Local that Works spotlights innovative and replicable content, engagement and revenue initiatives at public radio and TV stations and nonprofit and digital news organizations in the U.S. LTW includes an annual contest and a database (below). LTW produces webinars that offer insights into projects and organizations that are reshaping local civic journalism.
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Black Arts Legacies is a new multimedia website highlighting the impact of Black artists in Seattle past and present. Season 1 celebrates 26 artists in written profiles, videos, a podcast and photos.
An new annual project commissioning music for radio from composers in underrepresented communities. KMFA’s inaugural composer is Texas native Quinn Mason, who is writing three new pieces for radio.
“Explore Milwaukee with 88Nine” is a county-wide scavenger hunt that gets people out of their homes and into the community, exploring new sites, discovering hidden gems and connecting with neighbors.
Inspired by KPAC aims to connect youth ages 13-19 with classical music. This program allows them to learn to appreciate masterworks of past and present and interpret classical music in their own way.
“A People’s History of Kansas City” is an award-winning narrative history podcast about the everyday heroes who shaped the region. It centers the stories that have too often been forgotten or ignored.
Mia’s Gift is a student-lead educational podcast and radio module that teaches indigenous Tlingit language through culturally relevant themes and story telling. Produced by high school student, Mia.
We hosted a Basketball Park Takeover which attracted over 200 Black youth ages 15-24, to establish trust and awareness of The Kansas City Defender. Numerous attendants are now regular readers.
Aspen Public Radio’s library of lectures and events, produced by local organizations, has made cultural conversations more accessible, thanks to this replicable initiative for small stations.
Colorado Postcards tell stories of people, places and things that make the state unique. In just 60 seconds, they feed listeners’ curiosity and foster a closer connection to the place we call home.
Black Arts Legacies
In the wake of the 2020 protests against racial injustice, the Seattle Arts Commission approached Crosscut seeking a way to pay tribute to the historic and continuing contributions Black artists have made to the Northwest cultural landscape. After talks with SAC representatives, we enlisted our developer team to build a brand-new website that could properly showcase the artists and their work.
Determined that the project be Black-led, we hired a team of Seattle-based freelance storytellers: Project editors/writers Jasmine Mahmoud and Kemi Adeyemi, researcher Meshell Sturgis, video producer Tifa Tomb and portrait photographer Meron Menghistab. We also brought in Brooklyn Jamerson-Flowers, Crosscut’s podcast fellow, to create an accompanying audio series about Black arts venues then and now.
The hardest part? Picking just 26 artists to recognize out of hundreds of possibilities. Starting in November 2021, the team narrowed the list and ensured it reflected the long, often intersecting lines of influence across dance, literature, visual art, music, theater and architecture.
“The goal was not to catalog all of the Black artists who live and work in Seattle,” Adeyemi says. “We wanted to highlight a group of artists of diverse ages and diverse mediums that would tell the complex story of Black life and art in Seattle.”
In a city like Seattle, where the population is more than 60% white, a misconception persists that aside from a few famous examples, “there aren’t many Black artists here.” But the wealth of personal histories featured in Black Arts Legacies enlightens the community about the multitude and diversity of Black artists making work here, as well as the fact that it hasn’t always been easy for these artists to reside in the Pacific Northwest.
Many of the interviews revealed how artists, both deceased and living, faced racist housing policies, gentrification that pushed their families out of the historically Black Central District, and erasure in their chosen art form. “Black artists tell us stories about what it feels like to make life here, sometimes against all odds,” says Adeyemi.
In June 2022, we launched Black Arts Legacies with 16 written profiles and photographic portraits, five videos — each of which showcases two artists in the same genre working across different decades — which were broadcast on our sister-station KCTS-9 (a PBS affiliate), and a five-episode podcast. And we celebrated with a sold-out party for the community.
For the first season of Black Arts Legacies, we focused on developing a core audience for the project. The aim is to build on this solid foundation, with future seasons highlighting more Black artists from the region. In the few months since launching in June 2022, the website has reached an online audience of more than 10,000 unique users, 1,000 of whom have signed up for the project’s weekly newsletter (and who are opening every new edition at an impressive rate of 35%).
The immediate impact of the project, though, was felt most keenly at the launch party, held the Thursday before Juneteenth weekend. The sold-out event at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (now celebrating 50 years as Black arts venue) welcomed 200 community members who gathered to celebrate the project and featured artists. Speakers noted the fact that nothing like Black Arts Legacies had ever been produced in Seattle before.
The crowd mingled among large-scale photo portraits of the artists on easels, which featured quotes from their interviews. Upstairs, the five videos played on a loop, thrilling family members, neighbors and colleagues. Several happy reunions occurred — folks who hadn’t seen each other for a long time, in some cases, in decades. Featured poets Anastacia-Reneé and Mona Lake Jones held the audience rapt with readings, and longtime dance teacher Edna Daigre brought the house to its feet for an enthusiastic dance party. The vibe was that of a momentous cultural occasion.
Black Arts Legacies generated revenue through several channels. Seed funding came in the form of a grant from the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, which recognized the value to our region. Once the project took shape, we were able to generate financial support from sponsors, including Meta (our title sponsor), BECU, the Frye Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum and other community partners. Upon launch of the website — and our public celebration — we received a number of personal donations.