A Q&A with Sharon Scott, general manager of ARTxFM

It’s been almost five years in the making. ARTxFM (artxfm.com) will begin broadcasting on WXOX 97.1 FM this Sunday on Valentine’s Day. The launch party, at the ARTxFM studio (515 W. Breckinridge St.) starts at 2 p.m. with the launch at 3:33 p.m. and is open to the public. It can also be heard through their website and app.

LEO: ARTxFM’s states it is the “intersection of art and radio.” What exactly does that mean?

Sharon Scott: We are artists and our medium is radio. The mission of ARTxFM is to explore the unknown possibilities of broadcast transmission [and] to develop new uses for this powerful form of communication. Everyday we ask ourselves: What does it mean to reach so many people at one time? What unique experiences are these individuals having with the programming? What can we do to make this experience interesting, unique and thought provoking? Radio is a powerful medium of its own that has been enslaved to other purposes since its invention. Music, news and theater have all borrowed the power of radio and we want to take it back! Of course, there is room for transmitting many creative forms on ARTxFM but discovering the essence and true power of radio is what [it] is all about.

LEO: You are about ready to launch your signal WXOX 97.1 FM. It’s been a long time coming. Please tell us about the journey.

SS: WXOX is a “Field of Dreams” story. Building this station has meant focusing on a goal and working hard to achieve it. It has required commitment and a determination not to let anything stand in the way. We did not follow a traditional business plan — instead we have encouraged ARTxFM to evolve naturally, to bend with the weather and ebb with the tide. This has allowed us to move into new and unexpected directions and keeps us from knowing exactly where ARTxFM will go from here. It is unbelievable that WXOX will be on the FM dial in a matter of days! This is a goal we have worked towards since incorporating as a nonprofit organization in 2011. It has been so much work, as you can imagine, forming the organization, building the station, training the DJs and handling the federal paperwork that is allowing us to go on air. Yet it has been completely rewarding seeing these DJs really come out of their shells and claim the airspace with new and unusual programming. All the hair-pulling and teeth-gritting aspects of the business are erased when someone tells me they are tuned in and that they are really enjoying the shows. We have an amazing crew that eases the burden of station management and makes all the work worthwhile. The individuals on our original board of directors have guided this project since the very beginning and the majority of DJs who were with us at our online debut at IdeaFestival 2012 are still with us now. It is this kind of dedication that makes ARTxFM succeed. It is this positive kind of teamwork that will make the Valentine’s Day launch feel so spectacular.

LEO: ARTxFM was in NuLu for years. Why did you move to Breckinridge Street?

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SS: We truly enjoyed getting our start in the NuLu Arts District in the midst of such creative development. It was wonderful to be so close to the artistic activity at establishments such as Dreamland, Local Speed and many great independent galleries. We enjoyed building relationships and hosting special projects for the independent business in the area. Despite our move, I look to see these strong relationships continue to develop into the future. Our move to Breckinridge was instigated by the inherit need of DJs to make some noise. Our previous home was located on the first floor of a residential building, which meant we always had to be mindful of the neighbors upstairs. They were extremely tolerant but it was a not a good situation for bringing in live bands or turning up the studio volume loud. We are very excited about our new home. The neighborhood is fantastic and there is a lot of creative energy down here. We are the only building on our entire block and it is exciting that we are now able to host live performances within our studio whenever the opportunity arises. Our central location makes our studio easily accessible to guests and participating DJs from across Louisville. While our studios are now located in the SoBro neighborhood, WXOX 97.1 FM will soon belong to the entire city.

LEO: How much of the programming is local? The diversity is broad. You expect music but there are also programs on sound art, film and Asian pop culture.

SS: One hundred percent of the programming is local. All of our programs are live and produced in studio or on location by members of the ARTxFM staff. We have approximately 125 volunteer DJs producing over 80 shows a week. Each program is as unique as the personality that brings it to life! Our weekly schedule includes music, talk and experimentation. Listeners never know what to expect on ARTxFM and I think that is what makes it so appealing. We host programs from various local nonprofits including the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville Visual Art and Asia-Institute Crane House. We have bilingual programs in Spanish, Japanese, Russian and Polish. Our DJs come from Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America to bring our station a wide international perspective. The music on ARTxFM ranges from country to hip-hop, classical to punk rock. The one thing you are unlikely to hear on ARTxFM is the same song twice. Radio Presque Rein and Audio Art 101 are among the experimental programs that will have you checking your dial. Is this thing tuned in? What was that noise? Are those crickets outside or are they chirping inside my stereo?

LEO: What is something people do not know about ARTxFM that you want us to know?

SS: ARTxFM is the example of what can happen when people bring their dreams together and commit themselves to doing something to improve their community. WXOX is an all-volunteer nonprofit station without major corporate backing. We are DIY to the core, learning as we go. We depend on the support of our listeners and encourage the participation of our community. We have volunteer opportunities for folks who are interested in working with ARTxFM both on-air and behind the scenes. Louisville is a great city and the geography was right for producing this unique kind of radio station. Throughout this very long journey, the support, encouragement and participation we have received for this radio dream has been completely overwhelming. So many interesting individuals have stepped forward to participate, so many generous donors have invested time, energy and money in bringing this radio dream to life. We are extremely grateful to the people of Louisville and very proud to amplify the powerful voice of this great city on a signal that can be heard around the world.

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