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

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.

Jeff Golden / Flickr via Creative Commons

Love is in the air as Valentine's Day approaches. The Illinois State University School of Theater is getting into the spirit of things with a new production of  Shakespeare's  Romeo and Juliet.  Not only is it one of The Bard's most popular plays, it's also delightfully quotable, as director Kevin Rich explains.

Luke Wellman / Soundsations-Photos

Alex Wellman recently earned a silver medal in the intermediate men's level at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota.  As a member of the Central Illinois Figure Skating Club, Wellman began his career just a handful of years ago and is already achieving great success.

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

Illinois State University celebrates the work of its own with an exhibition at the University Galleries in Uptown Normal.  Check out the slide show of works featured on this episode of the GLT Datebook.

Kate Fries / Flickr via Creative Commons

What important role did the Empress Josephine have in the history of rose culture?  Before you hand over a bouquet of roses to your loved one this Valentine's Day, let Murph fill you in on the fun details, plus the particular needs of this most popular of flowers.

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

You know that old chair or rusty lawnmower by the side of the road that you  passed by?  Well, you may have missed the potential that artist Doug DeWitt thrives on.  DeWitt uses found objects to create original sculptural compositions, and his work is currently on display at the McLean County Arts Center.

minntz / Flickr via Creative Commons

You want your home to be a comfortable, welcoming place.  Well, it can be hard to achieve that if the place reeks of cat pee...or dog poo...or barf.  But don't despair -- there's plenty you can do about it!

Joe King / Flickr via Creative Commons

Polish up that bowling ball to aid a local nonprofit organization that helps folks of all ages who have developmental disabilities!

Liz West / Flickr via Creative Commons

Larry in Shirley, IL needs advice on when he should trim his apple trees, and Murph is ready with a time table.


Laura Kennedy / WGLT

Time, light and nature figure prominently in Melanie Scott-Dockery's work.  The artist is showing an exhibition entitled "Then and Now" at the Joe McCauley Art Gallery at Heartland Community College.  Though her work is continually evolving, Scott-Dockery relies on one constant:   the ever-changing landscape in her own yard.

Ann Rosenquist Fee

A new stage show depicts the disintegration of a musical marriage.  Terri Ryburn is co-producing the live show, as well as filming it for the silver screen.

Sonny Abesamis / Flickr via Creative Commons

You can be the ruler of your own little world by creating a terrarium.  And according to Patrick Murphy, host of GLT's Grow, it's easy to create.

Joel Gillman / Flickr via Creative Commons

Admit it.  You like to do it.  Probably more than you should. And why not?  Increasingly, viewers are taking greater control of their entertainment consumption and indulging in binge watching.

Rhona-Mae Arca / Flickr via Creative Commons

One of the most common ailments our pets can suffer from is arthritis.  When our furry friends are in pain, it's tempting to just rush right in with pills to deal with it.  But there are other solutions at hand that don't come with the possible side effects of drugs.