After over 47 years operating from its cramped, outdated facility located in the basement of Central Hall on the Southern Oregon University (SOU) campus, JPR is getting a new home. As part of the renovation and expansion of SOU’s theatre and performing arts building, The Oregon Center for the Arts (OCA), a new state-of-the-art JPR studio facility will be constructed starting this month with completion scheduled for late summer 2017.
Advancing this project to its groundbreaking is an important milestone for JPR. But in many ways, it’s also a new beginning -- marking a new chapter in our mission to serve both the region and the SOU campus.
This new facility will enable us to improve every aspect of our work.
· It will enable us to more than double the size of our newsroom -- expanding the in-depth, contextual journalism of our award-winning news department. We will use this space to support news partnerships with other regional public radio stations, expand local staff and involve students in our regional news reporting.
· It will create a fantastic new live performance studio that will enable us to share our live sessions featuring touring and local musicians with a live studio audience in addition to our radio listeners. This studio will feature a movable glass wall that will open to the courtyard adjacent to our building so that we can accommodate a slightly larger audience if musicians are willing to stay to play a short set for fans.
· It will upgrade our technical plant, creating a state-of-the-art digital facility that will improve the quality of what listeners hear on JPR every day. The facility will also include a backup power system that keeps us connected to the community during times of public emergencies, like Ashland’s 1997 flood.
· It will create new opportunities to engage and mentor SOU students in the craft of audio storytelling, civic affairs, journalism and digital media. We’re only beginning to imagine areas students could be involved in learning at JPR and getting inspired to become the next generation of public media journalists and producers.
In addition, establishing roots in the OCA complex will create a dynamic collaboration with other SOU programs while creating a newly focused, highly visible hub for the arts and culture on the SOU campus.
We’re grateful to the SOU administration and OCA faculty for working with us to make this project a reality. And, to the JPR Foundation for helping raise $1.3 million in 8 months in order to keep this opportunity on the fast track. We’re also grateful to you, our loyal listeners who believe in the power of public radio to create a better society -- and who generously support our work year after year.
It’s really impossible to fully convey how excited we are to rise up from the basement of Central Hall. We see so many interesting and inspiring ways to put this new facility to work serving both JPR listeners and SOU students. We just can’t wait!
Paul Westhelle is JPR’s Executive Director.