Jim Cotter

Arts & Culture Editor

Jim was born and raised in Ireland. He began his radio career in Dublin before moving to the U.K. where he worked for BBC Radio Wales and the BBC World Service. He lived on the island of Crete in Greece for 10 years before moving to the United States.

Since 2002, Jim has been the station's arts and culture reporter and then 

Jim traveled to Europe in 2004, and to Asia in 2005 and 2008 to report on Philadelphia Orchestra tours for WRTI and to Scotland in 2005 with Pennsylvania Ballet.  

In 2013, Jim was awarded a prestigious Knight Arts Grant to produce "Philadelphia Music Makers," a new artist-hosted music program he created. The series will begin airing on WRTI in Fall 2014. 

Jim can be heard throughout the week in Creatively Speaking arts features and in Sunday Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts. 

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Creatively Speaking
6:02 am
Mon March 11, 2013

PA Ballet Makes Itself At Home

Principal Dancer Arantxa Ochoa and Former Company Member Maximilien Baud in A Midsummer Night's Dream, choreography by George Balanchine
Paul Kolnik

Pennsylvania Ballet’s latest production, A Midsummer Night's Dream, will be the first to be prepared and rehearsed in its new $17.5 million, purpose-built home on North Broad Street. As WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, the company has also revived its ballet school and is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Pennsylvania Ballet Artistic Director Roy Kaiser speaks about the company's new home.

Creatively Speaking
6:01 am
Mon March 4, 2013

Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Jail Was Heat. Purvis Young, American, 1943-2010. Paint on weathered Masonite with nailed-on pieces of various types of weathered scrap wood, 43 x 34 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection
Philadelphia Museum of Art

The term "outsider art" came into use in the early 1970s from a French description for unrefined art. As WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, the preferred term today is “self-taught,” and a single collection of such work is the focus of a new, major exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art's Curator of Drawings Ann Percy, curator of Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, speaks with Jim Cotter.

Creatively Speaking
6:00 am
Mon March 4, 2013

The Kimmel Center Prepares For Travels In Time

Construction begins on The Time Machine that will be the centerpiece of PIFA 2013.

When the first Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) ended in May of 2011, no one knew for sure if there would be a second one. But now, as WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, the city is preparing for PIFA 2013, a journey through time, which runs from March 28th to April 27th.

Kimmel Center President and CEO Anne Ewers speaks with Jim Cotter about PIFA 2013.

Creatively Speaking
1:43 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Yannick's Connection With Anton Bruckner

Jim Cotter speaks with Yannick Nezet-Seguin.

On The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert - a new weekly radio series on WRTI - Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin takes to the podium to conduct a symphony by one of the composers who is closest to him.  WRTI’s Jim Cotter has more.

Jim Cotter speaks with Yannick about his relationship with Bruckner’s music, as well as the work of another composer whose music holds special meaning for him.

Creatively Speaking
9:51 pm
Sun February 24, 2013

Remembering A Philadelphia-Born Opera Legend

Marian Anderson at Lincoln Memorial in 1939

This week, we celebrate the birthday of Marian Anderson. The opera superstar was born in Philadelphia in 1897. WRTI’s Jim Cotter says that though her voice had an ethereal quality, the late, great contralto was renowned for her humility and her humanity.

Where Music Lives
3:47 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

Lancaster's Musical Theater Hub: Fulton Opera House

Music lives in Lancaster, Pa., at a theater that - over the course of its more than 160 years - has served as a vaudeville venue, a cinema, and today, a stage reserved for musical theater and plays. WRTI’s Jim Cotter takes us to a historic opera house…that has never really housed opera.

Since its opening in 1852, Fulton Opera House in Lancaster County has remained open – making it one of the oldest continuously operating theater buildings in the nation.  However, noted local playwright Barry Kornhauser, who also worked at the Fulton for over 30 years, says that despite its name it was never known as a place to hear your favorite arias. 

This was called an opera house in those days because theaters still had an iffy reputation.  “Opera House” sounded a little more impressive.  But it wasn’t strictly opera?  It was never really opera at all. That was tradition of the time.  People were railing against theater…so they thought, theater owners, that if they called the places opera houses, they could fool some of the people some of the time.

Now the building is better known to most as the Fulton Theater; a company that produces seven full productions and four family shows each season.  And despite the theater’s rich history, Managing Director Aaron Young says the company is committed to a contemporary mission.

We’re not a museum.  We honor what has been done in the past, but it’s all about, how do we move forward? How do we communicate with an audience now?  How do we remain relevant in an era that has a lot of different options for people’s leisure time?  We no longer have a monopoly like we did back in the 1800s when the theater was built.

In addition to their stage productions, the Fulton also engages in various community and accessibility programs.  Offering outreach to local schools, ASL Interpretation, Open Captioning, Audio Description, and our Assistive Listening devices for the hearing impaired, and their annual Pennsylvania High School theater Festival.  More than a century-and-a-half after it began, the Fulton Opera House continues to be a community focal point where theater blossoms and music lives.

The Ghosts Who Haunt The Fulton Opera House.

Creatively Speaking
1:10 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

Recalling Three Great Italian Violin-Making Dynasties

The story of Cremona's rise to pre-eminence as the epicenter for the creation of great cellos, violas and violins begins with Nicola Amati in the early 17th century. He is credited with being one of the Cremonesi luthieri who gave the modern violin its profile. Yet today he is not the household name that two of his students, and their descendants, have become.

Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Guarneri were both Amati apprentices. Stradivarius would become immediately recognized for his mastery, but not until two generations later would Andrea’s grandson Bartolommeo Giuseppe Guarneri or Guarneri del Jesu, place his family name along side that of Stradivarius. Confused?  Don’t worry, says Christopher Germain, an internationally renowned Philadelphia-based violin maker. 

We don’t know all of the exact connections because there are some missing links in church records and so forth, but when we consider that there were these three great clans working within a very small area raised the standard to a point where it had never been before or since.

Yet no one has been able to identify one particular factor that made this one city produce so many great instrument makers or why we’ve been unable to emulate their brilliance.

It would be like saying that if I had the same painting materials as Michelangelo, then I could probably reproduce the Sistine Chapel which is complete nonsense.  These guys were geniuses and were at the top of their game

This week we celebrate the birthday of one of the middle generation of Guarneri instrument makers. Pietro Giovanni or Pietro da Mantua, the father or maybe the uncle of Guarneri Del Jesu was born in Cremona in 1655.

Master violin maker Christopher Germain talks about the great Cremonese instrument-making dynasties.

Creatively Speaking
3:48 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Richard Wagner's Philadelphia Connection

Richard Wagner


Later this year we’ll mark the Richard Wagner bicentennial, but it was this week in 1883 that the great German composer died.  As WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, in his later years, Wagner would write a piece of orchestral music commissioned by a Philadelphian and premiered in the city.


Wagner was 69 years of age when he passed.  He had spent his last years raising money to establish a permanent home to showcase his works in the Northern Bavarian town of Bayreuth. To this end when the American Centennial celebrations of 1876 wanted a march to celebrate the role of German Americans in the history of the country, a Philadelphia socialite Elizabeth Gillespie sought the counsel of the German-born conductor Theodore Thomas. He suggested the $5000 commission be offered to Wagner. Wagner gratefully accepted, and delivered the work.  Temple Art History professor Therese Dolan, who has written a book about the intersection of music and the visual arts in 19th century Paris says Wagner’s Grand March is not one of his grandest works.


You can tell that his heart wasn’t in it.  He was building Bayreuth, so he charged five thousand dollars for this twelve minute piece of music and it was played when Roosevelt came to the Worlds’ Fair.


And though it’s been rarely played since, whatever the piece lacked in musical quality it made up for with typical Wagnerian bombast.


A hundred and fifty piece orchestra and then he also wanted a canon to be set off at the end of it.  Critics felt there was no American feeling in it.  Well what did they expect?  They commissioned a German to do it.


Therese Dolan’s book Artworks of the Future: Manet, Wagner and Liszt will be published later this year.

Listen to Jim Cotter's full interview with Therese Dolan.

Creatively Speaking
10:59 am
Tue February 12, 2013

A Roman Mosaic From Israel At The Penn Museum

Lod Mosaic

A large work of art, which for decades was hidden beneath Middle Eastern soil, is now on view in Philadelphia.  As WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, the ancient Roman floor mosaic is destined for a new Museum in Israel.

The 50-foot long, 27-foot wide, multi-colored geometric mosaic was in excellent condition when it was discovered three feet underground by workmen widening a road in Lod, near Tel Aviv in 1996.  

The floor, believed to be part of a Roman home from about 300 AD, was then reburied to preserve it until 2009, when it could be properly excavated and conserved. 

Brian Rose, curator of the Mediterranean section of the Penn Museum says the mosaic, which features animals and fish but no people, gives no clues as to the religious or cultural background of its original owner. 

And though the background of the owner of the piece  is unclear what is obvious is that he was rich and that he made his money in a trade peculiar to this period in Roman history.

Rose states, "It looks as if the owner may have been involved in the wild animal export industry wherein one would have agents going into Africa and the Near East to find the most exotic animals possible and those animals would be shipped off to Israel.  So whoever this man was, he obviously got rich selling animals to the gladiatorial games industry."

The Penn Museum is the last stop on the mosaic’s US tour, during which it has been taken apart and reassembled for each venue. 

Unearthing a Masterpiece:  A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel, is at the Penn Museum through May 12th.

Brian Rose, curator of the Mediterranean section of the Penn Museum speaks to Jim Cotter about the commissioner of a significant Israeli Roman mosaic.

   

Creatively Speaking
6:04 am
Mon February 4, 2013

The Search for Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts

The term "Endangered Artifacts" is most associated with objects from ancient civilizations.  Yet, in Pennsylvania, as WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, there’s now an effort to track down some of the state’s own most vulnerable historical treasures.

Listen to Jim's interview with Ingrid E. Bogel, Executive Director of The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts from the start of the competition.

Discreetly tucked away on the second floor of an office building in Center City, Philadelphia is a  conservation studio and digital archiving facility for some of the nation most valuable works on paper.  On the day we visit among the rare books and delicate watercolors by world-famous artists, the original, hand-written constitution of PA, and the notebooks in which Bruce Springsteen jotted down his most famous songs were being pored over by teams of skilled conservation professionals. 

It is from here  - The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts -  that a call has gone out to libraries, museums, historic sites ,and archives to help locate Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts. Ingrid E. Bogel, executive director of the Center says the project aims to save important drawings, paintings, manuscripts, rare books, maps, photographs and other objects.

We’re certainly talking about those kinds of materials, but I’m even thinking about things that perhaps just have a wonderful story.  And that might be just as exciting as something that has a George Washington signature on it.

The initial nominations will come from organizations, historical societies, museums and the like who have these items in their collections.

We are really thinking very broadly.  We would like to have representation from the smallest all-volunteer institution if they have something great that they want to share.  We’re also looking for geographic reach; we would love to have people nominate artifacts from all over the state.

The deadline for nominations is April 13th after which members of the public can vote for their favorite most endangered Pennsylvania Artifacts at a dedicated website.

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