Reg Zehner is a CCAD alum on the Verge
Less than a year has passed since Reg Zehner (Studio Art with an Emphasis in the History of Art & Visual Culture, 2020) graduated from Columbus College of Art & Design, and they can already count co-founding a radio station among their accomplishments. That radio station, Verge.fm officially kicked off on Jan. 15, 2021, and in December 2020 was awarded grant support from a major Columbus nonprofit—the Greater Columbus Arts Council—as part of GCAC’s new “Big Ideas” grant initiative. Such grants “are intended to uplift artist ideas and projects that bring all art forms out into the community,” says the council, which approved supporting Verge.fm as one of three recipients of Big Ideas grants totaling $10,000 that quarter.
Saturday, Feb. 27, and Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, Zehner and Verge will team up with the Wexner Center for the Arts for All Day Blackness: Black History and Black Futures, with programming that includes contributions by another CCAD alum, Cameron Granger (Cinematic Arts, 2016). Below, Zehner discusses Verge.fm’s start, their goals for it, and how it aligns with their work as a curator.
When we last spoke you had just completed the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program, and said that your long term goal is to be a curator bringing attention to marginalized artists. How does the Verge.fm project align with that goal?
I would say my long-term goal is still to be a curator—I don’t think that changed. Verge.fm aligns with my goal because I am essentially curating digital space and for the most part, Verge.fm does try to center marginalized communities—Black, other POC and gender diverse creatives. I think Verge.fm is somewhat of a third space between an institution and a DIY space for creatives in Columbus and across the nation.
Let’s talk about the basics of Verge.fm. What is the schedule? Are you hoping it will be a 24/7 thing?
Verge.fm airs on the weekend from noon to 6 p.m. Personally, I don’t believe Verge.fm will be a 24/7 hour thing because that type of schedule reinforces a capitalist mindset. There are multiple people who run Verge.fm behind the scenes and we all have lives. That said, I think Verge.fm will definitely grow beyond the weekend with some off days and a scheduled timeframe airing new/replayed content.
If someone were to turn on Verge.fm at any random time, what are they likely to hear?
If you’re tuning in on the weekend after noon, you can be hearing anything from a mix that has opera and hardcore to a podcast that poses critical conversation about art. We have art, music, food, and lifestyle podcasts. That takes up a lot of our content. And on the other hand, we do have shows focusing on music, whether that is underground dance to throwback hits of the 2000s.
Our content is pretty open, so it is always exciting.
People typically put music and visual art practices in separate categories. Where do you see the connections between the two? Or is this a false distinction?
I think this is a false distinction because there are sound artists that exist and there are a lot of musicians who are visual artists. I think this comes from the arts world trying to profit off of categorizing a binary that should be more collaborative.
There are three cofounders for Verge.fm, including you. What does the division of responsibilities look like?
Currently Verge.fm is a team of five to seven people (we are still onboarding a few). Responsibilities are really set up depending on the skills that people have and are interested in using. We try to be considerate of all our lives and avoid burnout by having transparent conversations about deadlines and growth.
There are three co-founders: me, Lu Jones, and Nadia Ayad. We steer Verge.fm as a business and our other team members help with either the coding, radio scheduling/archiving, and managing our resident hosts.
What are you most proud of in regards to the Verge.fm project? What are your goals for it?
I am proud of connecting to so many different people and forming relationships with my teammates that feel supportive. We really came into Verge.fm just to step back and give a platform to and reach other communities outside of our own personal ones.
We hope to be invested in or funded enough to hire everyone currently on the team full-time (or even part-time) and we want to be investing in promoting local musicians/artists/art spaces through collaborations, which is a goal that should be attainable through some projects coming soon.
For me, personally, my goals for Verge.fm is to just exist for a minimum of 10 years (it can exist longer), and to really build a foundation and have a history that shows everyone if we can work together, we can build a better future.
What needs—for listeners and/or the artists—are you hoping to meet with Verge.fm?
“Needs” depend on the individual. But what we can do is give an opportunity for people to share their ideas or work and be able to archive it. Hopefully from there, people can grow their work to either get a new job, build their portfolio, or even just make memories.
What did it mean to have support from an organization like the Greater Columbus Arts Council for this project?
Having support from GCAC felt amazing. To know a well-established institution thought our project deserved all the funding we needed to help impact people really showed us that we don’t have to shoot small for our dreams and that if we are transparent and honest, the community will come through to help out.
What has been the most difficult thing you’ve faced so far with Verge.fm? The most exciting or satisfying?
I think in the beginning it’s building our systems—how do we get 50 people on the radio with a process that won’t be too confusing, or what is our process to grow our radio overtime and even like, what is the process to post on social media? We were really intentional and even though that took time to be talked about and experimented with, I’m glad we did because it really helped refine Verge.fm into who we are.
The most satisfying part of Verge.fm has been listening back to shows or when shows air and hearing how cool everyone is. I’m like, “dang, people have great music taste,” or are just really smart. Sometimes I DM hosts to tell them their show is amazing because sometimes listening to it makes my day, you know?
And also the most exciting thing for Verge.fm which is perfect timing is the collaborative event (Wexner Center for the Arts’ Director of Learning & Public Practice) Dionne Custer Edwards and I curated with Verge.fm and the Wexner Center for the Arts’ Shumate Council. All Day Blackness airs Feb. 27 and 28 and has some great content.
You graduated from CCAD a year ago. How did your education here play into what you’re doing now?
CCAD helped let me practice my wild ideas out and see how to collaborate with people I may not know. And since CCAD is a multidisciplinary school, in the Fine Arts/Art History department, it helped me think about projects in a way that uses different types of problem solving and skills.
Your advice for someone who would want to follow a similar path?
I don’t really have too much advice since this is still new and I am not quite a year out of undergrad … but I guess it would be really intentional about what you put out into the world or your community. See who are the most marginalized people and see what the community may need and then respond. Try to communicate and come to others that aren’t in your immediate circle and also take a break here and there. Importantly, take care of yourself, pay yourself back in some form for the work you are doing (because the work is a lot so being unpaid can eventually harm you), and do something fun.
Other than that, I am still learning, and I’m not perfect, so we will see what happens!
Check out the Columbus Alive feature on Verge.fm here and an article on All Day Blackness in The Lantern here.
Archived recordings from Verge.fm can be found on Mixcloud. Listeners can support it via Patreon or Gofundme and can follow it on Instagram.
Read Reg Zehner’s interview with fellow CCAD alum Dejiah Archie-Davis (Fine Arts, 2019) for the Shumate Council blog.
Learn more about Fine Arts at CCAD or apply here.