A funny thing happened on the way to Savannah

Last November we reached out to our friends, families and colleagues and asked for donations in support of a second installment of our “Sounds & Echoes” series.  Earlier that year we produced our first “Sounds & Echoes” series for WBFO 88.7 FM in Buffalo, NY.  Buoyed by the great response to our musical portrait of Buffalo we accepted an invitation to produce a similar project in Savannah, GA in partnership with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

I don’t think we’re in Savannah anymore, Toto

The school would provide housing, recording equipment and studio space but they were unable to provide all the resources we would need to produce the project.  So we turned to all of you to help us meet our $2000 funding goal and close the gap.  We were blown away by your generosity.   With your help we attained and then surpassed our goal.  And with that we started planning our trip to the Hostess City of the South.  We did research, reached out to community storytellers and began talking with students at SCAD about how they could participate in producing the series.

Our “disappointed” faces

Things were moving along nicely until a series of budget cuts and personnel changes at SCAD lead to “Sounds & Echoes: A Musical Portrait of Savannah, GA” being put on  permanent hiatus.  We were surprised and disappointed but more than that we felt like we had let down all the people who donated to make the project happen.  We weren’t sure what to do but we knew we owed it to our supporters to make sure the money we’d been given didn’t go to waste.  And that’s when Recollective producer Nina Porzucki reminded the rest of us about another town with a story to tell: Treece, Kansas.

In 2009 Nina and another member of our group, Whitney Henry Lester, were working in Wichita when they learned about the nearby city of Treece. The city was being bought out by the Environmental Protection Agency due to the enormous amount of lead pollution.  Treece was a heavy supplier of lead, zinc, and iron ore during the World War I and World War II.  After the 1970s, ore production declined rapidly along with the population, turning the once thriving city into an environmental ghost town.

Nina and Whitney went to Treece for one day and interviewed members of the dwindling community just days after the buy out.  The remaining residents were wrestling with whether to take the money and leave or stay and try and continue there lives in the only home they’d ever known.

A warning about lead pollution still remains in the town of Treece

Two years later only two people remain in Treece but the community spread out across Kansas, and nearby Missouri and Oklahoma stays in touch via Facebook, sharing their memories of the place they still call home.

As of November 29, 2010, there were 1280 Superfund sites on the National Priorities List in the United States.  It is more than a little scary that there are places like Treece all over the country and it’s surprising that we rarely hear the stories of the people in the towns and cities affected by this tragic phenomena.  So we decided take the money you so generously donated and apply it to this very different but no less important project.

Once we made that decision we found even more support in our efforts to record and preserve the stories of Treece.  We found a new partner in Kansas Public Radio  and additional funding in the form of a generous grant from the Kansas Humanities Council.

We return to Treece July 15 to begin production on “Treece, Kansas: Ghost Town in the Making.”  We’ll be sharing details about the project over the next few months and we can’t wait for you to hear the finished documentary later this year!  While the setting and subject matter may have changed one thing has stayed the same; your support.  For that we are truly grateful.

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