Local NPR Affiliate KUAF Awarded Walmart Foundation Grant to Create The Listening Lab

Local NPR Affiliate KUAF Awarded Walmart Foundation Grant to Create The Listening Lab
Design by Kaysie Wilson

KUAF, the local National Public Radio affiliate for Northwest and western Arkansas, will create a new intimate and comfortable studio space to foster honest conversations in The Listening Lab, made possible by funding from the Walmart Foundation through its Creating Community in Northwest Arkansas Through Bridging and Belonging initiative.

The Listening Lab will have a space within the Carver Center for Public Radio in Fayetteville, as well as a mobile unit to record conversations on location with partnering organizations. A part-time project coordinator position for The Listening Lab is now open and taking applications until March 13 at midnight.

"The Listening Lab will be an opportunity for community members to find common ground, to share experiences, to record oral histories and to tell the stories of Northwest Arkansas natives and transplants in their own voices," said Leigh Wood, KUAF general manager. "KUAF intends to use the Listening Lab to support our ongoing programs and initiatives that aim to foster conversations between people of differing backgrounds, ethnicities, geographic areas, generations, ideologies and identities, so we may be more aware of our similarities, rather than our differences."

The Listening Lab strives to solve the perceived problem that communities in Northwest Arkansas are more disparate than they are similar. Inspired by the StoryCorps initiative created in 2003 by MacArthur Fellow David Isay, KUAF wishes to create the opportunity for listening and sharing, without distraction and without outside influence. KUAF believes in the impact of listening and creating spaces where people can share openly and without fear of reprisal or judgement.

As StoryCorps found when they surveyed listeners in 2019, 94% said that StoryCorps content helped them better understand the experiences of people who are different from them. KUAF will air these conversations on our locally produced program Ozarks at Large, distribute them as podcasts and archive them on the Listening Lab website — creating another accessible third space where connection and community are the focus.

KUAF is repurposing a small room at the Carver Center for Public Radio where the Highlands Oncology Classical Music Library is stored into an intimate, comfortable setting to record conversations between two participants. Additionally, KUAF will have a mobile Listening Lab unit that can be installed at other sites to record conversations in locations across the KUAF listening area — reaching from the Arkansas River Valley to McDonald County in Missouri, from Eastern Oklahoma to Carroll County in Arkansas.

KUAF will work with area organizations to record conversations as a part of collaborative projects, focusing on certain themes, such as recording the oral history of displaced communities, cross-generational conversations, conversations with individuals of differing abilities, conversations between teachers and their students, and more. The Listening Lab will also be open to individuals to record conversations with participants and on topics of their choosing.

Organizations and individuals interested in learning more about The Listening Lab can visit KUAF's website and can fill out this form to request use of The Listening Lab. Applicants for The Listening Lab part-time project coordinator can apply here.

Contacts

Leigh Wood, general manager
KUAF Public Radio
479-575-2556, lkwood@uark.edu

Andra Parrish Liwag, senior director of communications
Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
479-575-4393, liwag@uark.edu

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