Joni Mitchell

“When the world becomes a massive mess with nobody at the helm its time for artists to make their mark.”—Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell (1943-) is a Canadian singer and songwriter, who became one of the leading folk singers of the late 1960s and 70s. At the age of nine, she contracted polio and while she was infirmed, she taught herself guitar entertained the other hospital patients with her singing. Over time, her very personal, poetic style of songwriting and open chord guitar style, made her one of the most influential singers of her generation.  She is also a respected painter, whose colorful work graces many of her own album sleeves, let alone gallery walls.

Diane Arbus

“The thing that’s important to know is that you never know. You are always sort of feeling your way.” —Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) was an American photographer, who is best known for her  black-and-white portraits of marginalized people, often thought as bizarre or unattractive by mainstream society. Diane and her husband were a successful team in fashion photography before she branched out on her own, wandering around the city, photographing the interesting New Yorkers she found on the fringes. She went to great lengths to meet her subjects and get the shot thats that she wanted, and her hard work paid off. She became admired as an artist as well as a photographer as she exhibited her work at the Museum of Modern Art and others. Diane Arbus is considered the most important female photographer of her generation and her work remains as groundbreaking and beloved today as it was then.


Princess Diana

“I knew what my job was; it was to go out and meet the people and love them.” —Princess Diana

Princess Diana Spencer (1961-1997) was married to Charles, the Prince of Wales, (who is eldest child and heir apparent to the Queen of England.) She became known as the “People’s Princess” because of the way she chose to connect with everyday people in a way that the aristocracy had not yet done. Diana got involved in charity work and went so far as to minister to AIDS victims in Africa, touching them and loving them in a time when people were still not sure the disease was not airborne or touch-contagious. She also became president of Great Ormand Street Hospital for children in London. A wonderful humanitarian that broke from royal tradition, she was also a mother of two boys. In the end, she was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997, leaving the world heartbroken and without an famous, yet compassionate role model.


Dolores del Río

“Take care of your inner beauty, your spiritual beauty, and that will reflect in your face. We have the face we created over the years. Every bad deed, every bad fault will show on your face. God can give us beauty and genes can give us our features, but whether that beauty remains or changes is determined by our thoughts and deeds.”—Dolores del Río

Dolores del Río (1904 1983) was a Mexican actress, who became the first Latin American Hollywood star. Her starred in silent films as well as sound films, in which she worked hard to perfect her English.  As her Hollywood fame began to decline, she moved back to Mexico where she became an important fixture of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, which was now in full force. Throughout her long career, which also included radio, television, and theatre, she was admired internationally as a cinematic icon, the face of a Latina femme fetal. 


Pearl S. Buck

“The truth is always exciting. Speak it, then. Life is dull without it.”

—Pearl S. Buck

Pearl S. Buck (1892 – 1973) was an American writer and novelist.  The daughter of missionaries, she spent the first 40 years of her life in China so she was perfectly posed to describe the thus-hidden life of China to the west through her novel The Good Earth , which became was the best-selling fiction book in the United States in 1931 and 1932 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. Later she became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

After returning to the United States in 1935 as an immensely famous figure, she became an outspoken advocate for the rights of women and minority groups. Pearl also campaigned for the rights of Asian and mixed-race orphans, who were considered un-adoptable by existing adoption services. She established Welcome House, the first international inter-rational adoption agency and the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, which provides sponsorships for thousands of Asian children overseas.


Martha Graham

“We are all of us, unique – each a unique pattern of creativity and if we do not fulfill it, it is lost for all time.”— Martha Graham

Martha Graham (1894-1991) was an American modern dancer and choreographer. Her style, the Graham technique, reshaped American dance and is still taught worldwide. In 1926, she established her own dance company in New York City and developed an innovative, non-traditional technique that spoke to more taboo forms of movement and emotional expression. She danced well into her 70s and choreographed until her death in 1991, leaving the dance world forever changed.



Miné Okubo

“In the camps, I had the opportunity to study the human race from the cradle to the grave, and to see what happens to people when reduced to one status and one condition. Cameras and photographs were not permitted in the camps, so I recorded everything in sketches, drawings and paintings.” Miné Okubo 


Miné Okubo (1912-2001) was an American artist and writer. She is best known for her book Citizen 13660, a collection of 189 drawings and accompanying text chronicling her experiences in Japanese American internment camps during World War II. Still in print, it was the first book on the camp experience to be written by an internee. It remains a widely cited document in histories of the Japanese in America.

“I am a realist with a creative mind. I hope that things can be learned from this tragic episode, for I believe it could happen again.”

Coretta Scott King

“Struggle is a never ending process. freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” —Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King (1927-2006) was an important Civil Rights activist and the wife/widow of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.  After his death, she continued to eloquently advocate for non-violence and equal rights for all people, regardless of race or gender. She has been called the First Lady of Civil Rights.

You can hear some of her own powerful words on this podcast.

Artist’s note:  After the emboldened white supremacist march and attack over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, I want to make a statement against racism. But Coretta’s words speak stronger than mine could. We can’t just rest on our laurels and think everything should be fine because others have fought the fight before us….It’s our generation’s responsibility to fight against hatred and bigotry too. Obviously, these things don’t just go away. 

Mathilde Kschessinska

“If you miss one class, you know it; if you miss two classes, your teacher knows it, and if you miss three classes, the audience knows it.”

—Mathilde Kschessinska

Mathilde Kschessinska (1872-1971) was a flamboyant and controversial ballerina of the Imperial Russian Ballet. The first Russian to be given the title Prima Ballerina Assoluta, after mastering 32 consecutive fouettés en tournant (“whipped turns” done in place and on one leg), a feat considered in that era the supreme achievement in dance technique.

Alma Thomas


“Through color, I have sought to concentrate on beauty and happiness, rather than on man’s inhumanity to man.”—Alma Thomas

Alma Thomas (1891-1978) was an American Abstract Expressionist artist, and art educator, who devoted her life to the youth of her local Washington DC community. She was the first graduate of Howard University’s School of Fine Arts, after which she spent her life teaching middle school. Though she had painted throughout her life, taking graduate classes at nights, and using art as a communication tool in the classroom, it wasn’t until she retired at age 68 that she began another chapter of her life as an acclaimed professional artist. After a severe attack of arthritis that nearly left her paralyzed, she  restored her health and creativity by painting in a new style: “I decided to try to paint something different from anything I’ d ever done—different from anything I’ d ever seen. I thought to myself, ‘That must be accomplished.”’ With the tree and garden outside her room window as inspiration, Alma created a mosaic-like style, which would become her signature: small, rectangular shapes of bright, intense colors merged together in curves, and circles.  For the rest of her life, till she died at 86, she continued to paint, showing her work in many acclaimed galleries and shows. In 1972, at the age of 80, was was the first black woman to ever be given a solo exhibition at  New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. 

“People come to me and say, ‘Tell me how to paint.’ I say, ‘I can’ t. It comes from inside you. You have to expose yourself. Nobody taught me how to paint. I had to do it myself.”’