Announcer: This program was made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.
I play Hermes, messenger to the gods, in the Tony Award-winning for best musical Broadway Show "Hadestown."
♪ I am the guy who won his first Tony at age 73.
I was not surprised that it took 7 decades for me to arrive at this particular zenith in my career.
This simply means there are many more golden steps for me to take on my journey.
I've only begun.
♪ Hi, everyone.
This is "Beyond the Canvas" from "The PBS Newshour."
I'm Amna Nawaz Tonight it is all about the innovators.
Now you just heard from award-winning actor André De Shields, star of the hit Broadway musical "Hadestown" in which he plays the Greek god Hermes, and his performance has captivated audiences in New York and beyond since 2019.
Also tonight, you'll hear from chef and content creator Joanne Lee Molinaro, groundbreaking comedian Ziwe, musician and singer Arooj Aftab, and architect Julie Bargmann.
Each of these artists has brought something new to their artform, whether they're making space for conversations about racism through comedy or creating vegan versions of traditional Korean dishes.
It is their innovation that challenges expectations, breaks down barriers, and moves us all forward.
Now the people you're about to meet were first featured on "The PBS Newshour."
Tonight, you'll meet them on a new canvas and maybe see them and their work through a different lens right here on "Beyond the Canvas."
Now back to this brief but spectacular take from André De Shields.
De Shields: I made a vow to myself that if I was going to have any personal success in life the first thing I had to do was make education my beacon, to master the language of those who would oppress me.
So that I could always understand what was being said to me and about me and I could always make myself understood.
I'm a hard-working Black man.
All audiences enjoy hard-working Black men.
Drop on your knee, sweat a little, smile.
♪ But the legacy that I'm creating, the legacy that I want people to embrace is Black man majesty.
There isn't enough of it in the world.
It got smothered... ♪ During enslavement.
It's time for it... to come back.
[Cheering and applause] My name is André De Shields, and this is my brief but spectacular take on living my most authentic life.
Like De Shields, Arooj Aftab is finding innovative ways to pull from her own culture and past but pave her own way into the future.
An experimental musician from Pakistan, Aftab brings a creative twist to the traditional Sufi music tradition.
She incorporates synthesizers and jazz music into her work, creating a new genre she calls neo-Sufi music.
"PBS Newshour" special correspondent Tom Casciato spoke with Aftab abut giving new life to an old artform.
[Singing in Urdu] ♪ Casciato: Arooj Aftab recently debuted work from her latest album at a concert at Brooklyn's Pioneer Works.
Her compositions are personal, her performance intimate, but it was far from a solo effort.
♪ Aftab: The way that I like to kind of produce this music is leaving space for the band.
We're all involved in telling a story from the moment the song starts until the very end.
Casciato: Still, the band is executing a vision of which she is in command.
Aftab: To even actually conceptualize a band like that is a creative work.
♪ Especially a singer-composer who doesn't actively play an instrument, there is this sentiment in the industry of, like, kind of discrediting women for the work that they do.
You have to kind of overstate that you're not just a singer.
You are also the composer, you're also the producer, you're also the arranger.
Casciato: She's also unwilling to let others define her.
♪ She sings mostly in Urdu, her lyrics drawn from poetry often centuries old.
Her music draws from seemingly everywhere.
For example, she'll bring nontraditional instruments like synthesizer and lever harp to a traditional South Asian poetic form like the ghazal.
She's even given her style its own name, neo-Sufi.
♪ Aftab: It's not South Asian classical music, like, fused with jazz.
It's like--it's living in its own world of, like, a marriage of many roots and heritages, so I was kind of like "I need to, like, name this right now," you know?
Take ahold of it.
Casciato: Writing of her recent album "Vulture Prince," the music site Pitchfork said she has "as much a claim to the Western traditions "of jazz and experimental electronica "as to the folk and classical music of her homeland."
The album is dedicated to her younger brother Maher, who passed away in 2018.
Aftab: When it's a younger sibling, it's almost like you're kind of-- if they're young enough, you know, you kind of raised them, too, so it's like such a weird-- it's, like, a weird sort of loss.
♪ Casciato: Her loss and her art converge in a composition called "Diya Hai," its lyrics derived from a poem by the popular 19th century Indian poet Mirza Ghalib.
♪ [Singing in Urdu] Aftab: And I loved the poem itself, but it took me a really long time to actually, like, make it mine.
♪ When I was workshopping it and trying to figure it out, like, I was in Pakistan, I was hanging out with Maher, and so it's the last thing that I really sang to him, and so that kind of felt important to me that I should really just, like, figure it out and put it in the record.
♪ Casciato: There was a time as a teenager in Lahore, Pakistan, when it looked like she would never make a record.
Accepted to Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music, Aftab moved to the States in 2005.
She kept at her goal of becoming a professional musician but got her degree in music production and engineering.
Aftab says for her next album she'd like to explore the writings of a medieval Indian ruler and warrior called Chand Bibi.
Aftab: She was one of the only and first female, feminist, warrior, politician badass, who, like, released an anthology of poems.
I like the fact that her work has never been put to song.
And do you relate to feminist badass warriors?
I think so.
I think that, you know, we all probably came from her.
Casciato: Maybe that's where Arooj Aftab came from.
Where she's taking her audience is somewhere new.
I'm Tom Casciato for "The PBS Newshour" in Brooklyn, New York.
[Singing in Urdu] ♪ Next, another artist who is revisiting the past for a better future.
For over 25 years, landscape architect Julie Bargmann and her team have taken polluted and deserted sites and transformed them into beautiful landscapes and community spaces.
She is now the first ever recipient of the International Landscape Architecture Prize.
"PBS Newshour's" chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown learned how Bargmann reimagines and revitalizes the spaces all around us all across the United States.
Brown: Orange, polluted streams, bare trees and riverbanks, an abandoned coal mine in Vintondale, Pennsylvania.
An ugly wasteland, right?
Landscape architect Julie Bargmann saw more.
It's just not a lump of toxic stuff.
It's a story.
I find that that's where I go.
I want to tell the past in order to project something for the future.
Brown: Bargmann has strong views and a sense of humor.
She named her professional studio D.I.R.T.
for Dump it Right There, and she happily embraces one nickname-- the Queen of Slag, a leftover byproduct from the mining of metals.
If I could make a crown out of slag, I'd be very happy.
I mean, I think it's a recognition of the industrial territory that I ventured into.
Brown: Now she's the first ever recipient of an international landscape architecture prize given to honor her work as a designer, educator, and activist in addressing abandoned toxic, industrial, and urban sites.
Bargmann lives and works in Charlottesville, Virginia, and has taught at the University of Virginia for 25 years.
She often takes her architecture students to scummy toxic sites most have never experienced before, but it all began for her in a very different landscape as a child in New Jersey.
She remembers looking out the window of her parents' car in wonder at a vast, smoke-filled industrial scene.
Bargmann: It was a landscape that I was surrounded by, the refineries.
In essence, they felt like home, and they felt like a landscape that, unbeknownst to me at that early age, would eventually work with.
Brown: The Cultural Landscape Foundation cites Vintondale, as well as 3 more recent projects-- Turtle Creek Water Works in Dallas, a sustainable garden space in the remains of an industrial pump station active in the 1920s; the Philadelphia headquarters of clothing retailer Urban Outfitters at a decommissioned navy yard for which Bargmann created a 15-acre campus, including reusing on-site demolition debris; and Core City Park in Detroit, where Bargmann worked with a local developer to turn an unused parking lot into a community space and urban woodland.
As always, she incorporated components of its past, a fire station dating to the 1800s.
Bargmann: There were such simple means of revealing the earth, which was a former engine house, as paving, and then these trees coming up out of it.
I mean, there was a big cornerstone of the engine house that said, "1893."
Now a lot of people might have put that on a plaque, like, really made it fancy pants, you know, but instead, I said, "Dump it right there."
I put--I said, "Just put it on the ground.
Just make it go back to work."
Brown: That is the continuity of work a site has seen and the continuity of the life of people in and around it.
"These sites," she says, were once productive.
Now let's keep them productive in a new way."
When you think back to that young girl looking out the window at the industrial landscapes in New Jersey to now, has it been rewarding work for you?
Love it, love it, love it.
I am just so happy that for whatever reason I followed my instinct.
It's pretty fun, you know, to be a bit of a pioneer and just-- and experiencing these amazing, sublime landscapes.
So fulfilling, so fulfilling.
Brown: Julie Bargmann has now embarked on what she calls D.I.R.T.
2.0, focused on regenerating currently underused spaces in depopulated cities.
For "The PBS Newshour," I'm Jeffrey Brown.
Up next is comedian Ziwe, who found groundbreaking ways to engage audiences in difficult but necessary conversations about race and racism.
In the summer of 2020 at the peak of the Black Lives Matter protests, Ziwe brought her craft to Instagram Live.
Across the United States and the world, audiences tuned in to hear Ziwe's probing questions and then stuck around each week to see how guests would handle them.
I spoke with Ziwe last year about her series, how it led her to even bigger things, and how she's redefining what comedy can do.
What bothers you more-- slow walkers or racism?
That's a real question?
Nawaz: Interviews you can't look away from... Amazing, love it.
Could we perhaps... make it Blacker?
Nawaz: skits with an unflinching eye, and songs you won't soon forget... Ziwe: ♪ Your wealth trickled down ♪ ♪ Your money hit the floor ♪ Nawaz: all brought to you by... Hi.
Nawaz: in her new, self-titled comedy program on Showtime.
I've been doing this art for 6 or 7 years, and to-- and no one cared, no one watched these videos, no one shared my clips.
It's honestly surreal to see these dreams sort of realized.
Nawaz: 29-year-old comedian Ziwe made a name for herself with a provocative interview style.
Under what circumstances would Black people look alike?
If they were wearing masks.
The answer is families.
In families, black people look alike.
Don't you think Black people have families?
Yes, you don't think Black people have families?
Announcer, deep voice: Baited!
Nawaz: Last year, stuck at home in the pandemic, she took her craft to Instagram Live, interviewing pop culture voices like playwright Jeremy O. Harris and actor and activist Alyssa Milano.
This is the first time I've ever gone live.
Through a series of direct questions on race, Ziwe elicited some illuminating answers.
I don't know who that is.
I don't know who that is.
Black Lives Matter!
Nawaz: As America was gripped by nationwide calls for racial justice, Ziwe's work caught on.
Hundreds of thousands tuned in.
Do you think that these conversations resonated in a certain way, caught on the way they did because of what we were going through as a country?
So I think that the racial uprisings of 2020 really allowed discussing race to be at the forefront of American media, and so that opened people up to having these really intense conversations that ultimately are long overdue.
What makes a good conversation for you?
I think ultimately it has to be funny.
I want people to laugh because I'm a professional comedian, but as far as the actual, like-- the depth of the conversation, all I'm looking for is vulnerability and honesty because there's nothing that we can manufacture that is as vital as just everyone putting their cards on the table.
Nawaz: Among her guests some who'd been publicly condemned for controversial comments... How are you doing?
I'm--honestly, I'm really nervous.
Like food writer Alison Roman, formerly of "Bon Appétit" and the "New York Times," who faced a massive backlash for insulting Marie Kondo, the decluttering guru, and Chrissy Teigen, former model turned lifestyle mogul, both of whom are Asian.
Now can you name 5 Asian people?
Ziwe, voice-over: Alison Roman is not an anomaly, so I think instead of villainizing her in particular it's better to really talk about the society and the constructs which--that allow us to talk about race in this way.
And one of the questions you ask her, which is something you ask a lot of your guests, is how many Black friends to you have?
I have, like...
I would say 4-5 Black friends that would pick me up at the airport.
You are the third person to say they have 4-5 Black friends in the last week to me.
Why is that a revealing question to you?
Ultimately, there is no right answer, and that's intentional, right?
That sort of inability to win really sets the stage for a really compelling conversation about race because suddenly any response that you give is not only wrong, but it just is more reflective over your inner ideas and inner monologue.
Nawaz: Ziwe's own experiences with racism inform her work today.
I am a Black woman.
I have had people confronting me about race since I was old enough to speak.
I've definitely been at many a party where someone starts bringing up their black friend out of nowhere, and you're looking around like, "Wait, sir.
Um, I just met you.
"Why are you talking about this?
"Why are you touching my hair?
Why are you calling me chocolate?"
And so thinking about these conversations as people of color that we have all of our lives, I'm just bringing this life experience, this absurdity around race to the screen.
Nawaz: Ziwe hopes her show will open doors for new voices in the industry.
I see comedy as a microcosm of the real world.
A lot of spaces with any sort of power are dominated by white men.
A lot of the people I have on my show are first-time writers, first-time producers, and so I was really interested in employing and elevating those voices that maybe have been looked aside at-- or been looked over in history.
Nawaz: You can watch or stream Ziwe's show "Ziwe" on Showtime.
♪ Our final innovator is Joanne Lee Molinaro, better known as the Korean Vegan.
Like Ziwe, she's also using social media to lead important conversations about culture, this time with a focus on her Korean family's refugee history.
On TikTok, Molinaro shares stories from her childhood all while crafting vegan adaptations of popular Korean dishes.
"PBS Newshour's" chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown spoke to Molinaro about her family's story and how it influenced the food she makes today.
Molinaro: This is my grandmother, who taught me how to tie my shoes, who taught me how to swing while standing up, who taught me this very gimbap recipe I'm making right now.
Brown: It's not your typical cooking tutorial.
Joanne Lee Molinaro, AKA the Korean Vegan, does offer up exquisite dishes.
Molinaro: She bundled up her newborn son, tied him to her back, and... Brown: But her popular specialty-- storytime videos that have attracted nearly 4 million followers on social media.
I thought it was a great vehicle to sort of share a little bit of insight in what I hope is a very palatable way, if you will, about the immigrant story in the United States because I think it is a beautiful story, and I think it's one that hopefully can be celebrated.
Brown: Molinaro's stories tell of her grandmother's harrowing escape with her infant son, Joanne's father, from what would soon become North Korea and of her own experience growing up in America, where her family's culture and food weren't always accepted.
We joined her for shopping at a Manhattan H Mart, a Korean grocery chain.
She's not a trained chef.
She is an attorney, working full-time until very recently for a high-powered Chicago firm, but Joanne Lee's life changed when she met and married Anthony Molinaro, who convinced her to go vegan in 2016.
She decided to adapt the food she had grown up with, and social media, Instagram and then TikTok, became her way to reach people with her new passion.
I did see how social media could be used to bring people together, and that's really the point of the Korean Vegan is bring people together, you know, bringing families together, bringing colleagues together, friends together over some really delicious food.
Brown: Now she's collected her stories and recipes into her first cookbook "The Korean Vegan: Reflections and Recipes from Omma's," or Mom's, "Kitchen."
The question that I set out to answer when I started cooking more was, "Well, can-- "is there a way to adjust the ingredients, "the recipes, tweak them here and there "so they still taste like the food I grew up eating "but don't have any animal products in it, is a little bit healthier?"
And that's really how it all started.
So I'm chopping up some carrots right now to add to our tteokbokki, which is-- "Tuck po-kee?"
So tteok means rice cake, which is right here, and bokki is kind of a reference to bokka, which means fried.
A little bit of gochugaru, which is Korean pepper powder.
We've got gochujang, which is the main sauce.
Brown: Then things came together quickly.
Molinaro: So I've made you a bowl, which has the rice, right, because every Korean meal starts with rice, and then we have some braised potatoes or gamja jorim.
We have some dooboo jeon, which is like tofu pancakes, and then we have the star dish that you helped me prepare.
That I--of course-- Expertly helped me prepare.
I stared intently...
while you made it.
And that's why it's gonna taste so good.
The rice cake with spice.
We did a good job.
You did an excellent job, and it turned out perfect.
Brown: And in the family history, there's more.
Like many immigrant families, the Lees didn't speak much of the past, and only as an adult did Molinaro learn some of what her parents had experienced as children in the aftermath of the Korean War as when her mother one day exclaimed that her favorite food is baked sweet potato because it had sustained her as a refugee living in South Korea.
I was like, "I've literally never heard you say "the word 'refugee' in my life before.
What do you mean you were one?"
She said, "Oh, I was born in North Korea."
Ha ha ha!
What's the larger story that you're telling us through these videos?
I really wanted to honor my parents through these stories.
That is--I think, like, my heart's passion is sharing the stories of my mom and dad and making them feel like their stories matter.
The more hate crimes that are prosecuted and result in conviction, the harder it becomes for lawmakers to ignore the underlying cause of hate crimes.
Brown: She's also ready and willing to mix it up, pushing back hard when she sees anything smacking of bias against Koreans or Asian Americans generally.
I still feel that some people look at me, they look at my food, they look at my hair color, they look at the shape of my eyes and say, "Foreigner.
She's not American."
You know, I've been told so many times "Go back home to where you came from."
Well, that's Chicago, Illinois.
Ha ha ha!
I was born and raised there.
So there is that sort of thing that I still have to contend with, I feel like, and on the other side of that is, you know, this mainstream acceptance of, you know, "Squid Game."
Everybody's talking about "Squid Game"... Of course.
The Korean drama.
I love that.
I think what I'm trying to convey is I am American, these are the foods that I eat.
You're saying this is an American food.
For me, it is because I'm Korean American, and I made this food, and this is what we ate in America.
In Chicago, Illinois.
In Chicago, Illinois.
Brown, voice-over: And now with a Korean Vegan twist.
For "The PBS Newshour," I'm Jeffrey Brown.
Molinaro and each of the artists we featured tonight are true innovators.
They're taking the sights, the sounds, even the tastes of the past and reimagining what they can be today.
It's groundbreaking work that changes how we see the world now and how we'll continue to see it for years to come.
Tell us what you think about what you've seen.
Join the conversation on our web site.
That's pbs.org/canvas, and find more "Canvas" arts stories on "The PBS Newshour."
I'm Amna Nawaz.
For all of us at "The PBS Newshour," thanks for joining me here on "Beyond the Canvas."
We'll see you soon.
Coming up on "Beyond the Canvas," Peyton Scott Russell, who painted the iconic mural of George Floyd in Minneapolis, is one of the extraordinary artists we focus on next time.
Russell: I painted it for the community.
That's what really street art is all about.
Riz Ahmed: It's in English, its in Urdu.
It's an acting piece and a rapping piece.
The movements are born from the music.
Photography became my anchor.
Man: The stories of people of African descent are part of this Revolutionary story.
♪ Whoo ♪ ♪ ♪ Whoo ♪ ♪ ♪ Whoo ♪ ♪ ♪ Whoo ♪ ♪ Announcer: This program was made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.