ABOUT

barn door2

Hello! I am your host, Laura Milkins.

And I am going In Search of the Great America.

This project is a weekly podcast asking people to define their Great America: past, present and future. I am interviewing people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and experiences in 100 cities and towns to get to know this country through these communities. I want to discover what makes each place special.

I am using the history of each town as a way to connect with guests in the community. My resident historian, Tom Prezelski, researches the history of each location, searching for a time in history when that city or town was considered “great” and who was and was not included in that great America. This could be an exciting economic boom time, a calm, peaceful moment in its history or a time when the town came together to solve a problem. Then we contact community organizations directly related to that history and ask them to nominate someone in their community to be interviewed for the podcast.

Each interview is 15 minutes and my guest will discuss their vision of a Great America. I hope to discover the diversity, complexity, and community connections that already make us great.

So… What’s your Great America?

Collective Visioning

“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.
  • Collective visioning is the underpinning of all my projects. I believe that together we are capable of kindness, connection, and greatness.

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?

 The mission is simple, to ask people to define their Great America: past, present and future. I believe collective visioning has the power to bring us together and point out both our strengths and weaknesses in a way that allows for a better, more inclusive future. I hope 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

220px-Travels-with-charley-cover

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

IMG_1511

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. Then I would fly the Hawaii and Alaska. But COVID-19 had other plans. Now I am traveling virtually to the 100 cities and towns along this route, asking local organizations to nominate someone in their community to participate in the interviews.

In Search of the Great America Entire map version 4

100 EPISODE locations in order

  1. AZ – Phoenix
  2. AZ – Show Low
  3. NM – Albuquerque
  4. NM – Springer
  5. CO – Pueblo
  6. CO – Denver
  7. WY – Cheyenne
  8. WY – Lander
  9. UT – Salt Lake City
  10. UT – Cedar City
  11. NV – Caliente
  12. NV – Las Vegas
  13. CA – Los Angeles
  14. CA – Mt Shasta
  15. OR – Roseburg
  16. OR – Portland
  17. WA – Seattle
  18. WA – Kennewick
  19. ID – Boise
  20. ID – Lidy Hot Springs,
  21. MT – Billings,
  22. MT – Baker
  23. ND – Steele
  24. ND – Fargo
  25. SD – De Smet
  26. SD – Sioux Falls
  27. MN – St James
  28. MN – Minneapolis
  29. WI – Wisconsin Dells
  30. WI – Milwaukee
  31. IL – Chicago
  32. IL – Galena
  33. IA – Waterloo
  34. IA – Des Moines
  35. NE – Omaha
  36. NE – Aurora
  37. MO – Kansas City
  38. MO – Nevada
  39. KS – Fredonia
  40. KS – Wichita
  41. OK – Oklahoma City
  42. OK – Ardmore
  43. TX – West
  44. TX – Houston
  45. LA – Lafayette
  46. LA – New Orleans
  47. MS – Jackson
  48. MS – Cleveland
  49. AR – Little Rock
  50. AR – Forest City
  51. TN – Jackson
  52. TN – Nashville
  53. AL – Mooresville,
  54. AL – Birmingham
  55. GA – Atlanta
  56. GA – Tifton
  57. FL – Crystal River
  58. FL – Jacksonville
  59. SC – Charleston
  60. SC – Georgetown
  61. NC – Charlotte
  62. NC – Bath
  63. VA – Virginia Beach
  64. VA – Culpeper
  65. MD – Baltimore
  66. MD – Ocean City
  67. DE – Odessa
  68. DE – Wilmington
  69. PA – Philadelphia
  70. NJ – Redbank
  71. NJ – Newark
  72. NY – New York City
  73. CT – Bridgeport
  74. CT – Milford
  75. RI – Weekapaug
  76. RI – Providence
  77. MA – Boston
  78. MA – Rockport
  79. ME – Portland
  80. ME – Rangeley
  81. NH – Campton
  82. NH – Manchester
  83. VT – Chester
  84. VT – Burlington
  85. NY – Skaneateles
  86. PA – Ridgway
  87. OH – Chagrin Falls
  88. OH – Columbus
  89. WV – Buckhannon
  90. WV – Charleston
  91. KY – Pikeville
  92. KY – Louisville
  93. IN – Indianapolis
  94. IN – West Lafayette
  95. MI – Detroit
  96. MI – Pentwater
  97. HI – Honolulu
  98. HI –  Lihue
  99. AK – Anchorage
  100. AK – Homer

I started in Arizona, where I live, and will 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 ask each guest is, “Where did you grow up and what was it like growing up there.” 

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?