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August 26, 2021

Unmasking the Arts Episode 4: Critics Jason Farago, Maya Chung, and Anne Midgette


Our partners at Princeton University Concerts have created a new six-part series, Unmasking the Arts, with host Helga Davis and special guests in conversation about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the beginning of January 2021, Jason Farago, critic at large for The New York Times wrote an influential article titled “The Arts Are in Crisis. Here’s How Biden Can Help.” In the widely circulated op-ed, he described the state and effects of a cultural depression exacerbated by the pandemic, considering its social, economic, and political ramifications. He joins Unmasking the Arts host Helga Davis and fellow arts thinkers, associate editor Maya Chung of The New York Review of Books and former Washington Post music critic Anne Midgette to discuss these ideas further in a wonderfully extensive and inspiring conversation that considers the arts within the context of all of these societal impacts.

“Art, music, drama—here is a point worth recalling in a pandemic—are instruments of psychic and social health.” —Jason Farago

Shared with kind permission of Princeton University Concerts.

Princeton University Concerts

Jason Farago, Maya Chung, and Anne Midgette – Unmasking the Arts: Playlist

For Princeton University Concerts’ Collective Listening Project, Maya Chung, Jason Farago, and Anne Midgette shared some of the tracks that have formed their pandemic listening. Read more about each critics’ selections.

About the Participants

Helga DavisHelga Davis

Helga Davis first appeared on UMS stages in our 2012 presentation of Philip Glass’s opera, Einstein on the Beach. We look forward to welcoming her back in the 2021/22 season as a featured performer in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

Davis is a vocalist and performance artist with feet planted on the most prestigious international stages and with firm roots in the realities and concerns of her local community whose work draws out insights that illuminate how artistic leaps for an individual can offer connection among audiences.

Listen to the new season of her podcast series, Helga: The Armory Conversations, co-produced by WNYC Studios and Park Avenue Armory.

Jason FaragoJason Farago

Jason Farago, critic at large for The New York Times, writes about art and culture in the U.S. and abroad. In 2017 he was awarded the inaugural Rabkin Prize for art criticism.

Mr. Farago began writing about art for The Times in 2015, and since then he has reviewed exhibitions, conducted interviews, and reported features across the United States and in a dozen foreign countries. In 2020 he helped develop Close Read, a digital initiative that elaborates the meaning of a single work of art, detail by detail.

He previously wrote for the Guardian, serving as its first U.S. art critic and as an online opinion columnist. He has also been a regular contributor to the New Yorker, the BBC, NPR, the New York Review of Books, and Artforum.

Anne MidgetteAnne Midgette

Anne Midgette was the classical music critic of The Washington Post for 11 years, from 2008 to 2019. Before that, she was for seven years a regular contributor of classical music and theater reviews to The New York Times.

She has also written about music, the visual arts, dance, theater, and film for The Wall Street Journal, Opera News, The Los Angeles Times, Town & Country, and many other publications, reviewing and interviewing everyone from Spike Lee to Twyla Tharp, Marina Abramovic to Luciano Pavarotti.

At the Post, she oversaw every aspect of classical music coverage, offset her music writing with occasional visual art reviews, expanded the reach of the beat on social media as The Classical Beat, and ultimately became known for her work on the #MeToo problem in classical music.

Maya ChungMaya Chung

Maya Chung is the associate editor of The New York Review of Books.