Steinhardt’s Program in Educational Theatre Presents ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ Oct. 24th – Nov. 2nd

Little Shop of Horrors, Howard Ashman and Alan Menkin’s award-winning off-Broadway musical, will come to NYU for two fall weekends (October 24 – November 2) in a production staged by students from the Steinhart’s educational theatre program.

Just in time for Halloween, the musical — a comedy horror that features rock music — tells the story of Seymour Krelborn, an orphan who works in a florist’s shop and discovers an exotic plant that lives off human blood. Soon the plant, “Audrey II,” grows into a sinister, ill-tempered, R&B-singing carnivore that offers to help Seymour achieve his dreams in love and fame in exchange for keeping the supply of blood flowing. Swayed by his desire to be noticed by fellow florist, Audrey, Seymour caves and strikes a deal with the sanguine plant.

Originally a film directed by Roger Corman, the musical Little Shop of Horrors first achieved fame as an Off-Off-Broadway production, with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken. Ashman and Menken are known for their later work on Disney hits The Little Mermaid and AladdinLittle Shop of Horrors ran at the Orpheum Theatre for five years, and won the Evening Standard award for Best Musical in 1985.

The entire cast and crew of the production is comprised of undergraduate and graduate students in the Program in Educational Theatre at Steinhardt, and will include four puppets to showcase the man-eating plant at various stages of its growth. Josephine Cho, Kordell Draper and Christopher Gooley will serve as puppeteers.

Steinhardt doctoral student Rachel Whorton is the show’s musical director.  Amy Cordileone, a teacher from the Program in Educational Theatre, will direct choreography. Cordileone has worked on choreography for Meta (which she also directed), The Heart Cycle, Underground: The Ben Folds Project, Two Noble Kinsmen, Alice: The Looking Glass Girl (also directed), Les Misérables, and Cotton Patch Gospel.

The cast includes Andrew Anzul as Seymour, Bethany Moore as Audrey, Zak Ferentz as Mushnick, and Katie Braun as Audrey II (the plant). Andrew Coopman plays the Dentist, and the urchins will be played by Rachel Gubow, Chelsea Flores and Alexandra Richardson. Other cast members include Josephine Cho, Liana Costable, Kordell Draper, Emma Vissicchio, Christopher Gooley, and Alexis Lounsbury.

The Crew includes Elizabeth Lozado, Shayna Blecherman, Seohee “July” Bok, Sophie Rosenthal (Dance Captain), Ashley Miskoff (Dance Captain), Mark Lussier (assistant stage manager), Orianna Miles (assistant stage manager), Jamie Lerner (assistant director), and Talia Krispel (production stage manager).

General admission is $15 General, or $5 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at or by phone at 212.998.4941. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the box office at 566 LaGuardia Place (Washington Sq. South).

Performances will take place in the Black Box Theatre at 82 Washington Square East (between W. 4th St. and Washington Pl.) on the following dates:
Friday, October 24 at 8pm
Saturday, October 25 at 8pm
Sunday, October 26 at 3pm
Thursday, October 30 at 8pm
Friday, October 31 at 8pm
Saturday, November 1 at 8pm
Sunday, November 2 at 3pm.

About NYU Steinhardt Department of Educational Theater. Steinhardt’s Department of Educational Theater focuses on training a new generation of theatre artists and educators for careers in schools, cultural institutions, and community settings. The department is the oldest of its kind within the United States, and focuses on both traditional and non-traditional performance techniques. For more information about this department, contact


Inside Books: Lisa Gitelman Looks at the Evolution of Printed Matter

In Paper Knowledge: Toward a Media History of Documents, Lisa Gitelman, chair of the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, offers a history of the written document.  Drawing on examples from 150 years of publishing, Gitelman shows how technology has transformed our experience of the written word.

From memo to menu; library card to green card, Gitelman explores a vast array of printed matter and examines how documents are created – and recreated. (“One of the things people do with documents is copy them,” Gitelman writes.) Reproducing documents through letterpress printing, photocopying, and beyond have changed our understanding of the document.

In the first half of the book, Gitelman reflects on the history of the document and the waning of old technologies.  In the second half, she looks at the portable document format (PDF) and the emergence of new forms of documents.  She notes that the PDF and the PC’s ubiquitous “My Documents” folder illustrate how the concept of document continues to evolve.

NYU Steinhardt Joins Nationwide Effort to Improve Quality of Math and Science Education

NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development joins 100Kin10 in the launch of “Blow Minds, Teach STEM,” a campaign to inspire undergraduates and recent graduates with strong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills to become teachers.

The U.S. ranks 27th in math and 20th in science among industrialized countries. In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama called for 100,000 new STEM teachers in an effort to improve the quality of math and science education.

100Kin10 – a network of 200 multi-sector organizations – responded by aiming to recruit 100,000 STEM teachers by the year 2021. The campaign, “Blow Minds, Teach STEM,” introduces STEM teaching as an impactful career option for STEM majors and recent graduates.

NYU Steinhardt was one of the early partners in 100Kin10, and together with NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering and the Jhumki Basu Foundation, committed to help retain and increase the supply of excellent STEM teachers.

The Clinically Rich Integrated Science Program (CRISP), a NYU Steinhardt master’s degree program funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top, serves as one pipeline for training teachers. The one-year teacher residency program prepares career changers and college graduates to become STEM teachers in public middle and high schools.

Using an innovative model, the aspiring teachers work with students beginning their first day in the program, and spend a school year immersed in a New York City classroom to co-teach STEM courses. Approximately 60 teachers have received their M.A. degrees through CRISP since its creation four years ago; NYU aims to train 300 new teachers through CRISP and its undergraduate math and science programs by 2021 as part of 100Kin10.

“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are vital to our future, the future of our country and the future of our children. STEM pervades every aspect of our lives,” says Pamela Fraser-Abder, professor of teaching and learning and director of science education at NYU Steinhardt. “This campaign can show people that teaching STEM is exciting, innovative, and cutting-edge.”

The “Blow Minds, Teach STEM” campaign celebrates the power of teaching and amplifies the importance of STEM education to a broad audience. A significant social media presence drives attention and traffic to the web-based hub that includes resources for potential STEM teachers, STEM-focused stories and news, and entertaining elements such as a career quiz and shareable GIFs. An animated music video – which features a teacher-turned-rock star who captivates her class with “mind-blowing” examples of STEM – concludes with the statement, “STEM teachers will give us the next generation of inventors, problem-solvers, and Neil deGrasse Tysons.”

Singer-songwriter John Legend, actor Michael Ian Black, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, human-centered design firm IDEO, media firm GOOD, “Father of the Internet” Vint Cerf, Time’s first Person of the Planet Sylvia Earle, and the U.S. Department of Education have lent their voices to “Blow Minds, Teach STEM.” They are joined by multitudes of parents, educators, scientists, mathematicians, and entrepreneurs, along with a chorus of passionate citizens.

Note: Aspiring STEM teachers interested in learning more about NYU’s master’s programs in Science and Math Education are encouraged to attend an information session on education master’s programs at NYU Steinhardt. The information session will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 22 from 6-8 p.m. at 239 Greene Street (between West 4th St. and Washington Pl.).

Those seeking information on STEM education will visit the STEM lab to hear from Megan Collins of the New York State Education Department, Fraser-Abder, and current students. The students will talk about their paths to becoming STEM educators and what motivates them to be in their chosen field.


Hopes and Dreams for Youth in Kenya: An Interview with Associate Professor Elisabeth King

Boys on a mountainside, Byumba, Rwanda.

Elisabeth King, an associate professor of international education, explores issues related to conflict and peace building in sub-Saharan Africa.  King’s book, From Classrooms to Conflict in Rwanda (Cambridge University Press, 2014), has been awarded the Outstanding Canadians Leadership Award from the Ontario History and Social Science Teachers Association. She has received grants from the United States Institute for Peace, the United Nations Development Program, the Folke Bernadotte Academy, and Columbia University’s Earth Clinic.

You work on issues related to conflict resolution and peace-building in Sub-Saharan Africa.  What draws you to this part of the world?

I have always had a passion for issues of conflict resolution and peace-building.  While violent conflict has been common the world over, and in fact, a number of convincing studies show that conflict as a whole has been declining worldwide,  as a continent, Africa has known continuous war for upwards of 50 years.  It remains the part of the world with the most state-based conflicts.  Sub-Saharan Africa also faces the most remaining challenges for sustainable social development.

At the same time, despite the challenges, when I have the privilege to work in places like Rwanda and Liberia, I am always reminded about the strength of human spirit. As clichéd as it might sound, there is something very special about the places I have the chance to work in Africa that makes me want to go back time and time again.

Elisabeth King

Can you talk a little about your work in Kenya?

I am just back from Nairobi where I wrapped up data collection on a project that I began in the summer of 2013.  This project questions widely-held assumptions about highly youthful populations – in Kenya the median age is 19; it’s 37 in the US; youth’s aspirations for education and life – delving into issues like hope, expectations, and role models; and youth’s involvement in violence and peace-building.  One of the dimensions that is so exciting about this project is that I have gotten to speak with youth themselves, both in school and out-of-school, about what they want and hope for their lives. I have also spoken with non-governmental organizations and government involved in youth programming. The next part is to further explore the consequences – potentially positive and negative – of aspirations that are likely to remain unmet.

What is perhaps even more exciting is how this project is rooted in collaboration here at Steinhardt and the learning we can leverage from that collaboration. My terrific colleague, Dana Burde, is exploring these same issues, using the same research design and instruments, in Karachi, Pakistan. We can then come together and examine the similarities and differences in our findings between these two contexts with, on the one hand, hugely youthful populations, similar diversity of violence, much international education and youth programming, ranked side by side on the Human Development Index, and on the other, very different cultures.

Liberia, May 2009.

What can a researcher bring to the table that can help children and youth in developing countries?

I am always interested in research that answers questions that are not only important for scholarship but that have significant and realistic links to policy and practice.  The common thread throughout my research agenda is asking if and how theories of peace-building and development really work, or not, for people on the ground.

In this particular project, we have been speaking with NGOs involved in youth programming in Kenya and Pakistan.  We plan to work with one such organization to refine its programming, or even develop a new intervention, based on the findings from our qualitative work on youth aspirations. We then plan to rigorously evaluate the program.  It’s a dream for a researcher in terms of making the most of the opportunity we have to conduct this research, taking what youth themselves have to say, using that to craft a program that will help other youth, then testing it to see if it is indeed having the hoped-for impacts.


At Steinhardt’s New Student Convocation, a Discussion of ‘Wild’ and a Celebration of Student Art

A interdisciplinary discussion on 'Wild' ( from left to right): Beth Weitzman, Rene Arcilla, Okhee Lee, alumna Kate Weigel, and Kathleen Woolf.

The hero’s journey and the limits of physical endurance were among topics discussed at Steinhardt’s New Student Convocation on October 6th.  The event brought together 800 undergraduate students and a panel of Steinhardt faculty members for a celebration and discussion and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, this year’s required freshman reading.  Wild tells the story of Strayed’s soul-searching journey on foot across the Pacific Crest Trail.

Emily McNally performed, 'Run Wild,' a song inspired by the new student reading.

Steinhardt Vice Dean Beth Weitzman moderated, “Journey as Challenge,” an interdisciplinary panel discussion with Professor Rene Arcilla (Humanities and Social Sciences in the Professions), Professor Okhee Lee (Teaching and Learning), Assistant Professor Kathleen Woolf (Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health) and alumna, Kate Weigel, (BA ’14) (Art and Art Professions).

'In Memory of Lady," a watercolor by Rachel Li

Arcilla and Lee offered perspectives on Strayed’s memoir, interpreting it through a literary lens, as well as through the point-of-view of a non-native speaker in a completely new culture.  Woolf, a physical therapist, and Wiegel, an alumna who pushed herself to the limits of her own physical endurance on a cross-country cycling trip, offered insight into how the body can adapt to stress and how the mind adapts to life-altering experiences.

“The truth is, if an experience doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you,” Woolf said.

The convocation also celebrated the creativity of Steinhardt students who presented original art, music, and a video inspired by Wild.  The work of Emily McNally (Music and Performing Arts
), Rachel Li (Art and Art Professions), and Tyler James ( Music and Performing Arts), can be viewed at Express Steinhardt!


‘Familiar Talker Advantage’ is the Focus of Research by Susannah Levi of Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders

Research has shown that when adults are familiar with someone’s voice, they can more accurately – and even more quickly – process and understand what the person is saying. This concept, known as the “familiar talker advantage,” comes into play in situations where it is difficult to hear. For example, in a loud or crowded room, adults can better understand those whose voices they already know.

According to a study by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, familiar voices can improve spoken language processing among school-age children.   However, the advantage of hearing a familiar voice only helps children to process and understand words they already know well, not new words that aren’t in their vocabularies.

The findings, which were published online in August in the Journal of Child Language, suggest that children store information about a speaker to retrieve and harness at a later time, similar to what has been found for adult listeners.

However, little research has been done in children to see how they process familiar versus unfamiliar voices. Children are still acquiring language and their skills are less honed than adults, yet they are more adversely affected by background noise. If children also experience an advantage when hearing familiar voices, it is possible that the improvement in language processing could free up cognitive resources for other tasks.

“Most adults are good at adapting to the way people speak,” says Susannah Levi, assistant professor of communicative sciences and disorders at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s author. “It’s helpful to know that adults have an advantage with familiar speakers, because if you learn how a person talks, you can use that information to your benefit. We were interested in seeing if and when the advantage develops in children.”

The current study explored whether the familiar talker advantage is found in children ages seven to 12. Forty-one children participated in the study, first listening to a series of words and repeating them to give researchers a baseline for how accurately each child identified words.

The children then spent five days learning the voices of three German-English bilingual speakers, represented by cartoon characters in a computer program. The characters spoke a series of single words, and the children learned to identify the characters by their voices.

Finally, the children completed tasks in which they heard words spoken by six German-English bilingual speakers, and were asked to repeat the words. Three of the six speakers were the voices of the characters they had already learned.

Half of the words used in the task were common words children would likely know and use (such as cat, book, and hug), and half were less familiar or even unknown (such as loathe, sage, and void). The study used recordings of bilingual speakers to allow the researchers to test whether children acclimated to the speakers’ accents.

The study revealed that children could more accurately repeat the words spoken by familiar voices, demonstrating that their spoken language processing improved with familiar speakers. However, this improvement was limited to the words children were likely to know, and the familiarity was not useful for words they didn’t know.

“It didn’t matter who the children heard speak an unfamiliar word – a familiar voice or a stranger – because they were just as likely or unlikely to understand what was said,” says Levi.

Children with the poorest performance at the baseline testing showed the greatest benefit of hearing familiar speakers. In addition, despite learning three voices with German accents, the accents did not provide an advantage to the children when they heard unfamiliar German-accented voices.

Levi noted that the findings may have implications for children learning in environments with background noise.

“Adults and children can process language really well in quiet environments or with headphones on. But most of life, including classroom learning, is done in environments that aren’t silent,” Levi says. “This study shows that children were able to integrate knowledge of what a person sounds like and use this to their advantage. A potential benefit is that when there’s background noise and kids are listening to a familiar voice, like a teacher’s, kids use the familiarity to their advantage.”

This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health (1R03DC009851-01A2).


Familiar voices can improve spoken language processing among school-age children, according to a study by NYU Steinhardt. © thinkstock/


A Harvest Party for NYU’s Urban Farm Lab

Ananya Parekh picked cilantro at the NYU Urban Farm Lab's fall harvest celebration.

NYU’s Urban Farm Lab celebrated its second harvest on October 2nd with an outdoor farm festival.  Guests picked the summer’s crop of vegetables and feasted on food prepared with the bounty of the harvest season.

Second grader, Ananya Parekh, was among the guests who walked the vegetable beds in search of the ripest offerings.  Ananya took home a bag of greens for her school lunch. A huge fan of vegetables, she wrote a poem to commemorate the event: “Vegetables, are crunchy, munchy, and sweet,/The rainbow colors is what I love to eat!”

The NYU Urban Farm is located behind the Silver Tower residences on the corner of Wooster and West Houston Streets in New York City.  NYU’s farmers harvest in plain sight of New York City traffic and pedestrians.

The lab is an outdoor classroom that promotes hands-on activities related to urban agriculture and food systems. Under the leadership of Jennifer Berg, director of the graduate food studies program at NYU Steinhardt, and Amy Bentley, associate professor of food studies at NYU Steinhardt, the farm brings together faculty, students, and community members who plant, water, weed, and more to grow crops in the heart of the city.

After several years of planning, the NYU Urban Farm Lab grew its first crops in 2013, thanks to a Green Grant from NYU’s Office of Sustainability.

Now in its second year, the farm is seeing growth – and not just in its plants.

Nasturtium, an edible flower, bloomed in NYU's Urban Farm Lab.

“Our ‘Introduction to Urban Agriculture’ course went from one section of students to three full sections,” says Bentley. Faculty and students also built working compost bins, and improved the farm’s soil through compost application and rotating crops with cash and cover crops.

“Even though we had a late start getting our plants outside thanks to last winter’s weather, we still had a great season,” says Laurel Greyson, manager of the NYU Urban Farm and adjunct instructor of food studies.

This season the farm grew beets, kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli, swiss chard, salad mix, arugula, little gem lettuce, turnips, radishes, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, herbs, and flowers.

(Photo credit:  Debra Weinstein)


Photography As Memoir: Questions for Meryl Meisler, Art Education Field Supervisor and Author

Meryl Meisler, an adjunct instructor in the Department of Art and Art Professions, supervises NYU’s student teachers in the New York City public and private schools.  Meisler has worked as visual and digital art teacher for New York City’s Department of Education, a photographer for the American Jewish Congress, and a faculty member at the International Center of Photography.  Her work has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, Dia Center NYC, MASS MoCA, The Whitney, and in public spaces such as Grand Central Terminal and the New York City subway system.

Self Portrait Sky Studio Adventurer (Meryl Meisler)

Your book, A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick, juxtaposes images of Brooklyn with the disco scene of the 1970s and 80s — can you talk a little about your life at that time?

Although my bachelor’s degree was in art education, I was scared to teach, so I returned to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and earned a master’s degree in photography and illustrative drawing.  In 1979, in need of steady paycheck, I became a part time New York City public school art and photography teacher. Then in 1981, in need of a full time job with benefits, I became the art and photography teacher at I.S. 291 in Bushwick.

Handshake (Meryl Meisler)

Walking to my new teaching job, I was shocked. Bushwick resembled a war zone, scorched and seeming forgotten since the widespread arson that occurred during the 1977 blackout.  But to me, Bushwick’s natural light was beautiful; kids were kids; and vacant buildings whispered: ‘Here I am, take my picture before I collapse.’

In 1977, I met stand-up comic, Judi Jupiter, at Mardi Gras, and we became friends and started going to the punk clubs and discos together. So I photographed New York City street life by day and my adventures in the city’s hottest discos by night; developed the film, cut them up, then placed them in negative sleeves to file away. I showed a few of the street photos, but never showed any of the disco images until now.

Grace Jones La Farfalle (Meryl Meisler)

How did your students react to your photos?

The students were more impressed by my drawings than my photography. They had a huge respect for artists and appreciated the drawing tips I could give them. They loved having access to cameras and a darkroom, using art and photography to learn about their neighborhood, express their points of view, and make work to show to the public.  Former students who connect with me through social media or in person recall fondly the projects they worked on decades later.

Meryl Meisler and her students at I.S. 291, Bushwick, Brooklyn.

As Steinhardt’s art education field supervisor, do you get to shoot much?

Working as the art education field supervisor at NYU part time gives me time to dive into my archives, organize exhibitions, and focus on my book. A prequel and sequel are in the works. I consider the work I am doing now a visual memoir.  I still follow my personal passion by photographing student teachers during observation sessions. Students can use these images for their teaching portfolios.  These days, I am adding to what is probably my largest ever growing body of work — a pedagogue’s view of  New York City’s public and private schools from 1979 to now.

Pink Twins (Meryl Meisler)

What did creating A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick, teach you?

You are what you see and do.

Everyone you meet is important.

Perspective takes time and editing.

Each of us is a witness to and part of history.

To me, photography is memoir.

Beauty Salon (Meryl Meisler)

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Never give up on yourself and your personal artwork. Keep doing it; that is your gift to yourself and the universe. It will help keep you grounded and sane. If, like me, you need to be employed, make your job an extension of your creativity.


On October 7th, Meryl Meisler will be discussing A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick, at NYU’s Bookstore.  Visit the bookstore’s website, to learn more about the event.

From NYU Stories: Amy Bentley Talks About Her New Book, ‘Inventing Baby Food’

Amy Bentley’s book, Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health, and the Industrialization of the American Diet, explores the forces that have shaped our thinking on childhood nutrition. It’s a uniquely American story that ties together developments in industrialization, feminism, science, family life, and advertising over the course of the 20th century.

At the height of popularity of commercial baby food and formula in the late 1960s, rates of breastfeeding reached an all-time low, with 20-25% of infants breastfed at birth, and only 5% still being breastfed 6 months later. Doctors heartily endorsed the use of baby food, and sample jars were given to new mothers as they exited the hospital after giving birth.

Then, of course, came the backlash. In the 1970s, consumer advocacy groups began to question the amounts of salt, sugar, and preservatives added to baby food, and to demand greater transparency in ingredient listings. New studies suggested that too much food too early could lead to obesity and dental problems later in life. And a new generation of feminists advocating a return to “natural,” pre-industrial motherhood began to publish recipes for homemade baby food.

While it can be tempting now, in our own “breast is best,” do-it-yourself organic everything era, to dismiss baby food’s midcentury heyday as an unfortunate fad driven by advertising dollars and bad science, Bentley cautions against such smugness. In 2011, Americans spent $6.2 billion a year on baby food, and today it remains a leading segment in our food market, with alternative and “all-natural” brands springing up in response to 21st-century concerns about the safety and nutritional value of processed foods.

Moreover, the evolution of those cute Gerber jars (and now even-more-portable pouches), she writes, “reminds us of changes over time in scientific understanding, cultural imperatives and values, and feeding practices and food habits, and it is probably naive to assume that we have arrived at a place of finality. What we perceive today as the best practices in infant food and feeding will undoubtedly change in the future.”

Eileen Reynolds of NYU Stories sat down with Bentley, an associate professor in Steinhardt’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, to talk about the anxiety mothers of every generation have felt about living up to “expert” advice.

You write in the book about the rise, in the first part of the 20th century, of “scientific motherhood,” and how authority shifted from mothers to doctors and scientists. How did that lead to the rise of baby food?
It seems weird to us now because today we’re so comfortable with this idea of breast milk as this perfect fluid, perfected over millennia to provide all the things that an infant needs. But in the mid-20th century there was such an optimistic belief in science and progress that people really thought we could do better—that we could unlock the secrets of nature and improve upon it. At the same time, breastfeeding was associated with primitivism and backwardness—breastfeeding was common in the developing world, so it didn’t seem like a very progressive and modern thing to do. Also, there’s the discovery of vitamins in the early 20th-century: With industrialization, baby food preserved fruits and vegetables in an easy accessible form—made them shelf stable and available all year round, hence increasing the amount of vitamins infants could be fed. It was a perfect storm of science, technology, power, wealth, and modernity—so in the space of just 20 or 30 years you had a breathtakingly quick decline in the ages at which babies were fed food.

You write that some people have argued that the whole baby food “stage” was an unnecessary one artificially constructed by the food industry. Do you agree?
I think it’s more complicated than that. This is a story about convenience, which is part of the larger story of American culture—the culture of efficiency. Baby food gave women flexibility. They could leave the house and take the jars of baby food with them, or they could take a child to a babysitter and know that there will be food available for that child. It allowed women to go to work in much greater numbers. It’s important to remember that breast milk is “free” but it comes with costs: You have to have the time and luxury, and if you’re working, you have to have the technology. On the other hand, like any good American idea baby food was taken and pushed to the nth degree: If we can feed a child at 6 months, why not feed him at 6 days? [laughs] So the rise of baby food inserted food at a much earlier age than was necessary. And it was food that at one point had a lot of salt, sugar, and preservatives—stuff that wasn’t very good for infants.

Critics of commercial baby food have claimed that eating it sets up an infant for a lifetime of eating processed “junk” food. Is there scientific evidence to support these claims?
Studies on this are just emerging, so I’m hesitant to say that there’s one definitive answer. But there are studies pointing to palate development earlier than we ever dreamed—including in utero. Amniotic fluid is flavored by the food a woman eats, so if a woman is eating the signature spices of her culture, that baby comes out sort of acclimated to those spices already. It’s also true that we’re hardwired to like sugar, salt, and fat for biological reasons—and when there’s so much of that in the environment, it’s easy to overdo it. There are studies demonstrating that visual cues matter as well—if all babies see are beige, pureed foods, then something with a brighter color or rougher texture might not even look like food to them. And Leann Birch at Penn State has shown that it takes about a dozen encounters with a food before a child will like or even want to try it.

Given all those concerns, some parents are now spending hours in the kitchen making their own baby food. But is it really so bad to crack open a jar once in a while?
In researching this book I got a lot of anecdotal comments from women saying things like, “My daughter’s crazy—she works all day and then stays up all night making her own baby food!” But, you know, I might do it too, if I had babies today. Some women may feel pressured to do this, and some may say “no way.” But for others this is an interesting and empowering challenge. I think the whole DIY movement is a reaction to industrialization and routinization, to feeling that I don’t do anything distinctive, I don’t make anything with my hands.

A key theme in the book is how being a mother and being a consumer are intertwined, and how shifting ideas about what is best for baby play out in different eras. In the 1950s, if you were a mother who didn’t feed your child Gerber baby food within a month of birth, you might have felt anxiety, because that was what a good mother did. Now if you’re a mother in a certain demographic and you don’t make your own baby food, there’s a twinge of wondering: Am I a good mother?

In every period it’s almost like a religion—here’s this one magic bullet for the best way to feed your child. But really, if you cover the basic parameters, a kid’s going to be okay. You get them enough food and nutrients, keep them warm, love them, change their diaper, and the kid is going to be fine. We all have our psychoses and neuroses, but history has shown that, though we suffer from a few health problems, a generation raised on baby food and formula have turned out okay.

Listen to Amy Bentley interviewed by WNYC’s Brian Lehrer.


Art Department Fall Public Lecture Series Presents Nikki S. Lee, Chris Kraus, and Sarah Lewis, and More

Korean photographer and videographer Nikki S. Lee will be among the guests hosted by the NYU Steinhardt Department of Arts and Arts Professions Fall Events Program.

Dancer/filmmaker Yvonne Rainer, cultural critics Chris Kraus and Eileen Myles, cultural historian Sarah Lewis, and photographer Nikki S. Lee are among the guest artists scheduled to take part in this fall’s public events series hosted by the NYU Steinhardt Department of Art and Arts Professions.

The Department will reprise its series of visiting lecturers, which takes place weekly on Thursdays at 5 p.m. The popular series enables students and the public to hear a wide variety of artists discuss their work in an interactive setting. The full list of speakers and dates for fall are as follows:

10/2: Peter Nadin
10/9: Cynthia Daignault
10/16: Josh Kline
10/23: Mika Rottenberg
11/6: Bruce Hainley
11/13: Rebecca Morris
11/20: Carissa Rodriguez
12/4: Kerstin Brätsch
12/11: Moyra Davey
12/18: Yvonne Rainer

This fall’s series will also feature three special events. The first, “Nikki S. Lee: New Art,” will be a screening and three-way conversation with the Korean photographer and NYU alumna Nikki S. Lee, Christopher Phillips, curator at the International Center of Photography in New York City and Jung Lee Sanders, gallerist at Arts Projects International. The event takes place on Friday, October 17 from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at the Cantor Media Center, located at 36 East 8th Street between University Place and Greene Street.

The second special event, to be held Thursday, October 30 at 6 p.m., is “Chris Kraus and Eileen Myles in Conversation,” the first public conversation between two notable writers and art critics who have maintained a lively private dialogue about art and culture, life, politics and ideas.

Chris Kraus is the author of four novels, most recently “Summer of Hate,” and two books of art and cultural criticism. She writes frequently for art and cultural magazines, including Artforum, Spex, n+1 and Tank. Eileen Myles is a poet and the author of eighteen collections of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, as well as libretti, performance pieces and plays. The intro to Kraus’s “I Love Dick,” and her essay, “Street Retreat,” for the Whitney Biennial will be part of a longer collection of travel writings about Russia, India, Ireland, and living homeless in New York City. Her new and selected poems “I Must Be Living Twice,” will be published in 2015. The dialogue will be hosted by Lyle Ashton Harris, associate professor of Art at NYU Steinhardt.

On Friday, December 5, the department will host an interactive discussion with noted cultural historian Sarah Lewis. Lewis is the author of “The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery,” which discusses how innovation, discovery, and the creative progress are all spurred on by advantages gleaned from improbable and unlikely events, including failure. Her essays on race, contemporary art and culture have been published in many journals as well as The New Yorker, Artforum, Art in America and in publications for the Smithsonian, The Museum of Modern Art, and Rizzoli.

All events are free and open to the public, and (with the exception of Nikki S. Lee) will be held at the Einstein Auditorium, located at the Barney Building, 34 Stuyvesant Street, just off 9th Street, accessible by the 6 subway line (Astor Place).

Visit here for more information.