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Previewing our new arts and culture series, ‘Beyond the Canvas’

Transcript

Judy Woodruff: Regular viewers of the "NewsHour" know how committed we are to reporting on arts and culture through our ongoing series, Canvas.

Well, this weekend, that reporting expands into prime time with a new series on PBS, "Beyond the Canvas."

My colleagues Amna Nawaz and Jeffrey Brown are here with a preview, but, first, an excerpt from the debut episode.

It's Jeff's conversation with music legend Bruce Springsteen.

Bruce Springsteen: A great singer has to learn how to inhabit a song. You may not be able to hit all the notes. That's OK. You may not have the clearest tone. You may not have the greatest range. But if you can inhabit your song, you can communicate.

Judy Woodruff: And Jeff and Amna join me now. Hello to both of you.

So, Jeff, you sat down with the one and only Bruce Springsteen.

But it's just a sampling of many conversations, remarkable conversations, you have had with these artists that have made this the special portal that it is.

Jeffrey Brown: Yes, that's right. That's right, Judy.

That was, of course, a very memorable one, just to sit with him and hear him talk about both the power of the music, but also the vulnerability he feels as an individual human being. He talked later in that interview about bouts of depression. And I remember being so moved by it.

But it's not just the stars and celebrities like Springsteen. And I traveled -- we traveled around the country, all over the world. And I'm just so moved by the kind -- the artists and the writers and the storytellers.

If you think about what a -- what we do every night in the news, it's -- in a way, it's the story of the day, right? That's what we're trying to do. Well, that's how I read novels. That's how I listen to music. That's how I watch movies.

These are the artists, the creators who are moving us, yes, entertaining us, yes, but also sort of teaching us about the day and our world. And I love bringing that to the "NewsHour."

Judy Woodruff: And speaking of the world, you have done all this at a great tumult in the world. And you have brought that into your reporting.

Jeffrey Brown: Well, that's the world we're living in now, right? That's the news of our time. That is the story, the world of pandemic, the social justice movement that we're seeing.

And we have moved and shaped all of our Canvas coverage really to look at that. I can think of several stories just recently that meant a lot to me. I mean, one was about the power of the camera, the power of the image in the history of social justice movements, civil rights, and up to this time.

And then one that aired even just this week, where we were looking at the impact of the pandemic on live music. And it's partly a business story. It's partly about the economics. But it's also really just about our culture, and what brings us together, and what we all do, and how we create together, and who tells our stories.

So, yes, that's the story of our time. That's how we focus Canvas right now.

Judy Woodruff: And, Amna, what you're going to be doing with "Beyond the Canvas" is bring all this to a bigger audience, frankly, and the prime-time audience that may not have had a chance to see these stories.

Amna Nawaz: That's right, Judy.

I mean, it's no surprise to you or any of our viewers. The storytelling on Canvas is unparalleled, right? What Jeff has been able to build, along with our colleagues Anne Davenport and Josh Barajas and so many others, it really does stand alone. It sets the bar for that kind of reporting.

And that is why we are so excited to bring it to even more people, and in a curated way. Every episode is a collection of stories. So, people can process them in a slightly different way.

I mean, Jeff referenced this too. We can't ignore we're rolling this out during a pandemic. I can't remember the last time I went to a live concert and sang with other people and danced with other people or went to a show and laughed and cried with other people.

There is a void. There is a social and cultural void right now. We hope that this show will help to fill some of that.

And I should mention we don't shy away from the tough stuff. I mean, a lot of is about what brings us together, the music and the art and the connection. There are real conversations about race and representation and identity, because that is where we are as a country as well.

So, we hope these stories meet the moment, but also help to move us forward.

Judy Woodruff: And they come, Amna, at a time when people, I think, are hungry for content, for content with meaning.

And so, when you say it meets the moment, that really is what this is all about.

Amna Nawaz: I think that's right, Judy.

I mean, it's both a reminder of the way things used to be, right? Everyone remembers what they felt like when they heard that Springsteen lyric, or listened to that Reba song, or watched Lilly Singh and had her make them laugh, or Steve Martin.

These are all storytellers who are documenting our times. And I think, when you pull them together in a collection like this, it really gives people the space to kind of process it. So, we hope that it gives people something that they need, and we hope that they will join us. And we hope we can make this Canvas community even bigger.

Judy Woodruff: Well, we are certainly excited about it, very much looking forward.

Amna Nawaz, Jeffrey Brown, thank you both for all the work you have done on this.

Jeffrey Brown: Thank you, Judy.

Judy Woodruff: Really looking forward.

And you can watch the debut of "Beyond the Canvas" this Sunday, July 26, at 10:30 Eastern p.m., 9:30 Central, on most PBS stations.

And there is more "Beyond the Canvas" online. Right now, you can read our full interview with musical duo Louis York, featured in the "Beyond the Canvas" debut. They talk about why songwriting is so important in this time of crisis.

That's on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

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