When the Beatles Refused to Play Before Segregated Audiences on Their First U.S. Tour (1964)

When American rock and roll made its way to the UK in the 1950s and 60s, along with a burgeoning folk and blues revival, many young British fans hadn’t been conditioned to think of music in the same way as their U.S. counterparts. “Unlike racially segregated Americans,” for example, “the Beatles didn’t see—or hear—the difference between Elvis and Chuck Berry,” writes Joseph Tirella, “between the Everly Brothers and the Marvelettes.” They also couldn’t see playing to segregated audiences as just one of those social customs one politely observes when touring abroad.

In 1964, at the height of Beatlemania, the band was booked to play Florida’s Gator Bowl in Jacksonville just after a devastating hurricane and months after the introduction of the Civil Rights Act into Congressional deliberations. Major political shifts were happening in the country and would have happened with or without the Beatles taking a stand for integration.

But they took a stand nonetheless and used their celebrity power to show how meaningless the system of Apartheid in the South actually was. It could, in fact, be annulled by fiat should a group with as much leverage as the Fab Four refuse to play along.

The rider for the September 11 concert “explicitly cited the band’s refusal to perform in a segregated facility,” writes Kenneth Womack at Salon. When concert promoters pushed back, John Lennon flatly stated in a press conference, “We never play to segregated audiences, and we aren’t going to start now. I’d sooner lose our appearance money.” Despite storm damage and evacuations, the 32,000-seat stadium had sold out. The Gator Bowl had to relent and desegregate for the evening’s show.

One of the concert’s attendees, historian Dr. Kitty Oliver, who appears in the clip at the top from Ron Howard’s Beatles documentary Eight Days a Week, was a young Beatles fan who hadn’t heard the news about the show desegregating. Determined to go, and saving up enough money to score a seat near the front row, she remembers fearing the atmosphere she would encounter:

At the time, I didn’t know anything about the group’s press conference announcement refusing to perform for an audience where Black patrons would be forcibly segregated from Whites, probably relegated to the worse seats farthest away from the stage and maybe subjected to a threatening atmosphere if they showed up.

Instead, she writes, “the crowd rose, thunderous, in unison, when the Beatles took the stage. Then tunnel vision set in: Eyes glued to the front, I sang along to ‘She loves me, yeah, yeah, yeah…’ full voiced, just as loudly as everyone, all of us lost in the sound.” The band “left behind a legacy that night,” writes Womack, having “stood up to institutional racism and won.” It was not a cause-of-the-moment for them but a deep conviction all four members shared, as Paul McCartney explains above in an interview with reporter Larry Kane, who followed the band on their first American tour.

McCartney had been so moved by the events in Little Rock in 1957 that almost a decade later, he remembered them in his song “Blackbird,” as he explains above. This year, he recalled the band’s stand against segregation in Jacksonville and commented, “I feel sick and angry that here we are, almost 60 years later, and the world is in shock at the horrific scenes of the senseless murder of George Floyd at the hands of police racism, along with the countless others that came before. I want justice for George Floyd’s family, I want justice for all those who have died and suffered. Saying nothing is not an option.” When it came to issues of injustice, even at the height of their fame, the Beatles were willing to say—and, more importantly, do—something about it even if it cost them.

via Salon

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

An Immaculate Copy of Leonardo’s The Last Supper Digitized by Google: View It in High Resolution Online

Romantic poets told us that great art is eternal and transcendent. They also told us everything made by human hands is bound to end in ruin and decay. Both themes were inspired by the rediscovery and renewed fascination for the arts of antiquity in Europe and Egypt. It was a time of renewed appreciation for monumental works of art, which happened to coincide with a period when they came under considerable threat from looters, vandals, and invading armies.

One work of art that appeared on the itinerary of every Grand Touring aristocrat, Leonardo’s da Vinci’s fresco The Last Supper in Milan, was made especially vulnerable when the refectory in which it was painted became an armory and stable for Napoleon’s troops in 1796. The soldiers scratched out the apostles’ eyes and lobbed rocks at the painting. Later, in 1800, Goethe wrote of the room flooding with two feet of water, and the building was also used as a prison.

As every curator and conservationist knows well, grand ideas about art gloss over important details. Art is bound to particular cultures, histories and materials. One of Leonardo’s most influential frescoes during the Renaissance, for example, almost completely melted right after he finished it, due to his insistence on using oils, which he also mixed with tempera in The Last Supper. Just a few decades after that painting’s completion, one Italian writer would describe it as “blurred and colorless compared with what I remember of it when I saw it as a boy.”

Historical decay is one thing. Recent fires at Brazil’s National Museum and Notre Dame served as stark reminders that accidents and poor planning can rob the world of cherished cultural treasures all at once. Institutions have been digitizing their collections with as much detail and precision as possible. For their part, England’s Royal Academy of Arts has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to render several of their most prized works online, including a copy of The Last Supper on canvas, made by Leonardo’s students from his original work.

More than any other contemporary description of the painting, this faithful copy, probably made by artists who worked on the fresco itself, provides art historians “key insights into the long-faded masterwork in Milan,” and lets us see the vivid shades that awed its first viewers. Presented in “Gigapixel clarity,” notes Artnet, the huge digital image with its “ultra high resolution” was “made possible by a proprietary Google camera.” As you zoom in to the tiniest details, facts appear about the painting and its larger, more battered original in Milan.

It is either a “miracle” that The Last Supper has survived, as Áine Cain writes at Business Insider, or the result of an “unending fight” to preserve the work, as Kevin Wong details at Endgadget. Or maybe some mysterious mixture of chance and near-heroic effort. But what has survived is not what Leonardo painted, but rather the best reconstruction to emerge from centuries of destruction and restoration. Get closer than anyone ever could to a facsimile of the original and see details from Leonardo’s work that have left no other trace in history. Explore it here.

via Smithsonian

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


Rewatch Every Episode of The Sopranos with the Talking Sopranos Podcast, Hosted by Michael Imperioli & Steve Schirripa

The Sopranos premiered on January 10, 1999, and television did not change forever — or rather, not right away. Though its treatment of the life of mid-level New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano drew large numbers of dedicated viewers right away, few could have imagined during the show’s eight-year run how completely its success would eventually rewrite the rules of dramatic TV. More than twenty years later, nearly all of us place the beginning of our ongoing televisual “golden age” at the broadcast of The Sopranos‘ first episode. You can hear that epoch-making 50 minutes discussed in depth on the first episode of the new podcast Talking Sopranos (YouTubeAppleSpotify), whose hosts Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa know the series more intimately than most — not least because they were on it.

Fans know Imperioli and Schirripa as Tony’s protégé Christopher Moltisanti and Tony’s brother-in-law Bobby Baccalieri. On Talking Sopranos they “follow the Sopranos series episode by episode giving fans all the inside info, behind the scenes stories and little-known facts that could only come from someone on the inside,” announces the podcast’s description, which also promises “interviews with additional cast members, producers, writers, production crew and special guests.”

Among these voices there is, of course, one sizable absence: star James Gandolfini, Tony Soprano himself, who died in 2013. But it shows promise that, just fourteen episodes in, the podcast has already brought on Edie Falco, who played Tony’s wife Carmela; Robert Iler, their son A.J. Soprano; Jamie-Lynn Sigler, their daughter Meadow Soprano; and Michael Rispoli, the first season’s short-lived Jackie Aprile Sr.

None of these actors would have made their mark on the show without the work of casting directors Georgianne Walken and Sheila Jaffe, who also make an appearance on the podcast, as does co-executive producer and sometime director Henry Bronchtein. You can download Talking Sopranos on its web site, subscribe to it on Apple Podcasts and elsewhere, or even watch it on Youtube. If you’d like to supplement all this with an even greater wealth of detail, pick up a copy of Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall’s book The Sopranos Sessions, an episode-by-episode analysis featuring interviews with figures including series creator David Chase. Never has there been a better time to do a Sopranos re-watch of your own — and if you never watched it in the first place, well, better a couple of decades late than never.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Beastie Boys & Rick Rubin Reunite and Revisit Their Formative Time Together in 1980s NYC

The Beastie Boys’ record-shattering Licensed to Ill is thirty-four years old. This fact might mean nothing to you, or it might mean that you are thirty-four years older than the moment the album came out in November of 1986, and suburban parents around the country, maybe even your parents, freaked out in unison. The album was a stroke of genius from producer Rick Rubin, delivering hip-hop safe for white kids while also giving them permission to be as obnoxious as possible.

Ostensibly a rap record, the first ever to hit number one, Licensed to Ill also rode in on the crest of the mid-80s Satanic Panic. Rubin’s decision to set its exaggeratedly juvenile rhymes to samples of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin made a defiant statement—and bringing in Slayer’s Kerry King to play guitar on “No Sleep till Brooklyn” really rubbed it in. He was simultaneously producing Slayer’s Reign in Blood, and both albums managed to terrify, and appeal to, many of the same people.

Lyrically, Licensed to Ill kept things light and goofy but also amplified some corrosive misogyny and homophobia, for which the band has made amends and apologies over the years. Adam Horowitz called their personas on the album “idiot caricatures of ourselves.” Of its first, discarded, title, he says, “it was meant to be a joke about jock frat dudes.” They moved on and moved to L.A., showing very different sides of themselves on follow-up Paul’s Boutique. You’re probably familiar with Rick Rubin’s post-Licensed to Ill career and all-around status as a hip-hop, metal, rock, pop, country, etc. producer.

They hadn’t been in touch in around twenty years when Rubin and surviving Beastie Boys Adam Horowitz and Michael Diamond sat down—over Zoom—recently for the Rubin-hosted Broken Record Podcast. There’s a lot of catching up to do. They start at the very beginning, when the trio was still in high school and Rubin lived in the NYU dorms and occasionally went to classes. From the perspective of their current selves, they realize how strange it was that they hardly knew anything about each other at the time. There are also a few lingering misunderstandings to clear up.

Joining them is Spike Jonze, director of the classic video for “Sabotage” and of the upcoming Beastie Boys Story (trailer above). The film is a “love letter to hip hop’s golden age,” writes Kevin Eg Perry at NME, an “intimate, personal story of their band and 40 years of friendship.” Every Beastie Boys retrospective, and there have been a few lately, is tinged with sadness for the conspicuous absence of Adam Yauch (MCA).

He appears here in spirit and on video, projected on a giant screen behind Horowitz and Diamond onstage in the live storytelling event filmed by Jonze. “They’re frank about the shittiness of some of their past behavior,” Perry notes, like firing founding member Kate Schellenbach because she didn’t fit their new tough-guy act. It’s a grown-up perspective that will surprise no one who has followed the course of their creative and personal evolutions.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Milton Glaser (RIP) Explains Why We Must Overcome the Fear of Failure, Take Risks & Discover Our True Potential

Milton Glaser died last week at the age of 91, a long life that included decade upon decade as the best-known name in graphic design. Within the profession he became as well-known as several of his designs did in the wider world: the Bob Dylan poster, logos for companies like DC Comics, the Glaser Stencil font, and above all  I ❤ NY. Glaser may have become an icon, but he didn’t become a brand — “one of my most despised words,” he says in the interview clip above. He also acknowledges that specialization, “having something no one else has,” is the sine qua non of “financial success and notoriety.” But “the consequence of specialization and success is that it hurts you. It hurts you because it basically doesn’t aid in your development.” When we succeed we usually do so because people come to rely on us to do one particular thing, and to do it well — in other words, never to fail at it.

But as Glaser reminds us, “development comes from failure. People begin to get better when they fail.” As an example of development through failure he holds up Pablo Picasso: “Whenever Picasso learned how to do something, he abandoned it, and as a result of that, in terms of his development as an artist, the results were extraordinary.”

We may, of course, question the relevance of this comparison, since many would describe Picasso as an artistic genius, and not a few would cast Glaser himself in similar terms. Surely both of them, each in his own way, inhabited a world apart from the rest of us. And yet, don’t the “the rest of us” wonder from time to about our our own potential for genius? Haven’t we, at times, felt nearly convinced that we could achieve great things if only we weren’t so afraid to try.

Glaser breaks this fear down into constituent threats: the “condemnation of others,” the “criticism of critics and other experts and even your friends and relatives,” the prospect that “you won’t get any more work.” But “the real embarrassing issue about failure is your own acknowledgment that you’re not a genius, that you’re not as good as you thought you were.” We can’t bear to acknowledge “that we really don’t exactly know what we’re doing,” an inescapable reality in the process of self-development. But there is a solution, and in Glaser’s view only one solution: “You must embrace failure, you must admit what is, you must find out what you’re capable of doing and what you’re not capable of doing.” You must “subject yourself to the possibility that you are not as good as you want to be, hope to be, or as others think you are.” And as the famously never-retired Glaser surely knew, you must keep on doing it, no matter how long you’ve been celebrated as a professional, a master, an icon, a genius.

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The Long Game of Creativity: If You Haven’t Created a Masterpiece at 30, You’re Not a Failure

“Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better”: How Samuel Beckett Created the Unlikely Mantra That Inspires Entrepreneurs Today

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Behold Octavia Butler’s Motivational Notes to Self

Handwritten notes on the inside cover of one of Octavia E. Butler’s commonplace books, 1988

I was attracted to science fiction because it was so wide open. I was able to do anything and there were no walls to hem you in and there was no human condition that you were stopped from examining. —Octavia E. Butler

Like many authors, the late Octavia E. Butler took up writing at a young age.

At 11, she was churning out tales about horses and romance.

At 12, she saw Devil Girl from Mars, and figured (correctly) she could tell a better story than that, using 2 fingers to peck out stories on the Remington typewriter her mother bought at her request.

At 13, she found a copy of The Writer magazine abandoned on a bus seat, and learned that it was possible to submit her work for publication.

After a decade’s worth of rejection slips, she sold her first two stories, thanks in part to her association with the Clarion Science Fiction Writing Workshop, which she became involved with on the recommendation of her mentor, science fiction writer Harlan Ellison.

She went on to become the first science fiction writer to receive a prestigious MacArthur “genius” award, garnering multiple Hugo and Nebula awards for her work.

An asteroid is named after her, as is a mountain on Pluto’s moon.

Hailed as the Mother of Afro Futurism, she won the PEN American Center lifetime achievement award in writing.

But professional success never clouded her view of herself as the 10-year-old writer who was unsure if library-loving black kids like her would be allowed inside a bookstore.

Identifying as a writer helped her move beyond her crippling shyness and dyslexia. As she wrote in an autobiographical essay, “Positive Obsession”:

I believed I was ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless. I also thought that everyone would notice these faults if I drew attention to myself. I wanted to disappear. Instead, I grew to be six feet tall. Boys in particular seemed to assume that I had done this growing deliberately and that I should be ridiculed for it as often as possible.

I hid out in a big pink notebook—one that would hold a whole ream of paper. I made myself a universe in it. There I could be a magic horse, a Martian, a telepath….There I could be anywhere but here, any time but now, with any people but these.

She developed a lifelong habit of cheering herself on with motivational notes, writing them in her journals, on lined notebook paper, in day planners and on repurposed pages of an old wall calendar.

She held herself accountable by writing out demanding schedules to accompany her lofty, documented goals.

And though she wearied of the constant invitations to serve on literary panels devoted to science fiction writers of color, at which she’d be asked the same questions she’d answered dozens of times before, she was resolute about providing opportunities for young black writers … and readers, who found reflections of themselves in her characters. As she remarked in an interview with The New York Times

When I began writing science fiction, when I began reading, heck, I wasn’t in any of this stuff I read. The only black people you found were occasional characters or characters who were so feeble-witted that they couldn’t manage anything, anyway. I wrote myself in, since I’m me and I’m here and I’m writing.

Her brand of science fictiona label she often tried to duck, identifying herself on her business card simply as “writer”serves as a lens for considering contemporary issues: sexual violence, gun violence, climate change, gender stereotypes, the problems of late-stage capitalism, the plight of undocumented immigrants, and, not least, racism.

She sidestepped utopian science fiction, believing that imperfect humans are incapable of  forming a perfect society. “Nobody is perfect,” she told Vibe:

One of the things I’ve discovered even with teachers using my books is that people tend to look for ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys,’ which always annoys the hell out of me. I’d be bored to death writing that way. But because that’s the only pattern they have, they try to fit my work into it.

Learn more about the life and work of Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) here.

I shall be a bestselling writer. After Imago, each of my books will be on the bestseller lists of LAT, NYT, PW, WP, etc. My novels will go onto the above lists whether publishers push them hard or not, whether I’m paid a high advance or not, whether I ever win another award or not.

This is my life. I write bestselling novels. My novels go onto the bestseller lists on or shortly after publication. My novels each travel up to the top of the bestseller lists and they reach the top and they stay on top for months . Each of my novels does this.

So be it! I will find the way to do this. See to it! So be it! See to it!

My books will be read by millions of people!

I will buy a beautiful home in an excellent neighborhood

I will send poor black youngsters to Clarion or other writer’s workshops

I will help poor black youngsters broaden their horizons

I will help poor black youngsters go to college

I will get the best of health care for my mother and myself

I will hire a car whenever I want or need to.

I will travel whenever and wherever in the world that I choose

My books will be read by millions of people!

So be it! See to it!

via Austin Kleon

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Watch a 5-Part Animated Primer on Afrofuturism, the Black Sci-Fi Phenomenon Inspired by Sun Ra

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.


Milton Glaser (RIP) Presents 10 Rules for Life & Work: Wisdom from the Celebrated Designer

“None of us has really the ability to understand our path until it’s over,” the celebrated graphic designer Milton Glaser (RIP) muses less than a minute into the above video.

Glaser’s many contributions to pop culture—the  I ❤ NY logo, the psychedelic portrait of a rainbow-haired Bob Dylan, DC Comics’ classic bullet logo—confer undeniable authority. To the outside eye, he seems to have had a pretty firm handle on the path he traveled for lo these many decades. Aspirant designers would do well to give extra consideration to any advice he might share.

As would the rest of us.

His “Ten Things I Have Learned,” originally delivered as part of a talk to the AIGA—a venerable membership organization for design professionals—qualifies as solid life advice of general interest.

Yes, the Internet spawns bullet-pointed tips for better living the way spring rains yield mushrooms, but Glaser, a self-described “child of modernism” who’s still a contender, does not truck in pithy Instagram-friendly aphorisms. Instead, his list is born of reflection on the various turns of a long and mostly satisfying creative career.

We’ve excerpted some of his most essential points below, and suggest that those readers who are still in training give special emphasis to number seven. Don’t place too much weight on number nine until you’ve established a solid work ethic. (See number four for more on that.)



Some years ago I realized that… all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client.


Here, Glaser quotes composer John CageNever have a job, because if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age. 


Glaser recommends putting a questionable companion to a gestalt therapy test. If, after spending time with that person “you are more tired, then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy, you have been nourished. The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.”


Glaser concedes that a record of dependable excellence is something to look for in a brain surgeon or auto mechanic, but for those in the arts, “continuous transgression” is the quality to cultivate. Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. 


I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate. ‘Just enough is more.’


Style change is usually linked to economic factors, as all of you know who have read Marx. Also fatigue occurs when people see too much of the same thing too often.


The brain is the most responsive organ of the body…. Thought changes our life and our behavior. I also believe that drawing works in the same way…. Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.


One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty. Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise…. Ideally, making everyone win through acts of accommodation is desirable.


Glaser credits essayist Roger Rosenblatt’s Rules for Aging (misidentifying the title as Aging Gracefully) with helping him articulate his philosophy here.  It doesn’t matter what you think. It does not matter if you are late or early, if you are here or there, if you said it or didn’t say it, if you are clever or if you were stupid. If you were having a bad hair day or a no hair day or if your boss looks at you cockeyed or your boyfriend or girlfriend looks at you cockeyed, if you are cockeyed. If you don’t get that promotion or prize or house or if you do – it doesn’t matter.


It’s interesting to observe that in the new AIGA’s code of ethics there is a significant amount of useful information about appropriate behavior towards clients and other designers, but not a word about a designer’s relationship to the public. If we were licensed, telling the truth might become more central to what we do.


A butcher was opening his market one morning and as he did a rabbit popped his head through the door. The butcher was surprised when the rabbit inquired ‘Got any cabbage?’ The butcher said ‘This is a meat market – we sell meat, not vegetables.’ The rabbit hopped off. The next day the butcher is opening the shop and sure enough the rabbit pops his head round and says ‘You got any cabbage?’ The butcher now irritated says ‘Listen you little rodent, I told you yesterday we sell meat, we do not sell vegetables and the next time you come here I am going to grab you by the throat and nail those floppy ears to the floor.’ The rabbit disappeared hastily and nothing happened for a week. Then one morning the rabbit popped his head around the corner and said ‘Got any nails?’ The butcher said ‘No.’ The rabbit said ‘Ok. Got any cabbage?’’

Read Milton Glaser’s “Ten Things I Have Learned” in its entirety here.

Note: This post originally appeared on our site in April 2017.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Explore 1,100 Works of Art by Georgia O’Keeffe: They’re Now Digitized and Free to View Online

Lake George Reflection (circa 1921) via Wikimedia Commons

What comes to mind when you think of Georgia O’Keeffe?

Bleached skulls in the desert?

Aerial views of clouds, almost cartoonish in their puffiness?

Voluptuous flowers (freighted with an erotic charge the artist may not have intended)?

Probably not Polaroid prints of a dark haired pet chow sprawled on flagstones…

Or watercolor sketches of demurely pretty ladies

Or a massive cast iron abstraction…

If your knowledge of America’s most celebrated female artists is confined to the gift shop’s greatest hits, you might enjoy a leisurely prowl through the 1100+ works in the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s digital collection.

A main objective of this beta release is to provide a more complete understanding of the life and work of the iconic artist, who died in 1986 at the age of 98.

Her evolution is evident when you search by materials or date.

You can also view works by other artists in the collection, including two very significant men in her life, photographer Alfred Stieglitz and ceramicist Juan Hamilton.

Each item’s listing is enhanced with information on inscriptions and exhibitions, as well as links to other works produced in the same year.

If your explorations leave you in a creative mood, the museum’s website has devised a host of  O’Keeffe-inspired, all-ages creative assignments, such as an advertising challenge stemming from her 1939 trip to Hawaii to design promotional images for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now known as Dole).

Visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s online collection here. And watch a documentary introduction to O’Keeffee, narrated by Gene Hackman, below:

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How Georgia O’Keeffe Became Georgia O’Keeffe: An Animated Video Tells the Story

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.


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