Whoever said radio’s dead has never listened to Dr. J. Bradley Minnick’s show Arts & Letters. Now on its third year, this innovative celebration of the humanities in Arkansas has just won a $9,000 grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council (AHC) to fund another year of programming. This is AHC’s second year in a row to sponsor Arts & Letters.
Each 30-minute episode is packed with interviews, dramatizations, and original music, all tailored to a unique theme, ranging from local civil rights battles to the Arkansas alligator gar. Minnick, a UALR Associate Professor of English, is the creator, project director, host, and script writer for the series, which airs on KUAR as well as online as a podcast. KUAR’s Chris Hickey serves as the show’s sound engineer and associate producer; Shannon Lausch of the UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture provides archival materials for various shows.
Minnick describes the show as “kaleidoscopic,” meaning that it weaves together a variety of aural elements to create a cohesive scene. The producers use sound bites, interview clips, acting, music, and more to immerse the listener in a certain moment, whether it be thirteenth century Italy or a 1980s living room. As they create this experience, the Arts & Letters team also works to design a show that is engaging and appropriate for listeners of all ages.
The program fills a major gap in current podcast offerings—few other shows pay adequate attention to the arts in the South. “If you look at a lot of the podcasts that are on now, they often highlight the intellectual work in the Northeast—New York, Boston,” Minnick explains. “And I really wanted to highlight the intellectual and cultural work that was being done in the South.”
While they certainly feature UALR scholars and projects, Minnick and his collaborators are intentional about seeking out stories from both within and outside the UALR community. “I think it’s really important that the folks in Little Rock have a sense of the neat stuff that’s happening not only at this university but regionally and at other universities in the area,” Minnick asserts.
Listeners can access episodes of Arts & Letters and leave feedback about them on the show’s website.