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'Grandmother to the Nation' Celebrated in Traveling Art Show

Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We answer a question about America’s capital city …

Play some music that honors the city of New Orleans …

And report about a new Grandma Moses art show.

Grandma Moses


The American artist known as Grandma Moses did not begin painting until she was more than seventy-five years old. But her work was soon popular all over the world. Barbara Klein tells about a new show of her work.


The new show is at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York. It is called “Grandma Moses: Grandmother to the Nation.” Critics say the new exhibit of thirty-eight paintings makes it clear why her work was and still is so popular. They say her colorful paintings show American life in a more simple time.

Anna Mary Robertson Moses painted happy pictures of everyday life in small farming villages. Her paintings include farms, houses, mountains, fields, animals and people. Sometimes she painted the same scene many times at different times of the year -- in the snowy winter and the green summer.

People say Grandma Moses painted the past as she remembered it. But not all the paintings were made from memory. Art experts say she used pictures in magazines and newspapers to help create her paintings.

One of the best known of these paintings is called “Sugaring Off.” She painted it in nineteen forty-five. It shows people working on a snowy farm gathering and processing maple syrup from trees. “Sugaring Off” was based on a work of art by the famous artists Currier and Ives.

“Sugaring Off” is one of the paintings included in the new show at the Fenimore Art Museum. Another is called “A Country Wedding,” painted in nineteen fifty-one. It shows a bride and groom and guests at an outdoor wedding in the summer.

Grandma Moses began painting such pictures when the disease arthritis forced her to stop creating art with wool and other materials. She showed her paintings at county fairs and stores in New York State where she lived. An art collector from New York City saw them in a drug store window in nineteen thirty-nine. He bought ten paintings. One year later, Grandma Moses had her first art show. It was called “What a Farmer’s Wife Painted.”

Grandma Moses died in nineteen sixty-one at the age of one hundred one. She had produced more than one thousand six hundred paintings in the last twenty years of her life. The exhibit in Cooperstown will travel to four other American cities next year.



Our VOA listener question this week comes from Bangladesh. Shafiqul Islam asks about the difference between Washington and Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., is the capital city of the United States. The city is also known simply as Washington. It was named for the country’s first president, George Washington.

That story goes back to the beginning of the United States more than two hundred years ago. The states approved a constitution in seventeen eighty-eight. But they could not decide where to build the permanent capital. Northern states did not want the capital in the South because slavery existed there. The southern states did not want the capital in the North.

Finally, after much negotiation, the United States Congress agreed to build the capital along the Potomac River between the states of Virginia and Maryland. The city would be built in a federal area on land provided by the two states. The city would be called Washington. The larger federal area would be named the District of Columbia.

Columbia was another name for the United States, used mostly by poets and other writers. The name came from Christopher Columbus, the explorer who sailed from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean to the western hemisphere.So the city became known as Washington, the District of Columbia or Washington, D.C.

Many other places in the United States are named after President George Washington. They include the western state of Washington and the town of Washington, Pennsylvania.

In fact, twenty-four different American states have towns named Washington. Many other townships and counties within states are also called Washington. And at least fifteen mountains in the United States are called Mount Washington.

So you can find many places in the United States called Washington, but only one called Washington, D.C.

The River in Reverse


Rock musician Elvis Costello and rhythm and blues artist Allen Toussaint have released an album that honors New Orleans, Louisiana. Mario Ritter tells about “The River in Reverse,” and plays some of its songs.


Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint appear to be an unlikely pair. Allen Toussaint’s professional life in music began in the late nineteen-fifties in his hometown of New Orleans. He played piano in clubs in that southern city while still a teenager. He later wrote many rhythm and blues hit songs and became a successful producer.

Elvis Costello began recording in London in the late nineteen seventies. He helped build a musical bridge between punk and pop music. Later he explored many other kinds of music including classical and jazz.

“The River in Reverse,” includes seven songs Toussaint wrote years ago and five new songs that he and Costello wrote together. Here is the title song, the only one Costello wrote by himself.

(MUSIC: “The River in Reverse”)

Many of the songs were written long before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans last year on August twenty-ninth. However, the men perform them in a way that creates a musical link to the tragedy. The old song, “Tears, Tears and More Tears,” is a good example.


Elvis Costello’s band, the Imposters, and the Crescent City Horns also perform on the album. Crescent City is a nickname for New Orleans.

We leave you now with another song from “The River in Reverse.” Here is Ascension Day.”



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

This show was written by Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver, who also was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.