In the last month, Louisville’s airwaves have gotten more diverse and infinitely more creative. ARTxFM
has finally launched its live broadcasting at WXOX 97.1. The radio station offers eclectic programming ranging from Latin to Jazz and much more. However, the station isn’t just for music. There are talk shows and the occasional performance/art broadcast where radio itself becomes the brush for unique interpretation.
The station and its board of directors have taken a long path and a lot of people to get on the dial but are at last, enjoying the fruits of their labor. Originally an online station, General Manager, Sharon Scott, gave Louisville Distilled
the condensed version of events that got ARTxFM to the radio dial. She also looked to the future offering insight in how ARTxFM intends to sustain itself for the long haul.
“The impetus for the project was a college radio station that I was part of in Nashville, which had its license sold by the administrator,” says Scott. “I was involved with the alumni group trying to prevent that sale. The administration decided to sell the license anyway. At that point, I went to a grass roots radio conference where people told me about the upcoming low power FM movement.”
A long time ago, low powered radio stations were called Class D radio stations. They operated with power less than 250 watts. When the FCC stopped issuing Class D licenses, they required the existing Class D operators to upgrade their wattage or end their broadcasting. For small operators, this meant the end of their radio dreams.
Scott realized that her commute from Louisville to Nashville to rebuild the college station was taking its toll, “I was driving 2 1/2 hours to Nashville every few weeks, and I was like this is kind-of crazy that I’m working on this thing in Nashville when we could be doing it here in Louisville.”
With the advent of the Local Community Radio Act of 2011, the FCC can once again begin to offer licenses for low power stations. However, these only go to incorporated, non-profit organizations. ARTxFM became such an organization in 2011.
Partnering with IdeaFestival
According to Scott, the passion they had about the station was infectious. “While we were building the station and talking to different community leaders, we met with a Kris Kimel, who runs IdeaFestival,” she says. “We discussed our radio art idea, and he got really excited and invited us to bring it to the next IdeaFestival. So we did. We committed to that without realizing how big the IdeaFestival was.”
The Lexington-based IdeaFestival happens each year in September and is typically held at venues in and around the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville. Their first broadcast for the IdeaFestival was in September 2012
In October of 2014 ARTxFM got a permit from the FCC to develop a new low power radio station in Louisville. The station officially launched on February 14, 2016. Keeping with their community focus, Scott illuminates the station's mission, “Our mission is to amplify the voice of artists and community members.”
The website explains it in a bit more detail, “A nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating educational opportunities and live media experiences for artists and members of the local community, ARTxFM employs sound, music, and conversation to amplify the local art scene and broadcast the international arts dialogue. Unique to Louisville and distinct in the world, ARTxFM combines contemporary art practices with online broadcasting to create a meeting place of sounds and ideas accessible to all those who wish to participate.”
Sustaining the Station
Because of this community focus, the support for the station has grown steadily, which is perfect because the station sustains itself through its memberships.
“Our main funding comes from membership, and we have a few community partners that support the project,” says Scott. “We really want to keep the focus on the arts. We don’t do very much underwriting. We keep that limited. Memberships are the main thing that keeps us alive and keeps our non-commercial program happening.”
The station is run by roughly 125 volunteer staff and DJs. Scott and Training Director, Kim Sorise developed a training program that trains each of the DJs before they hit the air.
“Most of our DJs don’t have any actual radio experience. I would say 95 percent of the staff has not had any past radio experience.”
A Home in SoBro
The station recently renovated and moved into a new space on Breckinridge St. in in the SoBro neighborhood and is considering adding some live performances both for broadcast and for studio guests.
“It's so exciting to have a performance space on our new home,” says Scott. “What we’re really looking forward to is not only continuing our amazing broadcast on the FM but having some live performances at our studio. It will be a fun way for people to come in and hear some music and know that’s going out not just to our community but also to the whole world through our stream.”
However, that is yet to come. “Getting on the FM dial was a big accomplishment, so we’re kind-of just taking a big sigh of relief and patting ourselves on the back and regrouping after this big push,” says Scott.
ARTxFM or WXOX 97.1 has certainly added a bright spot to the local terrestrial radio landscape. With its diverse offerings and strong community focus, good things can be expected.