly a decade. Performance artist Hardin Minor, multidisciplinary artist Quentin Talley and theater professor Lynne Conner are among recent guests in the arts part of Peres’ spectrum.

Episodes run between 30 minutes and an hour, depending on what interviewees have to say about their work, lives and higher purpose.

Peres started the podcast in August 2017, and has produced an average of one a week since then, a rate he intends to keep up until he hits 100, when he’ll consider the series complete. He writes an essay to accompany each and plans to turn those into a book. He sees each module as its own piece of art, and says he hopes the episodes will live on for years, with listeners returning again and again.

“I think podcasting is an art, like any endeavor, if there is a level of originality and quality and attention to detail – if it’s presented in a new and thoughtful way. The writing ... separates and distinguishes this from other projects,” he says.

“I hope listeners are informed and inspired and realize that we all have gifts to give to the world. We all like a good story, and I think there’s nothing more compelling than personal stories.”

Keith Cradle: ‘Crafted with Cradle’

Keith Cradle found himself having some riveting art conversations in his role as a board member for the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Earlier this year, he says, he started wondering if others were having those same important conversations. That led to “Crafted with Cradle,” defined as “a social commentary podcast featuring guests in Cultural Arts.”

The twist? It’s a “drinking podcast”: Cradle asks each guest about his or her favorite cocktail, then they proceed to have a drink or two during the show, to help keep things loose and fun.

Another twist: Each episode is also captured on video and published online, so people can view them if they’d prefer.

Both the video and audio were brand-new to Cradle, who says he had no experience in the medium before plunging in. “Show after show I think we’re getting better,” Cradle says. “That’s a great learning experience. I had been on a few podcasts, but never the host.”

The shows, released on a monthly schedule, are recorded at Cradle’s kitchen table, and the goal is to have a conversation rather than an interview, he says.

The laid-back setting and the conversational tone he takes with all of his guests are designed to make listeners feel comfortable with engaging with, and ultimately advocating for, different art forms in the city, Cradle says. Topics have ranged from art collecting to information about an upcoming exhibition to an interview with the organizers of the local poetry slam competition.

“My goal is to engage people, where we’re making art and cultural engagement activities very down to earth,” Cradle says. “If they haven’t been to the opera, the ballet, the museum, we want them to realize this is something for everyone. We want to create an opportunity where people feel comfortable advocating for art full-heartedly.”

Sheri Lynch and Stacee Michelle: ‘Art Crush’

Unlike other podcasters here, Lynch and Michelle and Lynch both had broadcasting experience before starting to host “Art Crush” for the Mint Museum, a little over a year ago. Michelle has served as a fashion correspondent for several media organizations, and Lynch is co-host of the syndicated “Bob & Sheri” radio show in Charlotte (which also has its own podcast now).

But neither were in the arts, per se. Michelle’s fashion background dovetailed with the Mint’s recent increased attention to fashion. And Lynch says she was surprised and honored to be asked about hosting this podcast: “I don’t have any special skills or anything. My role on that podcast is to be the average Charlottean approaching these exhibits and artists with a layman’s curiosity.”

Each episode is Mint-related, from visiting fashion icon André Leon Talley talking about curating the Oscar de la Renta fashion exhibition to multiple-part series on costume designer William Ivey Long and “Develar y Detonar,” the Mint’s chunk of the ’17-18 collaborative Latin American exhibition “In Focus/Enfoque.” Some also touch on areas such as city history (with artist Ken Aptekar discussing his Queen Charlotte pieces) and Charlotteans’ personal “art crushes.”

Describing visual artwork isn’t as difficult as Lynch first expected, she says. “I find that when I have a chance to talk to the artist, we begin talking about the story of how the piece came to be. It’s such a rare thing and such a special thing to have an artist talk about their process and inspiration and the story behind it – the moment of discovery, the act of making and creating.”

Michelle sees it as an opportunity to offer something different. Listeners “can see the artwork, they can see the info on the side of the piece (when they’re in the museum), but hearing from the artists’ or curators’ mouth about their advances and struggles and who they’re crushing on, it adds another level,” she says. “We’re adding another layer.”

And a few more (tell us about others, please ...)

Other podcasts we’re keeping an ear on lately, for Charlotte arts people:

Creative Mornings Charlotte’s “#charlotteiscreative” podcast notes “everyone is creative, and everyone is welcome” and has interviews with the group’s monthly speakers plus video of their talks); they’re sometimes specifically-arts-connected people. (CM_CLT’s new “The Biscuit” is also on the horizon.)

“V/EWS” is the work of photographer Glen Byrd Jr. and writer Sharelle Burt, who aim, as Byrd described it, “to shed a light on the many dope creatives of color there are in this city.”

WFAE offers “Amplifier,” about music (and “Southbound” occasionally features a Charlotte-arts-centric guest, too).

WDAV does “Piedmont Arts” with general manager Frank Dominguez interviewing artists and arts leaders in the station’s listening area.

Know of others with a Charlotte-arts focus? Let us know via email at arts@charlotteobserver.com or in the comments.