Local NPR affiliate KUAF receives Walmart Foundation Grant to create The Listening Lab

Design by Kaysie Wilson

KUAF, the local National Public Radio affiliate for Northwest and West Arkansas, will create a new intimate and comfortable studio space to foster honest conversations at The Listening Lab, made possible by funding from the Walmart Foundation through its Creating Community in Northwest Arkansas Through Bridging and Associated 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 with partner organizations on location. A part-time project coordinator position for The Listening Lab is now open and can be applied until midnight March 13.

“The Listening Lab will be an opportunity for community members to find common ground, share experiences, record oral histories, and tell the stories of Northwest Arkansas natives and transplants in their own voice,” said Leigh Wood , general manager of KUAF. “KUAF plans to use the Listening Lab to support our ongoing programs and initiatives aimed at fostering conversations between people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, geographies, generations, ideologies and identities, so that 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 similar. Inspired by the StoryCorps initiative founded in 2003 by MacArthur Fellow David Isay, KUAF aims to create the opportunity to listen and share, without distraction and outside influence. KUAF believes in the impact of listening and creating spaces where people can share openly without fear of reprisal or judgment.

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

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

KUAF will work with local organizations to record conversations as part of collaborative projects, focusing on certain themes such as recording the oral histories of displaced communities, conversations between generations, conversations with people with different skills, conversations between teachers and their students, and more. The Listening Lab is also 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 the KUAF website and complete this form to request use of The Listening Lab. Applicants for The Listening Lab part-time project coordinator can apply here.

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