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 and Timeline

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, May 16
AZ – Show Low, May 17
NM – Albuquerque, May 18
NM – Springer, May 19
CO – Pueblo, May 20
CO – Denver, May 21
WY – Cheyenne, May 22
WY – Lander, May 23
*****BREAK DAY, May 24
UT – Salt Lake City, May 25
UT – Cedar City, May 26
NV – Caliente, May 27
NV – Las Vegas, May 28
CA – Los Angeles, May 29
CA – Mt Shasta, May 30
*****BREAK DAY, May 31
OR – Roseburg, June 1
OR – Portland, June 2
WA – Seattle, June 3
WA – Kennewick, June 4
ID – Boise, June 5
ID – Lidy Hot Springs, June 6
*****BREAK DAY, June 7
MT – Billings, June 8
MT – Baker, June 9
ND – Steele, June 10
ND – Fargo, June 11
SD – De Smet, June 12
SD – Sioux Falls, June 13
*****BREAK DAY June 14
MN – St James, June 15
MN – Minneapolis, June 16
WI – Wisconsin Dells, June 17
WI – Milwaukee, June 18
IL – Chicago, June 19
IL – Galena, June 20
*****BREAK DAY, June 21
IA – Waterloo, June 22
IA – Des Moines, June 23
NE – Omaha, June 24
NE – Aurora, June 25
MO – Kansas City, June 26
MO – Nevada, June 27
*****BREAK DAY, June 28
KS – Fredonia, June 29
KS – Wichita, June 30
OK – Oklahoma City, July 1
OK – Ardmore, July 2
TX – West, July 3
TX – Houston, July 4
LA – Lafayette, July 5
*****BREAK DAY, July 6
LA – New Orleans July 7
MS – Jackson, July 8
MS – Cleveland, July 9
AR – Little Rock, July 10
AR – Forest City, July 11
TN – Jackson, July 12
*****BREAK DAY, July 13
TN – Nashville, July 14
AL – Mooresville, July 15
AL – Birmingham, July 16
*****PERSONAL TIME, July 17-21
GA – Atlanta, July 22
GA – Tifton, July 23
FL – Crystal River, July 24
FL – Jacksonville, July 25
SC – Charleston, July 26
SC – Georgetown, July 27
*****BREAK DAY, July 28
NC – Charlotte, July 29
NC – Bath, July 30
VA – Virginia Beach, July 31
VA – Culpeper, Aug 1
MD – Baltimore, Aug 2
MD – Ocean City, Aug 3
*****BREAK DAY, Aug 4
DE – Odessa, Aug 5
DE – Wilmington, Aug 6
PA – Philadelphia, Aug 7
NJ – Redbank, Aug 8
NJ – Newark, Aug 9
NY – New York City, Aug 10
*****BREAK DAY, Aug 11
CT – Bridgeport, Aug 12
CT – Milford, Aug 13
RI – Weekapaug, Aug 14
RI – Providence, Aug 15
MA – Boston, Aug 16
MA – Rockport, Aug 17
*****BREAK DAY, Aug 18
ME – Portland, Aug 19
ME – Rangeley, Aug 20
NH – Campton, Aug 21
NH – Manchester, Aug 22
VT – Chester, Aug 23
VT – Burlington, Aug 24
*****BREAK DAY, Aug 25
NY – Skaneateles, Aug 26
PA – Ridgway, Aug 27
OH – Chagrin Falls, Aug 28
OH – Columbus, Aug 29
WV – Buckhannon, Aug 30
WV – Charleston, Aug 31
*****BREAK DAY, Sept 1
KY – Pikeville, Sept 2
KY – Louisville, Sept 3
IN – Indianapolis, Sept 4
IN – West Lafayette, Sept 5
MI – Detroit, Sept 6
MI – Grand Rapids, Sept 7
*****BREAK FOR ArtPrize, Sept 8-Oct 7
HI – Honolulu, Oct 8
HI –  Lihue, Oct 9
AK – Anchorage, Oct 10
AK – Homer, Oct 11

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?