Laura Kennedy | WGLT

Laura Kennedy

Features Reporter/All Things Considered Host

Reporter, content producer and All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. Presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.

Astonishingly pale and a tad goth, Kennedy tends to sizzle if left in the sun too long.

In her spare time Kennedy nurtures her worrisome passion for cashmere, plays zither in her imaginary garage band, Dowager Hump, and sits slack-jawed in front of the television watching Turner Classic Movies.

Ways to Connect

Samba Gadjigo

  The 2016 Illinois Wesleyan University Film Festival highlights the work of one of Africa's most admired filmmakers and authors, Ousmane Sembene.

The first African filmmaker to achieve international success, Sembene is the subject of a new critically-acclaimed  documentary, which is also showing at the festival.  Samba Gadjigo is the co-producer of the documentary, and he noted that Sembene first influenced him when he was still in high school.  When Gadjigo read one of Sembene's novels, he discovered a voice that insisted on telling stories of real Africans.

Candace Lindemann / Flickr via Creative Commons

An Illinois State University alumnus is bringing a little Disney magic to campus.  

Christopher Chapman works as the Global Creativity & Innovation Director for Disney. He's returned to campus this week to be inducted into the College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame and meet with students to discuss his time at Illinois State University as an art major, plus how he forged his career path in art and design for Disney.  

Indy-Pendence Service Dog Organization

For thousands of years, mankind has trained dogs for all sorts of useful service from herding livestock to guarding security zones.  More recently, dogs have been trained to help those with disabilities or health issues, enhancing  independence with their reliable assistance.  Laura Kennedy has more on this edition of Animal House about a central Illinois group that is training dogs for a better future.

*Steven Wright and Marie Koch are president and vice president of Indy-Pendence Service Dog Organization at Illinois State University.

Midwest Institute of Opera

Two Twin Cities arts organizations are uniting for a performance of an opera that has it all -- love, hate and everything in between.  And they manage to get it all in in just one act.  Laura Kennedy has more in this edition of the GLT Datebook.

*"Cavalleria Rusticana" is a one-act wonder that's full of passion and excitement and was composed by Pietro Mascagni in 1890.

advencap / Flickr via Creative Commons

Tomato season is fast approaching!   Let's start thinking about starts and which ones you should put in your garden.  Lee  and Nick from Wendell Niepagen's Greenhouses and Garden Center stopped by the GLT studios to chat with Murph and Laura about some new tomatoes to try.  Plus, they share some care tips to ensure a great crop of 'maters.

*Lee says there's 80 varieties of tomatoes at Niepagen's.

Steven Gerner / Flickr via Creative Commons

A classic and popular festival from India is being held in the Twin Cities this weekend for the very first time. Laura Kennedy has more on the festival where colors fly and the music never stops.

*Vinod Nambiar and Leyons Philip are the organizers of the first-ever Festival of Colors in the Twin Cities.

*It's meant to celebrate spring, featuring the colors of the flowers that are just now beginning to emerge.

Cyndee Brown / ISU Theater

 The hot topic of child immigration takes center stage in a play that takes reality and spins a web of fantasy around it. Illinois State University theater professor Cyndee Brown is the director of Bocon!, and talks about how fantasy can be a great way to explore troubling current events.

*The young hero of the play is forced to become on of the many unaccompanied minors who are fleeing their native land and heading to a new life in the United States.

Natural Resources Conservation / Flickr via Creative Commons

One of  the most important elements of a great yard and garden is healthy soil.  In this edition of GLT's Grow, host Patrick Murphy talks about the different types of soil and why you should get your soil tested to better understand how it can work best for you.

*Soil has orders, similar to the genus in species in all living creatures.

* The U.S. Department of Agriculture has an organization called The Natural Resource Soil Conservation Service, which surveys soil across America. 

Sharon ShareAlike

The Illinois State University Charity Drag Show comes of age this year.  The 18th annual show is sponsored by ISU PRIDE and benefits Project Oz.  The organizer and emcee of the show is local drag legend, Sharon ShareAlike, who will share (appropriately) the stage with a variety of drag queens, plus one king, and a member of drag royalty, who was a popular contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race.

Sam Howitz / Flickr via Creative Commons

A nationally recognized expert on comic books is appearing at Illinois State University to deliver a lecture that exposes the dubious research of a fierce arch enemy of comics.  Wonder Woman fan Laura Kennedy talked with Dr. Carol Tilley, the researcher who has been dubbed The Comic Book Crusader.

*Dr. Tilly examined the research of mid-20th century psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, whose research with young children seemed to indicate that comic books were having a bad influence on kids.

Doc Searls / Flickr via Creative Commons

You likely have a first aid kit in your home for yourself and your family.  So how about one for your pets, too?  It's a good idea, but you've got to put some thought into what you'll include.  Dr. Matt Fraker from Prairie Oak Veterinary Center in Normal has some suggestions to help you help your pet.

*The most important item in your pet's first aid kit is your veterinarians' phone number.  If you're at all unsure about a health issue with your pet, first call your vet for advice.

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

The very first exclusive survey of the video work by acclaimed artist and Illinois State University graduate Terry Adkins is on view at the University Galleries in Normal. 

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

A high school art teacher searching for a way to break down barriers between herself and her students has found a way to better understand the teenagers she teaches, and also give the students a unique way to express themselves. The resulting works are currently on display in downtown Bloomington.

*Bloomington High School teacher Monica Estabrook wanted to get to know her students better, so she took a black and white portrait of each student and then asked them to embellish the photos any way they liked, using any media they wanted.

Staff / WGLT

Local visual artists have a unique opportunity to circumvent the usual distance between artist and critic in a unique piece of performance art at the University Galleries in Uptown Normal.  Acclaimed art critic Lori Waxman is offering central Illinois artists the chance to have their work reviewed as part of 60 WRD/MIN Art Critic.

SPUR / Flickr via Creative Commons

Whether you're short on yard space or just looking for a way to give back to your town, a community garden could be a great fit for you.

*Grow host Patrick Murphy said most community gardens are for growing all sorts of edibles.  Fruits and veggies are very popular.

*Community gardens can be private, some are public.  

*There's some simple etiquette to participating in a community garden:  you've got to work to reap the benefits of the garden's harvest.

Ralph Weisheit

High School holds more potential than studying, proms and zits.  Joining the high school jazz band can help students learn lessons not found in the classroom.  Twin Cities teens have practiced, practiced, practiced, and now they're taking the stage at Normal Community West High School for Jazz Night.  Jazz Director Ryan Budzinski  previews the upcoming concert.

*Jazz Night is Friday, March 11th at NCWHS.  The music starts at 5:30 PM.

*In addition to Normal West, the Parkside and Kingsley Junior High and NCHS bands will be performing.

oatsy40 / Flickr via Creative Commons

You can make the world a more beautiful place, honor a loved one or organization or help create a living laboratory by taking part in a donor tree program.  Patrick Murphy talks about the Illinois State University Donor Tree Program, and how you can find a donor tree program near you to put some roots in the ground and make the future a little greener.

*There are donor tree programs everywhere.  The National Arbor Day Foundation has suggestions.

*Universities and municipalities and churches have these programs.

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

The McLean County Museum of History invites you to make yourself at home in their new permanent exhibition, Making a Home.

*The exhibit is the first new exhibit at the museum in 24 years, and serves as the foundation for its interactive and student programs and public education.

*Making a Home explores the lives and experiences of those who settled in McLean County over several centuries, including Irish, German, Asian and Mexican immigrants, plus Native American tribes.

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

It can be Shark Week all year long at your house if you add a freshwater shark to your fish tank.  And you won't need a bigger boat with the freshwater shark. These small cousins to the ocean-going variety bring the shark sensibility to your aquarium, without the danger.

*Fresh water sharks are actually a sort of catfish bottom feeder.  

*They can be territorial to other shark species.  

*If the tank is not crowded and there's plenty of food for all, the shark is sweet and easy-going.

*They can live for up to five years and come in many colors.

Miller Park Zoological Society

A venerable fun run in aid of the Miller Park Zoological Society has a unique twist to add to the excitement of the event.  

  

  *This is the 19th annual Stampede to raise funds for the Miller Park Zoological Society.

*New trophies this year are glass jars that contain paintings done by animals at the zoo.

*It's a 5K run, 3K walk and a Fun Run for the kids.

*Money raised will aid the zoo and its animals and programs.

*For the very first times, part of the fun run course goes right through Miller Park Zoo.  

Karen Roe / Flickr via Creative Commons

You can randomly stick some plants in the ground and call it a garden, but you can't call it a design.  Planning and designing a yard is not just for the pros. Grow host Patrick Murphy has seven steps to a well-designed garden that will be the envy of your neighborhood.

*Measure your yard and put that on paper or into a garden plan app.

*Designate public and private areas.

*Record traffic patterns around your yard.

*Keep in mind the various views.

*Organize areas within traffic patterns.

University of Illinois Press

In 1939, the 12th Academy Awards honored a talented young songwriter with an award for Best Original Song. It was Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz.  While history has made that song immortal, the composer's name is hardly known today.  Writer Walter Rimler hopes his new biography  will bring the spotlight back on the deserving and neglected  Harold Arlen.

*Biographer Walter Rimler said that it was because Arlen worked in Hollywood, rather than on Broadway that he's not as well known today as his contemporaries.

Sound of Illinois

The Sound of Illinois Chorus is hosting a concert this weekend at the BCPA.  For 74 years, the barbershop chorus has maintained strong harmony.  On the eve of their diamond anniversary, members of the group say the current popularity of a cappella  singing is helping to bring barbershop back into the musical mainstream.

Leo Hidalgo / Flickr via Creative Commons

The age old battle between students and teachers will be played out on the basketball court of Bloomington Junior High next week.  It's all in fun, and in a good cause.

*Lynn Shook, BJHS Vice Principal, says the fundraiser is for Easter Seals.

*The boys and girls basketball team will compete against the staff and teachers, but they'll also get a lesson in giving back to the community.

*In order to be eligible to play, team members are asked to volunteer time at Easter Seal's  Timer Pointe camp.

Pandatea Art / Flickr via Creative Commons

You've grown vegetables, fruits, and flowers, so now how about a nice cup of tea?  Patrick Murphy, host of GLT's Grow, has advice for Kevin in Bloomington about the right plants for tea leaves.

*Murph has some good news and some bad news when it comes to growing tea:  It's tough to grow tea plants, especially in Zone 5, but if you succeed, you'll savor every cup.

*Tea plants love consistency, which you can't count on in Zone 5.

Mark Gray / Flickr via Creative Commons

The 88th Academy Awards is coming up next week. There'll be celebrities in designer duds, splashy production numbers...and, once again this year, there'll be controversy.  ISU's Shari Zeck analyzes the Academy's issues with race, and speculates on who might take home an Oscar this year.

* Shari Zeck says The Academy is just a big club and that its demographics stack the odds against minorities getting nominated for the Oscar.

*The Oscar telecast is the granddaddy of all award shows and has a higher measure of glamor than any other award show.

Maja Dumat / Flickr via Creative Commons

A troubling problem among animal rescue groups is challenging them to overcome a particular prejudice that can have deadly consequences for animals up for adoption. Learn more in our regular series, Animal House.

Spyropk / Wikimedia Commons

The American Red Cross is calling upon a man of action to help them with their Evening of Stars fundraiser:  Captain "Sully" Sullenberger. Laura Kennedy has more in this GLT Datebook.

Peter O'Connor / Flickr via Creative Commons

There's no doubt that logs are utilitarian, but they can also add an artistic touch to your yard.  Patrick Murphy explores the artistic side of logs.

*Using logs as art is a great way to use the whole tree.  

*Some of the best trees to use for log art include oaks, sugar maple and other hard wood trees.  

*Another thing to look for are logs with interesting bark, like birch and pecan.  

*Let the log dry out first, then shellac to preserve it.

*Try making tomato racks out of bamboo canes.

A Genius Divided

Feb 12, 2016
Walter Rimler / Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts

A new biography of George Gershwin highlights the life of one the most important figures in American music.  Author Walter Rimler's book reveals a man torn between two worlds of music.

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