Bernadine Franco is an art historian, writer and educator, founder of the podcast and blog Beyond the Paint with Bernadine. Her platform celebrates female artists but also collectors and women in the arts in general. She is currently working on a book about women and the visual arts in 19th century Hartford CT.
“My goal is to introduce and engage the public with female visual artists through works that expose the astonishing beauty of women’s inner lives.”
What led you to create your podcast and blog?
I have been listening to podcasts for about ten years. It is where I go to be inspired, to expand my mind or just to be entertained. Whatever I am seeking, there is a podcast for that! A couple of my favorites are Todd Henry’s “Accidental Creative,” whose in-depth interviews connects me with creative thinkers and I love escaping into the lives and stories of America in “This American Life.”
I teach Art History in higher education and wanted to extend my reach to share the story and power of art with others. Podcasting offers me the space to journey with my listeners through a work of art, and to engage others with the artistic process. More importantly, my podcast and blog are platforms for me to give women artists and collectors a voice and set them in their rightful place in the canon of art.
Beyond the Paint with Bernadine is recommended by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. How did you feel when that happened?
Thrilled and very humbled. Women artists liberated my life on so many levels. Through the artistic expression by women, I see, think and speak in new and daring ways. Every aspect of my life, from teaching to podcasting, I, like the National Museum of Women in the Arts mission, am able to “champion” women. The museum’s recognition celebrates my work, vision, giving it credibility to help me reach a broader audience.
What would be your recommendation to someone who is interested in creating a podcast? What are the main challenges?
I am a podcast listener fanatic; I love the medium of the audio experience, so it was a natural shift for me to leverage this platform for my artistic endeavors. I think the main challenge is consistency of content, writing and researching for a podcast episode, frankly, takes a lot of time. You have to enjoy the “work” itself and the tenacity to ensure you put out content that is engaging. Plus you need patience if one of your goals is to monetize your podcast series. I believe there are over 600,000 podcasts? It takes time to build a community of listeners.
You recently published episode 80. How do you pick your subjects?
One of the visions of my podcast is to present women artists whose works I experience first-hand. With few exceptions, I have stepped into the space between myself and the work of art I choose to highlight. My hope is to encourage my listeners to go out and seek out artworks by women and participate in a similar “looking” experience. I build a repertoire of subjects through visits to museums, galleries, meeting women artists at exhibition openings or in their studios, both locally and in my travels. I am fortunate to live in New England with access to great collections from museums like Wadsworth Atheneum, the art organization Real Art Ways in support of contemporary artists; New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA, and in Boston, Museum of Fine Arts.
Can you tell us about your current project on your book?
I am excited to be researching and writing a book about women and the visual arts in 19th century Hartford, Connecticut. The book will juxtapose works of fine art and utilitarian objects or decorative art as a way to “meet” women of privilege like Elizabeth Colt, an important patron of the arts and the more “ordinary” middle-class women whose creative expressions were often limited to the feminine arts such as needlepoint, quilting, and ceramics. I dedicate one podcast every month to an aspect of the book and similar to the format of my podcast series, I highlight and journey my listener through one work of art or an element in an architectural space.
What are the podcast or platforms you like to follow?
I follow a variety of podcasts series. As I mentioned, Todd Henry’s Accidental Creative and This American Life. I also enjoy the mystery series In the Dark; Radiolab is just brilliant! I enjoy the grit of comedians; Joey Diaz, Church of What is Happening Now, and Whitney Cummings, Good for You. When I want to find a good book, I listen to The Strandcast.
In the arts, I feel like I am part of the conversation on Talk Art and Art History Babes is a lot of fun. The Lonely Palette sets the bar for podcasters like myself who want to engage others in the visual arts. (National Museum for Women in the Arts also included The Lonely Palette in their list of recommended podcasts about women in the art–I am overjoyed to be in The Lonely Palette’s company!)
What is your dream project?
I am currently designing a series of walking tours of women artists, collectors and cultural makers in my city, Hartford, CT, I really love the one to one with people and learning through their “looking” experience, what they see. I am launching the tours in the fall of 2020. As I think about this question more deeply, however, I am living my “dream project” every day. When I take the deep dive to look and contemplate objects of art, write, research, podcast, teach, connect with other artists from all over the world through Instagram–the visual arts, especially the women who create artwork, are the impetus to a deeper, and more meaningful life.