Saturday, January 11, 2014

Spotlight on Karen Sunderman of The Playlist

I first met Karen Sunderman at Tycoon’s two years ago at a Dylan Days event in which she was the moderator of a panel discussion about Dylan’s influence. Her charisma, sensitivity and quick wit make her a natural for television journalism. January 9 kicks off Season 5 of The PlayList program on PBS, a series that spotlights both emerging and established artists here in the Northland.

Last night while attending two art openings and the DuSu Film Festival Volunteer and Sponsor Appreciation Party I just happened to run into (among many other fine people) Karen Sunderman, host of WDSE's The Playlist. This week my interview with her was featured in The Reader.

Sunderman w/DSFF founder Richard Hansen
EN: Where did the idea for The PlayList come from?
KS: The wonderful, crazy talented artists and musicians in the area deserve to be recognized and celebrated. That’s the reason The PlayList exists. Minnesotans made it possible when they voted in 2008 and collectively decided arts & cultural heritage, clean water and the outdoors are critical investments. WDSE took the opportunity to put some existing ideas together and create an arts-based TV show focused on bringing some of the best to the public airwaves. WDSE has a unique public platform to share the creativity & talent of the region.

EN: You were a journalism major. Where did your interest in the arts come from?
KS: I have a double major in English and Journalism and a fascination with what makes people tick. As a college student I studied theater in London and visited incredibly inspiring art museums all over Europe-- in the Netherlands, France, and Italy. I studied some more, traveled some more and met a lot of artists through working on Venture North for WDSE. The creative people I’ve met along the way are honest, insightful and inspiring.

EN: Why are the arts important for a community like ours?
KS: I think the arts are a mirror. They provide a language and a lens to explore ideas and to share our stories, experience and perspective. Not a one size fits all solution nor icing on the cake, the arts, theater and music in our community helps us express our identity, our challenges and our dreams. Duluth has an incredible amount of creativity per capita and in many arenas.

Sunderman and The PlayList crew, on the rocks.
EN: How do you go about finding and selecting stories for the show?
KS: The PlayList is open to original work from any discipline. We have an online “suggestion box” at where anyone can pitch an idea. The tips that come from the community are really valuable and many of those stories have already made it into the show.

Currently I’m hoping to grow the network of contributors and diversify voices so more people of color know that The PlayList is a stage for everyone. Personally, informal conversations, a telephone call, a press release or article are all potential sources and can jog an idea.

EN: What did you do from the time you finished school up to the beginning of The PlayList?
KS: I spent five years working as a reporter & producer for the ABC affiliate in Duluth, and a year in HR for Target in Superior. Then I worked on documentaries and a human interest program called Venture North at WDSE. The PlayList has been a focused education in the arts and it is amazing!

EN: Do you also write poetry or fiction? If yes, tell me more. If no, why not?
KS: I don’t get to write as much as I’d like. My haikus are sporadic at best. I’m inspired by Mark Twain who said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “If I had more time, I’d write a shorter letter.” I spend most of my time playing with the language (and pictures!) at work. However, I am working on an outdoor/travel piece about camping in the BWCA that I’ll pitch to an editor before spring. Wish me luck!

EN: What are you currently looking forward to in the coming year?
KS: I’m really looking forward to the new season of inspiring arts in the region and on The PlayList! We’ve recorded some great music in-studio and on location—with bands like Portrait of a Drowned Man, Ol’ Yeller and Lion or Gazelle. You’ll see artists-in-action profiles on potters, printmakers and painters. The MN Ballet premier of original music and choreography in “Recurrent Stages” will be a special PlayList episode. Duluth Homegrown Music, public art tours, a poet/filmmaker project… We’re trying some new things and that’s always exciting.

EN: It is exciting. Keep it going.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Ed, for all you do to support and build visibility for all of the arts. It is an honor to be part of your blog! Cheers, Karen

Mark Munger said...

I'm glad Mike Savage turned me on to this blog. I've now added it to my own as a link, Great work, Ed!
Mark Munger