Studio Visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, a chat with Lori Serb. The station manager at WEFT community radio and an accordion player in the Cretaceous Band of the Community Center for the Arts in Urbana recently chatted with The News-Gazette's Melissa Merli.
How long have you been playing accordion?
I've been playing on and off for 15 years, taking some private lessons. I had a piano background as a kid. That translated well to the piano-accordion, which is what I play.
I've been with the marvelous Cretaceous Band since its beginning. I've been the first chair accordion. That's a joke because I'm the only accordion in the band.
Are you still air-shifting here at WEFT?
Yes, I've been doing the show, "Dog is My Co-pilot," since 2005. That's on from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Fridays and is based on my dog, Arlo, who passed away in 2008.
What do you play?
I try to play a really wide variety of leftist, pro-union, progressive politics. I have drop-ins from PrisonRadio.org and "Break the Sound Barrier," a commentary that Amy Goodman of Democracy Now puts together, and jazz, blues and music from around the world.
I like to focus a lot on women artists of different genres, accordion music, acoustic music and singer-songwriters who have progressive and challenging lyrics. Something that won't be played on Top 40 radio.
Are you also a visual artist?
I did do a lot of painting. I had a show back in '98 at the University at the Union. I haven't done much lately, so there's no current work. It's pretty much sound engineering and the accordion playing in the Cretaceous Band and sometimes small groups.
When did you become WEFT's station manager?
July 2014. I started as a volunteer in 1998 and have filled a wide variety of roles.
How's it going?
Like everyone else who relies on grant money, we're restructuring our sources so we're not as dependent on grants. Because of the state budget freeze, we're waiting for a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. And the Corporation for Public Broadcasting changed their requirements. The amount of non-federal money they want stations to raise now is $300,000 — before they give you a grant. That's more than the budget of most community radio stations.
WEFT certainly has been challenged by the loss of grant funding, as have many other non-profits. We are fortunate to have a board who is committed to WEFT, seeing that it not only survives but thrives in the future.
Does WEFT continue to broadcast 24/7?
Yes, we are broadcasting and streaming, and we're starting to make accessible our public affairs programs so people can go to our website (new.weft.org/) and listen after they've been broadcast. We just started to put up the archival material. It's all volunteer power here so it will take some time to carry it out fully, but we have new material on our website.
Isn't the Common Ground Food Co-op "rounding up" for WEFT this month?
Yes, so people can give that way (by donating their change from purchases at the shop). And we'll be "tabling" at Common Ground from 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 21.