TODAY HILTON ALS GUEST HOSTED STUDIO 360, the public radio program about the arts and the people who are shaping our culture. Filling in for regular host Kurt Andersen, the New Yorker critic took full advantage of the opportunity, delivering engaging conversations with three groundbreaking women in the arts.


toni morrison (horizontal) princeton
Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison


Als spent the hour talking with Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison; Thelma Golden, director and chief curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem; and Khandi Alexander, who powerfully portrays the ruthless mother of Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope character on “Scandal.” Intimate, thoughtful and revealing, the compelling conversations will draw you in, earning your rapt attention until they regretfully conclude.


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An early riser, Toni Morrison says she gets up before the light to write. “I’m really smart in the morning,” she tells Als. The author of 10 novels and recipient of many honors including the Pulitzer Prize (for “Beloved”) and the Nobel Prize for Literature, Morrison was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2012. She talks about her late son, whose paintings hang in her bedroom; the wisdom and work ethic of her late father; and how her male characters, who love and are loved back, differ from those of Baldwin, Ellison and Wright. Morrison says “I don’t really like it around here if I don’t have something to write.” Now 83, she just delivered her latest forthcoming book to her publisher.

“I don’t really like it around here if I don’t have something to write.”
— Toni Morrison, Studio 360

Over the past two decades, Thelma Golden has earned an increasingly influential role in the art world. The first black curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, her seminal exhibition, “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art,” jumpstarted a transformative conversation about race and art in 1994. Today, she is director and chief curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, which has been presenting the work of black artists since 1968. With Als, Golden talks at length about her upbringing. Raised in Queens, she frequented Harlem where her father grew up. He was an insurance broker and she recalls answering the phone in his office when she was a teenager and how much she admired Roxy Roker’s character on “The Jeffersons” because her chic apartment was decorated with African art and she was always on her way to Lincoln Center. Golden’s parents regularly exposed her to the arts, museums and intellectual pursuits, experiences that she says culminated in a clear path for her decision to become an art curator.


A multifaceted actor whose made her mark in theater, film and television, Khandi Alexander began her career as a dancer and choreographer for Whitney Houston. Her early comedy turn on TV’s “NewsRadio” gave rise to dramatic, unforgettable roles on “CSI: Miami,” “Treme” and “Scandal.” (The season four premiere of “Scandal” was last night.) When Als asks if acting opportunities for black women are changing, Alexander says “thank God” for Shondaland. She adds that it’s “outrageously wonderful” to drive down Hollywood Boulevard and encounter a huge billboard featuring Kerry Washington and a few blocks later to see another boasting an image of Viola Davis, advertising her new show “How to Get Away With Murder.” CT


IMAGE: Toni Morrison | Courtesy Princeton University


“Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art” accompanied the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition curated by Golden. “Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem” features a conversation among Thelma Golden, curator Connie Choi, and art historian Kellie Jones. Including “God Help the Child,” Toni Morrison has authored 11 novels and many other books.


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