1. Beautifying Neglected Basketball Courts With Project Backboard
Founded in 2014 by Daniel Peterson, Project Backboard refurbishes neglected basketball courts by commissioning artists to make them works of art. Initially in Memphis, the project has now spread across neighborhoods in the United States and features beautiful work by the likes of Nina Chanel Abney, Nick Dahlen, Brandon Marshall and more. Peterson says that the initiative has several goals, “to help people understand that they don’t have to be just one type of person—an artist or an athlete—they can be both” and also to “strengthen communities and inspire multi-generational play.” Read more at Artsy.
2. Hype Williams Changed Hip-Hop
The prolific, innovative and imaginative director Harold “Hype” Williams was honored at the 2017 VH1 Hip-Hop honors this week—and deservingly so. Hip-hop wouldn’t be the same without Williams, whose flashy, weird and wonderful vision came to life across countless music videos—especially in the ’90s and early 2000s. From Q-Tip’s “Breathe and Stop” to The Notorious BIG + Puff Daddy + Mase’s “Mo Money Mo Problems,” and countless memorable videos for Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes and OutKast, Williams changed music videos forever. Head over to Mass Appeal, where the team selected 91 of their favorite Hype Williams videos.
3. One Book, 100 Black Women Photographers
Laylah Amatullah Barrayn’s new book “Mfon: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora” represents a much-needed testament to the power of black women photographers. The first of its kind since Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe’s “Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers,” back in 1986, Barrayn’s compilation includes work from “100 female photographers of the African diaspora,” according to Quartz. Through funding from the Brooklyn Arts Council and a crowdfunding campaign, the book will become available next month—and it will be the start of an annual publication. Head over to Quartz for an informative interview with Barrayn.
4. 5,000+ Objects Coming to the International Spy Museum
Spy Museum board member H Keith Melton is kindly offering up some 5,000+ personally collected objects to the collection. Since the 1970s, Melton has been gathering all kinds of trickery and tools used by spies—from a piece of a spy plane to “the axe used to hack exiled Soviet communist Leon Trotsky to death and even a 13-foot-long spy submarine from World War II.” Unsurprisingly these sometimes sensitive espionage artifacts were collected in equally sly ways—Melton apparently smuggled one item from Soviet Russia in his cheek. Read more at Smithsonian.
5. Topographic, Architectural Chocolate Tarts
In a tasty example of ephemeral art, artist José Margulis built topographic, perception-changing sheets of 3D plastic. Collaborator and architect-turned-pastry-chef Dinara Kasko used these designs to craft pastry components by way of various “cutting machines and tools to create 3D chocolate layers,” according to PSFK. Kasko finalized the desserts by placing the layers on top of four different flavored tart cakes. The geometry here truly impresses—as does the architectural layering. It was important to Kasko that the final product tasted as good as it looked.
6. Susan Bennett Explains How She Became the Voice of Siri
Susan Bennett’s voice has always been special. Back at the start of her career, she toured as a back-up singer for musicians like Burt Bacharach and Roy Orbison, while also singing jingles. In July 2005, however, she took on a recording project: recording jibberish phrases for one month. It was for the text-to-speech company ScanSoft, a phone messaging system that would ultimately become Siri. Through the nonsense recordings, Bennett provided ScanSoft with all the sounds of the English language. Once in the hands of programmers, those sounds grew into the sassy virtual assistant we know today. Bennett’s story, in full over at Type Form, is a fascinating one.
7. YuMi the Robot Conducts Tenor Andrea Bocelli
In a program titled “A breath of hope: from the Stradivarius to the robot,” YuMi the dual-armed robot made its debut as a conductor. Through the compositions of Verdi, YuMi directed none other than world-famous tenor Andrea Bocelli in singing “La Donna è Mobile,” the aria from “Rigoletto” as well as many other performers. YuMi is the invention of ABB—and he was built as a collaborative, or self-learning, robot. With conducting an orchestra being considered one of the highest forms of art, YuMi’s success reflects a true feat of engineering wherein a machine adopted subtle human gestures and applied them to the music accordingly. Learn more about YuMi’s development over at ABB’s website.
8. South Africa’s “Boxing Grannies”
Training twice a week with their coach Claude Maphosa, South Africa’s “gogos” are older women who are learning to box for the benefit of their health. Dubbed “Boxing Grannies,” these badass ladies are finding that many of their ailments are disappearing and they’re feeling healthier and stronger than ever. Apparently the classes have been so popular, Maphosa is planning to organize more in other areas. Take a look at the photo gallery at The Guardian.