Colorado Springs Portal Forges Musical Connections Around The World

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8min 48sec

The Imagination Celebration is giving area residents the opportunity to connect to distant lands and cultures from right here in Colorado Springs. As part of the annual What If Festival in downtown Colorado Springs this Saturday, the Imagination Celebration has stationed a "portal" -- a golden shipping container outfitted with a camera, microphone, and an eight-by-eight-foot projection screen -- at the Pioneers Museum. The portal functions like a giant, community Skype box, linking up with other portals stationed in places as diverse as Gaza, Berlin, and Brooklyn.

Artist Amar Bakshi created the project in 2014 with the goal of fostering cross-cultural communication. The portal at the Pioneers Museum has been up and running since July. In that time it has been used by a wide range of people, for a wide range of purposes.

Often, people simply use it to chat with a stranger on the other side of the world. But for the most recent episode of Air Check, we were interested in learning about one particular way it has been used by some Colorado Springs residents: music. 

Deb Thornton and Brian Elyo in front of the Portal.
Credit Jake Brownell / 91.5 KRCC
Deb Thornton and Brian Elyo in front of the Portal.

Portal curator Brian Elyo and Imagination Celebration Executive Director Deborah Thornton say it's not uncommon for a person to bring a guitar to play some songs for an audience in Afghanistan or Myanmar. Musicians around the world have also used the portal to perform for audiences here in Colorado Springs. Even when language fails, say Elyo and Thornton, music can provide a way for people a world apart to communicate and find common ground. 

In the segment above, Thornton and Elyo share some of their favorite musical experiences from the portal so far, including an impromptu fiddle/hip hop improvisation, violin lessons between a local teacher and a student in Rwanda, and a performance by a 15-year-old oud player in Gaza.

The portal will be open to the public Saturday, September 9th, at the What If Festival in Downtown Colorado Springs, and then it will head to the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. For more information about the portal and to book a time slot, click here.