People to Watch
(page 7 of 11)
Galen Joseph-Hunter & Tom Roe
By: Shannon Gallagher
Though the days when the family would gather ’round the radio for their evening entertainment are long gone, community radio is alive and well in the upper Valley thanks to Galen Joseph-Hunter and her husband Tom Roe, among the founders of WGXC: Hands-on Radio. The station, which launched online in May of this year (at www.wgxc.org) and hopes to be up and running at 90.7 FM by next summer, serves Greene and Columbia counties. As a project of free103point9 — a New York State-based nonprofit arts organization focused on cultivating transmission arts — WGXC programming will represent the combined efforts of radio professionals, artists, and community members. “It’s a community radio station, a unique one,” says Roe. “It’s radio done by members of the community in creative ways.”
Full-time Greene County residents since 2004, Roe and Joseph-Hunter recognized in their new home an opportunity to provide a much-needed community service. “Giving people access to get their voices on the air is exciting,” enthuses Roe. “The thing about Greene and Columbia counties, there is almost no media coverage of what goes on here. No television or radio that is regularly reporting on this area. You can’t turn on anything any day of the week and hear what’s going on in Germantown or Valatie or Cairo or Windham. Papers are struggling. A lot of what goes on in town government goes on behind closed doors.”
WGXC will change all that, according to Roe. “There will be shows about the arts, local history, and a heavy focus in the mornings on agriculture and farming. There will be shows about local politics, local musicians. We’ll have live performances and live feeds from local venues that already have music, poetry readings, and lectures. We’ll broadcast live town hall meetings. Whatever is going on in the area, the radio station will be reflecting that.”
The station will also further the work of free103point9. Founded as an artists’ collective by Roe and two others, the organization cultivates the lesser-known transmission arts genre through a number of projects, including exhibitions and performances, educational initiatives, a distribution label, and an artists fellowship program; they also serve as a New York State Council of the Arts re-granter for individual media artists. Joseph-Hunter defines transmission arts as time-based or live art that works with the transmission spectrum or airwaves, and manifests in radio art, light art, video, installation, etc. “We’re excited to give transmission artists the opportunity to work in a rural setting — media artists don’t often get that opportunity. The FM radio station will not only give transmission artists the opportunity to work with FM signals, but will also provide an opportunity to work with community members,” says Joseph-Hunter, free103point9’s executive director since 2002.
“I went to Bard, and was born in Norwich, so I have all kinds of history with upstate New York,” says Joseph-Hunter. With her degree in art history, she moved to New York City where a summer internship with the Museum of Modern Art led her to Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), a renowned video arts organization. “I learned the ropes of nonprofit arts there,” she recalls. The experience paid off when she became involved with free103point9 after meeting Roe, helping to guide it from collective to nonprofit. Roe, a transmission artist, hails from Tampa, Florida, where he was the music editor of Creative Loafing — “the Village Voice of Florida” — and where he later opened a record store that moonlighted as a music club. After moving to the city, Roe returned to writing with a music column in the New York Post until he helped found free103point9 in 1997.
Now the couple and their three-year-old daughter live in Acra, traveling to the city as needed for their continued work there. And while they’ve been seeing lots of support for WGXC, their efforts have met some resistance, particularly in the Town of Cairo. Meanwhile they’re focusing on the positive: what Joseph-Hunter calls overwhelming support across the counties. “We’re currently in fund-raising mode,” she explains. Adds Roe: “We’re organizing 20 to 30 benefits around the area. Strongtree Organic Coffee Roasters in Hudson will be selling a special WGXC blend as a fund-raiser. A lot of people are helping.”
Also in the works are studios at Catskill’s community center, in Hudson, and possibly one in Cairo. “These will give people in those counties easy access to do shows live,” explains Roe. And with the project’s first large grant (a $71,000 matching grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce) they hope to purchase the transmitter for the FM signal, a critical factor to getting on-air by their desired 2010 launch date. Now all they need are the diverse voices of the community: “We hope that any Columbia and Greene county residents who want to do a radio show will fill out an application,” Roe says. “There are lots of people with something to say, something to share with their neighbors. We’re hoping WGXC brings all kinds of people together — old-timers, farmers, business owners, artists — to understand each other a little bit more.”
» Next: Meet Cleveland W. Lewis Jr., M.D.