By Meya Block for doubleXposure
At first glance, the Seattle Center Armory is your average food court, a small pit stop before you hitch the elevator to the Space Needle or catch a movie at the IMAX theater. But the Armory has so much more to offer; its richness is found in the floors beneath and surrounding the Food Court. It’s there that you will find the heart of the Center, running in the background but nevertheless omnipresent. Those surrounding floors are made up of the Seattle Center organizations, a community of like-minded non-profits, and outreach programs that work together during annual meetings to coordinate arts events throughout the calendar year.
If you know where to find them, Seattle Center also holds more intimate arts events, such as an outdoor performance at the Mural Amphitheater, put on by Penguin Productions, or my personal favorite, a teen night of Lin Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights put on by TeenTix and hosted by Seattle Repertory Theater. These performances happen every single week, marrying the enjoyment of art, performance, and food together into a public social event.
However, this uniquely local side of Seattle Center is not well known unless you yourself are involved in one of these organizations. This is where Ground Zero Radio (GZR) has stepped in. A relatively new addition to the center, GZR is quickly becoming the glue that brings Seattle Center organizations together, at least social media-wise. A youth-run media and radio subdivision of The Vera Project, Ground Zero has stepped up to the task of sharing, with Seattle teens and adults alike, the amazing artists, performers, and activists of Seattle Center, giving Seattle a backstage pass into the inner workings of their favorite shows and festivals. Whether it’s major events such as Festál, a 24-week celebration of various world cultures, or more intimate events like The Vera Project’s Bazooka Fest, Ground Zero Radio has got it not only covered but shared and posted. The best part? It’s entirely run by young people.
Take Kait, age 20, and Masao, 25, two founding members of the GZR team, who have worked backstage at more than fifty venues in just this past year. Thanks to a backstage pass provided by The Vera Project, Kait and other young people ranging in age from 17 through 22 are learning the ropes of social media, marketing, interviewing, and producing. When I spoke with Kait and Masao this past month, Kait shared her own motivations with me.
“Our primary focus in creating Ground Zero Radio was just to amplify youth voices. We’re always told that we don’t know what we are talking about,” Kait said. At Ground Zero Radio, this thinking is what fuels the stories that GZR looks to tell.
Though Ground Zero Radio’s presence is currently most felt on Instagram, this is just one part of a two-year launch that will showcase a full-blown radio program slated to debut four individual series all hosted by young people in various Seattle Center programs. “We have right now in post-production Chihuly Glass, we're going out next week to see Pacific Science Center,” Masao tells me.
From collaborations with fellow youth arts org TeenTix to a potential partnership with the Space Needle itself, Ground Zero is making its presence well known among the organizations of Seattle Center. In fact, GZR’s partnership with TeenTix is already up and running. The Teen Arts Podcast (featuring TeenTix members from the New Guard and Newsroom) releases new episodes monthly, all TAP episodes are currently available simultaneously on the Ground Zero and Teentix YouTube Channels, linked here.
Other shows that GZR audiences can look forward to are currently in post-production, including Living Local, a joint project with the Academy of Active Entertainment (AAE), where GZR hosts will interview up-and-coming artists while driving around the greater Seattle Area, much like James Corden’s bit on The Late Night Show with James Corden.
Then there's another one of GZR’s upcoming projects, Elevator Pitch!, a game show in which local artists must gain the affection of their audience. The catch? This audience is roughly fifteen people, crammed together into the Space Needle elevator. The goal? Artists must play a part of their work, and get as many people as they can to follow their social media feeds by the time the elevator reaches the viewing deck.
While these projects might seem like a daunting feat for one organization, these are all plans that, while grand, are completely achievable, and a key part of how GZR has gotten to where it is today.
“Being here on campus is a phenomenal thing because there is something that is always going, it’s just a matter of digging into it,” says Maso. Right now, the support of Vera is helping Ground Zero Radio not only to connect with other organizations, but to get their name out there, to get experience in the world of media, and to develop an audience base who will already be looking out for GZR’s official release. It’s a win-win relationship; smaller organizations get coverage and GZR youth like Kait gain new experiences working in multimedia and digital storytelling. “We have made a lot of friends and we learned a lot about key components of radio,” she says.
Although Ground Zero Radio has a long road ahead, it’s exciting, it’s new, and it’s growing rapidly. Seattleites of all ages can look forward to charting GZR’s development, whether that’s by engaging on social media, enlisting GZR to cover an event, or simply supporting the young people who make the radio organization what it is. And while currently focused on Seattle Center, GZR has plans that spread out to a global level.
Ground Zero Radio is opening up a London chapter, with hopes to expand to New York, Hawaii, and California. “Our philosophy right now is to take what we do and embed it someplace that doesn’t necessarily have the program, but has a community that is there that hopefully, we can take advantage of,” says Masao. While Ground Zero Radio is still in its infancy, who knows where these connections will take the future radio station? The possibilities are limitless.
ABOUT MEYA BLOCK
Meya is a passionate writer, lover of creative expression, a TeenTix Press Corps writer, and a TeenTix New Guard member. She is currently heading off to college in the fall and looking forward to the future. While in the city, she spends most of her time ice skating and exploring the city. She has had her writing published in The Evergrey, the TeenTix blog, and Code Magazine. When Meya is taking a break from her busy schedule, she enjoys watching Netflix, reading books, and attending all kinds of social events.
DoubleXposure and TeenTix Join Forces to Bring Twice the Impact for the Arts
In the second season of doubleXposure, we're partnering with our friends at TeenTix to engage young journalists to help us tell the stories of arts and community in the four cultural hubs we're spotlighting.
Throughout the season, we’ll be publishing articles from an array of TeenTix writers; each focusing on one of the spotlight neighborhoods: Seattle Center, Seattle Waterfront, South Park, and the Central District.
We debut our collaboration with this look at Ground Zero Radio, a youth-led community platform to connect and empower our communities through music, sports, civic engagement, the arts, and culture powered by The Vera Project, a Seattle Center organization.
Seattle’s TeenTix, is an organization with the mission of “empowering young people to take an active role in shaping their arts community, as audience members, critics, influencers, advocates, patrons, and leaders.”
Ground Zero Radio's website
Learn about TeenTix here
Learn about The Vera Project here