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The best conversations and live journalism at WBUR’s CitySpace in 2021

The 152nd Street Black Ballet Legacy, from left: Karlya Shelton-Benjamin, Gayle McKinney-Griffith, Sheila Rohan, Lydia Abarca-Mitchell appeared at CitySpace with Misty Copeland in a historic conversation moderated by WBUR senior arts and culture reporter Cristela Guerra. (Liz Linder for WBUR)
The 152nd Street Black Ballet Legacy, from left: Karlya Shelton-Benjamin, Gayle McKinney-Griffith, Sheila Rohan, Lydia Abarca-Mitchell appeared at CitySpace with Misty Copeland in a historic conversation moderated by WBUR senior arts and culture reporter Cristela Guerra. (Liz Linder for WBUR)

For much of 2021, CitySpace at The Lavine Broadcast Center was left absent, and the live conversations engaging audiences in Boston halted.

Instead, with the uncertainty of COVID-19, the venue was equipped as a back-up studio in case the pandemic found its way to WBUR’s main studios upstairs. That preparation was never needed, but with our doors shuttered, the CitySpace team doubled down and reinvented our live journalism for a virtual world.

We produced critical discussions on the pandemic and vaccineslearning and schools; and issues of climate change. And we offered audiences access to the candidates in town halls with Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George during Boston’s historic mayoral election. All of this was beamed to screens as many of us stayed inside.

Along the way, we had a little fun too, discussing food with local and world-renowned chefs (hello, Jacques Pépin’s butternut squash soup), bringing fascinating people and ideas to the screen and even hosting a history-making meeting about the legacy of Black ballerinas. And, we attempted to sort through what might come next in our new pandemic reality.

As restrictions were lifted, CitySpace has once again been filled with smiling faces and community. With the turbulent year coming to a close, here's a look back at our staff's favorite events of 2021.

Tell Me More! Misty Copeland & the Ballerinas of the 152nd Street Black Ballet Legacy

This conversation between Misty Copeland and four trailblazing Black ballerinas was an emotional, historic and mesmerizing discussion between two generations of ballerinas meeting for the first time. The challenges the older generation faced as dancers of color reminded us of how far we’ve come, but also how far we still need to go. – Amy Macdonald, director

Here and Now Presents Jessamyn Stanley: “Yoke.”

Listen, I don’t do yoga. But Jessamyn Stanley makes me believe that, as a fellow fat Black woman, I can do that — and so much more. Stanley exudes the kind of confidence, self-love and rise-above-the-haters mentality that I try to practice and wish I learned so much earlier in my life.

Unwind in the first 30 minutes with a feel-good yoga session with Stanley and stay for a chat about her essay collection, “Yoke,” with Here & Now co-host Robin Young. In just an hour, they discuss everything from cultural appropriation to racism to body liberation. You’ll enjoy the way that Young and Stanley, two women from different generations and walks of life, vibe effortlessly as they tackle tough issues. It’s beautiful and inspiring to watch. – Candice Springer, assistant director

Both/And: Huma Abedin Reflects On Her Life And Career In Public Service As Aide To Hillary Clinton

Huma Abedin has lived the past two decades in public service and was one of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s most trusted advisors. Abedin is the person often seen whispering in Clinton’s ear. But Abedin also faced incredible public scrutiny after her former husband Anthony Weiner’s laptop was uncovered containing emails from Abedin and Clinton during an investigation of his crimes – prompting then-FBI Director James Comey to famously reopen the investigation into Clinton’s email controversy just 11 days before the 2016 election.

Abedin documents all of this in her new memoir, “Both/And,” and joined Radio Boston host Tiziana Dearing on stage to discuss the book. The conversation offered more color and nuance to the story than previously seen elsewhere from Abedin and offered a new chance of understanding the people at the red hot center of recent history. – Steven Davy, senior producer

A Celebration Of Car Talk With Host Ray Magliozzi

After more than 30 years on the air, WBUR and NPR’s beloved show Car Talk ended its run on radio stations in September. Car Talk host Ray Magliozzi and executive producer Doug Berman graced the CitySpace stage in November, sharing behind-the-scenes stories with former NPR All Things Considered host Robert Siegel moderating. The rapport between the guests on stage was fantastic and made for a very engaging evening. There was great energy in the audience too, which fed the stage and vice versa. It was a worthy sendoff to a truly extraordinary show. – Niall Foley, operations and technical manager

Curated Cuisine: Holiday Baking With James Beard Award Winner Dorie Greenspan

When James Beard award-winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan stopped by CitySpace in December, it was her only in-person event of 2021. And it was truly delicious. There was such wonderful energy on stage between On Point host Meghna Chakrabarti and Greenspan.

Following their conversation, a long line formed of people waiting to have Greenspan sign copies of her new book, "Baking with Dorie: Sweet, Salty and Simple." And she chatted with everyone – getting to know them all.

The most memorable quote from Greenspan: "Every baker needs an eater" – a simple truth noting that we all have a role in baking. – Anna Michelsen, events coordinator

2021 Boston Mayoral Debate

The Boston mayoral debate ranks high on my list of favorite events from this past year. Not only was it the first event back in the CitySpace theater, but the high profile and historic nature of the event compounded what was already exciting. Politics might be a NPR news station's bread and butter, but it's always enjoyable to help put on an event that can really impact the world around you. – Adam Straus, technical associate

This Is Your Mind On Plants: Author Michael Pollan On The Way We Think About Drugs

One of my favorite events this year was when we had author Michael Pollan on stage in discussion with STAT News reporter Angus Chen about his new book, “This Is Your Mind on Plants.” The conversation was engaging and Pollan was entertaining and informative. The way Pollan talks about mind-altering plants offers more than a forum on just the substances themselves, but also about the culture around them. That's important to understanding how they are used in society — not only in their recreational use, but their holistic and spiritual uses as well. – Michael Diffin, technical director

Leveling The Playing Field In STEM

My favorite CitySpace moment of 2021 came when we featured leaders building pathways for diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Seeing a group of leaders working to solve a key issue of access and equity made me so excited to get back to live events. Events are entertaining and educating, for sure – but this one felt even more driven to make real, concrete change. – Kait Ziskin Levesque, events business manager, business partnerships

Want to see more? You can watch all of our 2021 events on YouTube.


Coming up at CitySpace in 2022

With the new year fast approaching, we’ve been busy lining up a schedule of events that you’ll want to put on your calendar (or better yet, book your tickets now). Join Here & Now co-host Scott Tong in a conversation with an expert panel discussing the mental health gaps in community college.

We’re tuning up the live music dial with several shows that span your favorite genres, including cellist Jonah Ellsworth in a concert honoring the legacy of Bach, WBUR's Massachusetts Tiny Desk favorite HEESU and an evening with Fabiola Mendez and her Puerto Rican cuatro.

Finally, join us for the return of our popular Curated Cuisine series, kicking off with a conversation with chef Jason Bond who will help you better understand how to take advantage of your winter-stocked root cellar.

Steven Davy Twitter Senior Producer, WBUR CitySpace

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