Hear Here, Walla Walla


HEAR HERE WALLA WALLA  is a phone storyline and website that maps my community of Walla Walla, WA through some stories of immigrants and first generation Walla Walla residents. Artists Jessica Cerullo, Eric John Olson and I conceived this project in collaboration with members of the Walla Walla Immigrant Rights Coalition (WWIRC) as a means to share stories which, for reasons of anonymity or a lack of platform, have not been heard within the community at large. The ongoing project is creatively directed by the WWIRC Art & Social Practice Committee.

Over September and October 2018, a group of artists and Whitman College students interviewed Latinx community members (and one German), ages 18-65, around Walla Walla about their lives. Through these interviews and participatory research, we learned that there is a lack of a public record of Mexican-American migration and history in the area which began more than 50 years ago. To share and record these oral histories, we set up a phone line that anyone could call, and hear excerpts from the interviews or leave messages with their own story. Many interviewees wanted to be anonymous; in these instances their stories were re-recorded using voice actors. The phone line framework allowed us to archive all the stories on the phone line at the Whitman College Northwest Archives while protecting the anonymity of those involved.

We invite you pick up your phone and see what is on the line from and for our neighbors in Walla Walla. By pressing the numbers on your keypad you can navigate through the topics of Belonging, Exclusion, Courage, Invisibility, Change, Tradition, Legacy, Sunrise and the ultimate question—if you knew you would be heard, is there one last thing you would like to say.

Photographs above taken by Jonathan Vanderweit (©2018) at the debut performance, BECAUSE YOU ARE HERE (a play at Whitman’s Harper Joy Theatre based on the interviews featured in the story line) AND photographs I took (©2019) at Walla Walla First Congregational Church for the April/May 2019 Tour of the story booth.

Conceived and Ideated with Jessica Cerullo & Eric John Olson
Co-Author Interviewees: Amanda, Ana, Fernando, Leon, Luis Mendez, Luna, Mariela Rosas, Paco, Sandy Garcia, Ursula Volwiler
Co-Author Producers: Jessica Cerullo, Emma Cooper, Francisco Esquivel, Maddy Gold, Erina Horikawa, Tia Kramer, Evan Marks, Donovan Olsen, Sabina Rogers, Dani Schlenker, Mira Skladany
Ongoing Artist Production Team: Walla Walla Immigrant Rights Coalition’s Art and Social Practice Collective: Jessica Cerullo, Francisco Esquivel, Maddy Gold, Erina Horikawa, Tia Kramer, Amara Killen, Alexa Lim, Donovan Olsen, Mira Skladany, and Katy Sassara with the support of the Walla Walla Immigrant Rights Coalition at large and in collaboration with the Whitman College Northwest Archives.

Voice Actors utilized (in some instances) to re-record interview segments: Ynez Vargas, Larry Miller, Carlos Vargas Salgado, Maddy Gold
Spanish translation: Ynez Vargas, and Larry Miller 
Web Design: David Schulz
Sound Design & Technologist: Eric John Olson
Musicians: Gary Grundei, Erina Horikawa and Maddy Gold
Word Smith: Kisha Schlegal
Listening booth designed by David Schulz, Tia Kramer & Jessica Cerullo with core concept work by Eric John Olson & Tia Kramer

For this project, I had relational meetings with more than 35 community members to learn about the impact of national immigration policy on our intimate town. I then worked closely with my collaborators, the Whitman students and a local Latinx community member to conduct practice interviews, identify interview questions and I paired each interviewer and interviewees. Together participants (including ideator and sound designer, Eric John Olson) identified themes that emerged through all 10 community interviews and identified excerpts to be featured in the story line. All of our interviewees were bilingual or multilingual; all but one interview were conducted in English, the Spanish interview was translated. For reasons of anonymity many interview segments were re-recorded using local voice actors.

The HEAR HERE WALLA WALLA listening booth tours the Walla Walla Valley and Eastern Washington in Spring, 2019.

April 5, 2019 @ 3:30pm: Washington State University: Art is Action Lecture — Hear Hear Walla Walla phone line will be activated during a public performative lecture and listening activity at Washington State University’s Theatre Building, 3:30-5pm.

April 12-15, 2019: Whitman College, Reid Campus Center — Publicly accessible daily from 8am -11pm in the lobby of Reid Campus Center. 280 Boyer Ave, Walla Walla, WA 99362.

April 14, 2019: Walla Walla Community Immigration Seder — Reid Campus Center. Ticketed Event ($30); Free tickets available on first come first serve basis. Doors open at 4:30, seder runs from 5-7:30.

April 15- May 3, 2019: Walla Walla First Congregational Church — Publicly accessible Monday-Sunday in the lobby of the Walla Walla First Congregational Church. 73 South Palouse Street, Walla Walla, Washington 99362. With specific questions on hours call: 509.525.8753 or email: office@fcchurch.net.

April 25, 2019, 5:30-7pm: Stand Against Racism event at Pioneer Methodist Church — Information about the story line and project as a whole will be available for all attendees. (The Booth will not be physically present but the phone line will be accessible.) Pioneer Methodist Church, 209 E. Birch St, Walla Walla, WA 99362.

May 6th-10th: Walla Walla Community College, Student Activity Center — Publicly accessible Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm. 500 Tausick Way Walla Walla, WA 99362. 

HEAR HERE WALLA WALLA is a project co-created by the Whitman College Department of Theater and Dance's Devised Theater course in collaboration with members of the Walla Walla Immigrant Rights Coalition as well as immigrants in our community. This work is sponsored by the Whitman College Innovation in Teaching and Learning fund and the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, diversifying the curriculum through community engagement.

To learn more about this project and it’s partner project, Because You Are Here, peruse the following articles:

Acting And Activism: Whitman College Play Explores Community Impact Of Immigration by T.J. Tranchell,
Northwest Public Broadcasting
Many voices, one Valley by Forrest Holt, published in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin, April 2019 Lifestyles Feature
’Hear Here, Walla Walla’ worthy of attention by Paul Kwon, editorial published in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin
Turning Curiosity Into Action by Afrika Brown, Whitman College