When Penn State School of Visual Arts faculty member Brian Alfred started his podcast, “Sound and Vision,” in 2016, his goal was to share informal yet intimate one-on-one conversations with artists and musicians. What he did not expect was how it would tie into his teaching.
“It has become such a huge asset in teaching and that is something I never anticipated,” said Alfred, assistant professor of art. “Sharing so many hours speaking with artists has deepened my understanding of how artists think and create. Listening is a huge asset in teaching and I have been doing a lot of listening in the past few years.”
Alfred recently recorded his 200th episode, and it was one with a Penn State connection. He interviewed artist and museum educator Rosemarie Fiore, who led a STEAM-based workshop at Woskob Family Gallery earlier in February. Fiore’s work includes converting popular technology such as lawn mowers, cars, waffle irons, floor polishers, pinball machines, fireworks and amusement park rides into painting machines.
Other recent guests are artists Jennifer Coates, Taylor Anton White, Kenichi Hoshine and Elise Ferguson.
According to Alfred, podcast highlights include seeing the band Tall Heights play a live show right after podcasting with them in the green room at Rough Trade in Brooklyn, and interviewing James Siena in the middle of Pace Gallery during his solo show there, while surrounded by visitors.
For Alfred, it’s a treat to interview his guests where they are most comfortable. “Getting to see artists in their studios, the environments they work in, has such an impact. It’s a real gift,” he said.
As with any endeavor, practice has made production of the podcast smoother since the first episode four years ago. “Hopefully I have become a better host,” said Alfred. “I definitely have been learning about the process and getting more and more comfortable in the hosting chair. I have better microphones, understand editing a bit better and overall, I think it’s improved technically a bit. I really try to keep the conversations organic and casual and that really forces me to not obsess too much over the fine details.”
With the 200th episode under his belt, Alfred said he has no plans to stop any time soon. “When people ask how long I plan to do it or if it has ever felt repetitive, I always say that the moment it becomes boring or feels repetitive is the moment I will stop doing them. Only thing is, everyone is so interesting and engaging I don’t really see an end to it. … Doing the podcast has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as an artist and as a human.”
To learn more about Alfred and the evolution of “Sound and Vision,” see this 2018 article by Leon Valsechi.