Behind the Scenes of “Gimme ArtsNow”

Hey, I’m Logan Lane. I’m the summer intern for ArtsNow. For the next month-and-a-half, I’ll be working with Roger Riddle to create a new podcast series called “Gimme Arts Now.” Each episode will feature a different Summit-based artist, venue, organization, and patron. This blog will show you what goes on behind the scenes as I learn what kind of work goes into each episode.

Headphones and computer

Episode 1: Akron is Lit

I was still in France when I heard about ArtsNow’s summer internship. The job description told me I’d get the chance to blog – something I already had an interest in – and help develop a podcast. I didn’t know the first thing about making podcasts, but the whole package sounded perfect: a summer of telling the stories of Akron artists. Moreover, UA English majors don’t exactly have a lot of internships falling into their laps. Well, until now. I later found out that it was through the EXL Center, a recent addition to The University of Akron, that ArtsNow could offer the internship.

I applied and when I returned to the U.S., I met ArtsNow’s Executive Director Nicole Mullet. She told me I’d be working with Roger Riddle to create a new podcast series on the artists and art organizations in Summit County.

Like I said, I’m not much of a podcast guy. So a few days after I was hired I decided to listen to an episode of Roger Riddle’s “Akronpreneurs” series. That was probably the first full podcast episode I’ve ever listened to, so as I was sitting there in Angel Falls listening to the story of Gypsy Grace & The Vintage Goat, I started wondering: how does a story like this come together?

Usually, when you step into a story (be it a film, podcast, or book), you don’t really think about what goes on under the hood. I’m talking about the engine, the gears and cogs, the underbelly of work that makes the whole narrative move. I’m talking about all the raw footage that ends up in the cutting room, about all the pens that go picking through the raw script, chopping away the chaff until the finished product is sleek and smooth and clean.

But that’s the goal, isn’t it? As a reader, viewer, or listener, you don’t want to think about the things behind the curtain. You just want to slip into a story. You want a sense of direction. You want movement and purpose. Scenes and setting. People to root for.

Audio recorder and notebook.

Later, Roger explained that this is really the crux of creating a podcast. How do you turn a raw soundbite into a story, something that invites listeners to step into its stream? How do you turn a series of recorded answers into something with life and texture, something that conveys all the sweat and struggle of an entrepreneur or artist bringing their thoughts and ideas to life in Akron, OH?

There’s a lot to it – a lot more than I initially thought, at least. But before you even get to questions and interviews and recordings, you have to start by finding a story.

Roger told me that this process is easier for his “Akropreneurs” podcast (where the only subject is the business and its owner(s)). But for “Gimme Arts Now,” we have to find three subjects (an artist, venue, and business/organization) for each episode. Then, we need to find a link between them, a talking point that connects all three.

On my first day working with Roger, that’s exactly what we did. We met at the Highland Square public library and dove into the artist profiles on SummitLive365.

After a bit of searching, we decided that the first episode would focus on the literary arts. I was thrilled, especially since I would get the chance to interview David Giffels, a University of Akron English professor whom I’d seen and heard a lot about but hadn’t met yet. Giffels, who lives in Akron, has written four books. The latest, a collection of essays called The Hard Way on Purpose, came out in 2013.

Next, we needed an organization. For this, Roger wanted to look outside Summit County so that we can draw parallels between Akron’s art community and others across the U.S. We’re looking to show that Akron is playing on the same field as other larger cities.

We already knew that we’d be focusing on the literary arts, which helped narrow our search. After a while, we found an arts organization in Queens, NYC called Queens Council on the Arts (QCA). On the org’s website, we noticed something called the LAB, a kind of nexus that connects Queens-based writers to the resources they need (things like workshops and networking opportunities).

After picking our subjects, we had to start looking forward. How do we connect Giffels, an Akron-based nonfiction writer, to a Queens-based arts organization that targets its local writers?

We talk about the creative process. We ask them what thoughtful feedback means to writers. We ask them how writers collaborate, how they work together, what they do to overcome their creative obstacles and how, ultimately, they end up with finished work.

Then to top the whole thing off, we bring it back to a venue in Akron: a poetry reading series at the Akron Public Library.

This is the plan so far. And it’ll probably change. Back on the very first day, Roger warned me that the story you envision and the story you find are sometimes entirely different. When you sit down to interview the subject (which is what I’ll write about next time), you’ve got to be ready to follow the twists and swerves of the story, the backwater bends that make your subject and their story unique.