Inspiration When We Need It Most: Articulate with Jim Cotter


By: Abigail Guay

Across five seasons, Articulate with Jim Cotter has informed and uplifted audiences with stories of how creative thinking shapes our world. Through interviews, live performances, and distinctive storytelling, the Emmy® Award–winning magazine series has earned its reputation as a one-of-a-kind window into the ideas and experiences of diverse artists, from authors and architects to musicians and dancers.

In 2020, after pivoting to an innovative, socially distanced production model, the Articulate team has continued to make television, offering viewers looking for answers and solace during these unprecedented times original perspectives on who we are, who we’ve been, and who we might become.

Season 6 of Articulate will transport audiences to a Swiss music hall, unpack our understanding of monumental sculpture, and playfully explore a theory of automobile design named for iconic West Side Story gangs the Jets and the Sharks. Featured guests include Tony Award-winning Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown, MacArthur “genius” choreographer Liz Lerman, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, and Metropolitan Opera soprano Angel Blue.

Articulate Season 6

The Articulate Story

In 2015, with the support of Articulate founding sponsor The Neubauer Family Foundation, veteran radio journalist and broadcaster Jim Cotter and an upstart production team began work on a new public television program that would investigate the universal and useful truths that drive great creativity. The team envisioned—and realized, first in Philadelphia, then nationwide—a program that would serve as a trustworthy, never-ordinary link to the full spectrum of classical, contemporary, and popular art forms.

Articulate’s home base is a high-tech warren of fourth-story rooms in a 19th-century townhouse built by the financier and industrialist Edward T. Stotesbury on Philadelphia’s iconic Rittenhouse Square; the television studio occupies a refurbished squash court added atop the building in the early 20th-century. In 2018, production expanded into the Stotesbury ballroom, a space in which no fewer than three sitting US presidents have dined. The gilded, high-ceilinged room now plays singular host to Articulate’s full-episode concert shows, intimate performances paired with Cotter’s signature interviews. The Andrew Bird concert show, Whistling While He Works, received two 2020 Daytime Emmy® Award nominations and the award for Outstanding Sound Mixing—with Bird releasing the performance as a limited-edition vinyl EP.

Andrew Bird, Whistling White He Works. Image courtesy The Articulate Foundation.

Responding to the Pandemic

In late February and early March, anticipating the pandemic lockdown, the Articulate production team began planning and implementing new strategies to ensure that work on the program would continue uninterrupted. They developed protocols for high-quality remote interviews, as well as COVID-safe, in-person interviews in outdoor spaces. This fall, a custom mobile studio featuring separate UV-sterilized chambers for producers and guests hits the road.

A new Articulate website launching in November 2020 includes a searchable directory of lesson plans based on Articulate segments. Created for use in physical and virtual classrooms, the plans integrate the arts and creative problem-solving into STEM, ELA, and social studies instruction. Additionally, since April 2020 Articulate has partnered with ArtistYear, an Americorps program committed to addressing the national arts education funding gap by placing recent higher ed arts graduates in low-income schools as teaching fellows. Articulate producers have so far leveraged their storytelling and media expertise to help transition two 60-person cohorts of ArtistYear fellows to online instruction, ultimately serving thousands of students nationwide.

Articulate has embraced the limitations of this moment to serve others living through it. Whether by using broadcasting tools and techniques to deliver educational programs to students who cannot gather in classrooms, or by producing a television program that keeps viewers rooted in our shared culture, Articulate continues to shed light on who we are and look ahead to who we can become.

A production of Panavista, Inc. for The Articulate Foundation, Articulate with Jim Cotter is presented by Lehigh Valley Public Media, home of PBS39. Articulate Season 6 feeds from American Public Television (APT) on November 20, 2020.