ABOUT

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Hello! I am your host, Laura Milkins.

And I am going In Search of the Great America.

This project is a mobile radio lab, traveling to the biggest city and a small town in each state, asking people to define their great America: past, present and future. Originally, I planned to personally travel to each state in the union from May to October, 2020. Due to COVID19, I am now embarking on a virtual road trip.

What does this virtual mobile radio lab look like? It is a weekly podcast and a series of short videos from each community along my original route. I am asking librarians to nominate someone in their community for the podcast, and I am asking local videographers to make 5-10 minute videos showing what is special about their city or town.

This virtual journey will be presented as a screening of the videos and audio from the journey, as well as exhibited in galleries where people can hear the interviews or watch the videos at interactive listening stations.

So… What’s your Great America?

“We don’t take a trip. A trip takes us.”
– Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Thank you so much for your interest.  I started this project to get to know America in the 21st century, with the task of asking as many people as possible, from a broad range of experiences and backgrounds, what their Great America looks like! The goal of this project is to ask people what their vision is for America and who we are at our best as a people and a nation.

  • My interest in asking these questions is to find out what people wish for our country, because I am curious and excited to hear their answers. I also feel like this question has not been asked enough in simple, relatable terms. I just want to know, what does your Great America look like?

In Search of the Great America

The heart of this project is the interviews. Each guest will answer the same questions:

  • Where did you grow up and what was it like?
  • Was there a time in history that you thought America was great and why?
  • What is great about America now for you?
  • What does your great America look like in the future?
  • Who are we when we are our best?

In Search of the Great America is an adventure… on a mission. The mission is simple, to ask people to define their Great America: past, present and future, and to uncover the diversity, complexity, and community connections that already make us great. To find out what people really want for America, outside of the framework of politics and the media.

What I wish that you will take away from this site:  a hopeful vision for America from a broad cross-section of the population.

Steinbeck Connection

 

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Lately, I’ve been drawn to re-reading Steinbeck. He wrote wonderfully about difficult times and situations. When watching the news, I feel like this is also a difficult time and so many of us live in difficult situations. He wrote about his yearning for a better world, and more understanding of his fellow citizen. So, in 1960, for his book, “Travels With Charley: In Search of America”, he set out to travel the United States to discover “What are Americans like today?” This resonates distinctly with me and has provided some inspiration for this project. I feel a kindred spirit in the desire to meet my fellow citizen and know them better.

“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.”
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

About Me

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I am an interdisciplinary artist living in Tucson, AZ. My work explores vulnerability, intimacy, and cultural norms, using variety of media: online-interactive performance, video, drawing, painting, and live radio/podcasting. Since 2012, I have taught Art and Visual Culture at Pima Community College. I received an MFA in painting from University of Arizona in 2008. In 2009, I was a Fulbright Scholar in Mexico City.

My recent work includes The Depression Session, a website dedicated to de-stigmatizing depression, and to help listeners feel less alone in their struggles with depression. The Depression Session project was a way for me to relate to others, to understand my own depression, but more importantly, to give back in providing a source for others to find connections and resources.

Past work includes Of Birds and Men, 27 portraits of men in power accused by women of sexual harassment and abuse, facing a bird with the same letter as their name. Zero Packaging Project, a year without packaging; and Walking Home: stories from the desert to the Great Lakes, in which I walked 2,007 miles from Arizona to Michigan wearing a live webcam; Walking Stories: Mexico, I walked across Mexico City in the company of strangers, posting the stories they shared each night on a BLOG.

My work has been exhibited across the U.S., Mexico, and in France. I have received grants, awards, and international recognition for my work, including a Fulbright award to travel and work in Mexico City and a Tanne Foundation Award.

The Route

This is the preliminary route for my cross country journey in mobile radio lab, In Search of the Great America. I planned to visit all 48 contiguous states, asking people to define their Great America, past, present and future. I will be traveling virtually to each city and town along this route, asking librarians to nominate someone in their community to participate in the interviews.

In Search of the Great America Entire map version 4

AZ – Phoenix
AZ – Show Low
NM – Albuquerque
NM – Springer
CO – Pueblo
CO – Denver
WY – Cheyenne
*****EPISODE 1
WY – Lander
UT – Salt Lake City
UT – Cedar City
NV – Caliente
NV – Las Vegas
CA – Los Angeles
CA – Mt Shasta
*****EPISODE 2
OR – Roseburg
OR – Portland
WA – Seattle
WA – Kennewick
ID – Boise
ID – Lidy Hot Springs,
*****EPISODE 3
MT – Billings,
MT – Baker
ND – Steele
ND – Fargo
SD – De Smet
SD – Sioux Falls
*****EPISODE 4
MN – St James
MN – Minneapolis
WI – Wisconsin Dells
WI – Milwaukee
IL – Chicago
IL – Galena
*****EPISODE 5
IA – Waterloo
IA – Des Moines
NE – Omaha
NE – Aurora
MO – Kansas City
MO – Nevada
*****EPISODE 6
KS – Fredonia
KS – Wichita
OK – Oklahoma City
OK – Ardmore
TX – West
TX – Houston
*****EPISODE 7
LA – Lafayette
LA – New Orleans
MS – Jackson
MS – Cleveland
AR – Little Rock
AR – Forest City
*****EPISODE 8
TN – Jackson
TN – Nashville
AL – Mooresville,
AL – Birmingham
GA – Atlanta
GA – Tifton
*****EPISODE 9
FL – Crystal River
FL – Jacksonville
SC – Charleston
SC – Georgetown
NC – Charlotte
NC – Bath
*****EPISODE 10
VA – Virginia Beach
VA – Culpeper
MD – Baltimore
MD – Ocean City
DE – Odessa
DE – Wilmington
PA – Philadelphia
*****EPISODE 11
NJ – Redbank
NJ – Newark
NY – New York City
CT – Bridgeport
CT – Milford
RI – Weekapaug
RI – Providence
*****EPISODE 12
MA – Boston
MA – Rockport
ME – Portland
ME – Rangeley
NH – Campton
NH – Manchester
*****EPISODE 13
VT – Chester
VT – Burlington
NY – Skaneateles
PA – Ridgway
OH – Chagrin Falls
OH – Columbus
*****EPISODE 14
WV – Buckhannon
WV – Charleston
KY – Pikeville
KY – Louisville
IN – Indianapolis
IN – West Lafayette
*****EPISODE 15
MI – Detroit
MI – Grand Rapids
HI – Honolulu
HI –  Lihue
AK – Anchorage
AK – Homer
*****EPISODE 16

I will start in Arizona, where I live, and end in Michigan, where I grew up, I am very interested in notions of home and how they determine our world view. The first question I’ll ask each participant in this project is “Where did you grow up and what was it like growing up there.”  Where you grew up says a lot about who you are now.

The Podcast Questions:
-Where did you grow up and what was it like?
-Was there a time in history that you thought America was great and why?
-What is great about America now for you?
-What does your great America look like in the future?
-Who are we when we are at our best?