PA Radio Iso Booth, in progress

INTERNET RADIO STATION AT THE ARENA TECHNOLOGY CENTER
(reprinted from the Lighthouse Peddler, February 2011)

Even after nearly seven years in operation, people still say “what?” and “where?” when I mention that I am part of the Arena Technology Center (ATC). So, in late December, I asked Mitch and Madeline if they would put a free advertisement for the Arena Technology Center in the Peddlerthinking an ad might just help folks grok where we are and the fact that we have the highest speed internet on the coast (great for online classes, internet traffic school, facebook, web surfing and research), offer FREE connectivity, computer classes designed to met local demands for learning, and serve both youth and adults.

While they agreed to run an ad for us in January, Mitch suggested that he’d rather I fill up these column inches in the next issue, and I’ve been musing on the task for weeks. Now, hours before the deadline, I sit at the tech center, long after the last body went home to a warm house and finally get started: yes, I am a midnight writer. My fear, of course, is that these words will come off as banal PR copy---if so, mea culpa, as this place is close to my heart and my goals for our communityto make us creators of our own media rather than consumers of it, to empower youth to engage in civil and social value shaping, to realize the influence of ideas, and the global reach the internet offers for those ideas.

ATC started as a late night conversation between Cybirk and I. We had just come back from Sundance, high on the thought that a movie made by students from this grand but tiny thimble of California could go so far, and we thoughtwhat next? As the force behind Point Arena Pirate Radio, Cybirk loved the idea of a community technology center, and together, with me as scribe, we brainstormed the idea. When we took our three page “proposal” to Jim Levine, then the acting director of the Mendocino Youth Project, he said something along the lines of, “great idea” and then proceeded to list the heap of things we would have to do to make the “business” successful.” Urgh! We, two artists with not much zest for operational management, walked away with our creativity dampened by thoughts of the kind of work we have worked hard to avoid.

In comes Kim Swenson, who along with Amelie Prescot and Linda Heinsohn made the making of Life on the Rez possible; fortunately, Kim wasn’t daunted at all. So she took our three-page proposal, added her insights and applied to the California Consumer Protection Foundation (CCPF) under the auspices of the Point Arena Schools. Within six months, we had a center.
Since then we have taught numerous classes, hosted five “Youth Create” multimedia festivals at the Arena Theater, put together an extensive soon-to-be live archive of past youth work (arenatechcenter.org), and continue to have loads of day to day geeking-out-fun with the youth and adults who visit us at the Huntley House. Today we are staffed by Brendan Mobert (Mondays & Fridays)the knower of pc, open source, hardware and software); Cheryl Rhodes (Wednesdays)the beginners’ dream teacher who has the patience, knowledge and experience to make anything tech seem easy; and myself (Tuesdays & Thursdays)I guess I can call myself the graphics design teacher, grant writer, loudmouth and overall cheerleader for the ATC. We also have PAHS junior Jimi Bove as our youth staff person.

And now, once again grateful to the California Consumer Protection Foundation as well as the Point Arena Schools, MCOE/ACMC Get Arts in the Schools, California Arts Council and the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, we are launching an internet radio station. Most likely, but the middle of February, anyone who has internet access will be able to listen to live stream radio as well as podcast archives of youth and community programming created at the ATC via our website (arenatechcenter.org/radio.htm).

Of course, this did not happen with grant money alone. Jim Koogle, Chris Campbell and Gregg Monty built us a glass enclosed isolation booth in the backroom. Brendan, Cheryl, Jimi and I put our heads together, came up with an equipment list, I ordered everything. Brendan, Jimi and the other techno-savvy youth involved in our internet radio launch directed us to open source audio software, since as a free service they believe (and I agree) that the ATC should be using the linux-based “people’s software” rather than proprietary, expensive software—this means once a person learns how to produce audio programming at ATC, he/she should be able to access the same tools on their home computers without being forced to sell their baseball card collection, wash 1000 cars, and have a bake sale every weekend.

To add extra inspiration, I set up a visit to Youth Radio, a youth media facility based in Oakland, CA. Youth Radio promotes media literacy, activism, as well as intellectual, creative, and professional growth for 14-24 year-olds through free education and free access to media; their overarching goal is to instill a long-term commitment and engagement of youth, helping them to become viable contributors and leaders in the media/arts, journalism and civic life. And their youth-produced investigative news features and compelling personal narratives air nationally via NPR and are archived on their website (youthradio.org).

So, on a drizzily January 19th morning, a group of PAHS students piled into two vans and trekked to the big bad city to witness what is possible when a community pursues a dream. After a tour of Youth Radio’s amazingly professional, wholly grant-funded, non-profit educational facility (which includes a one million dollar production studio), we returned home empowered and buzzing with creative ideas for radio shows, which include music, sports (including live streaming of away games), surf, poetry, scary stories, youth issues, call ins, native youth voices and more.

Now the real work begins. Stay tuned for an announcement in this paper and the ICO when the site goes live. While we are focusing on youth programming to begin with, our plan is to widen our reach to include adult community members and would love to have your input. We will hold a community forum in late Feb for anyone interested in participating, so please stop by the ATC or send an email to blake@snakelyone.com and I’ll put you on our radio meeting list. In the meantime, wish us luck and strong voice!

Open to youth and adults for internet access, online learning, classes, and creative projects, the ATC is a subsidiary of the Point Arena Schools and is also supported by the California Consumer Protection Foundation, the Mendocino County Office of Education, the California Arts Council, and The Community Foundation of Mendocino County. ATC is open M-F, 2:30pm to 6:30pm; we are located in the Huntley House, 255 Main Street, 1st floor, downtown Point Arena. 707-882-4173.

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