[Floods in Chicago and art criticism]

Saturday, October 23, 1954

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Seldes recalls visiting Chicago during the flooding that occurred there. Long before, the river had been forced to flow in the wrong direction and carry waste, so there was a risk that by reversing the flow the city's water would be contaminated. He tells the story of one man who had to decide if he would let the Chicago river flow in its natural direction into Lake Michigan. The man shows to "throw the lever." No contamination occurred thanks to precautions. The man stated, after the event, that he wished he had never had to make this decision.

Seldes goes on to describe visiting "that frightening city" and attending the new exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. He notes that the major prize winners were experimental. These works made the Moderns seem old fashioned. He briefly talks about the efforts of Picasso.

He moves on to discuss art duplication - in magazines, for example, and the violent emotion this draws out.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 71494
Municipal archives id: LT3114

Hosted by:

Gilbert Seldes


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About Lively Arts, The

Legendary critic and author of The Seven Lively Arts Gilbert Seldes discusses big-thinking issues in art and life from his characteristically populist perspective.

Simultaneously a timely and visionary program, Gilbert Seldes's The Lively Arts (1953-1956) examines contemporary issues of 1950s television, radio, and theater, as well as current events and the intellectual arts. Seldes, who was the first Director for Television at CBS News and the founding Dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, was also a renowned critic, author, playwright, and editor. As a major social critic and observer, Seldes viewed theater, television, and radio with a prescient eye to the future based on a well-informed understanding of the past. 

These programs feature commentary and discussion on a wide range of topics — from sex and censorship in the movies to progressive education to juvenile delinquency to political campaigning on television — many of which are still hotly debated today. Serving as a precursor to Seldes's television programs and providing an audio context for his seminal books, this show is key to understanding today's cultural commentary.


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