Converts Empty Corner
Following the economic collapse, vacant buildings litter streets across the country.
A Makers Quest 2.0 (MQ2) project, The Corner: 23rd and Union transformed a seemingly defeated Seattle corner into an outlet for sharing diverse perspectives.
The initiative used a Skype phone line to explore the historic and cultural evolution of Seattle’s central district. A former African-American hub, the area now hosts empty structures, gentrified homes and a resulting culture clash. Jenny Asarnow, a producer at KUOW-FM, explained, “I was really shocked by how thoroughly the history of this corner had been erased from the landscape itself.”
Armed with an MQ2 grant, Asarnow and her team employed a phone line as a communication tool for citizens to share cherished memories and heated attitudes about the neighborhood. Community members called from off-site and from the corner itself to record stories or listen to randomly-selected testimony.
To promote the phone line, the project constructed an art installation at the corner and hosted a barbeque open to the community. An active Facebook page with more than 1500 fans and air-time on KUOW-FM supplemented the promotion efforts.
Once the promotion was in place, stories rolled in. The resulting community radio documentary epitomizes participatory journalism. Recordings included a memory of a Black Panther hangout, friendly banter about a former grocery store’s name, and a tale from a time when two separate communities—one black, one white—co-existed in the same neighborhood. Testimonies remained unedited as MP3s on the Web site and as recordings on the phone line.
The phone line received over 900 calls and captured 200 stories. Producer Asarnow assembled the content into three 9-12 minute documentary radio features. Listen to the stories or check out the project at the Web site or Facebook page.