KRUI Radio celebrates 29th anniversary with art exhibit, performances


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Five years after the Buggles announced that video had killed the radio star, Iowa City’s KRUI radio station told a very different story by expanding from AM to FM in 1984 — and it continued to grow as “Iowa City’s sound alternative” over the next 29 years.

Memorabilia from this history is displayed at KRUI’s first-ever art exhibit, On The Air: 29 Years of KRUI, in Public Space Z at the Wesley Center, 120 N. Dubuque St. An opening reception for the exhibit — which was unveiled on Tuesday — will take place at 5 p.m. Friday, featuring local singer-songwriters Megan Buick and Dana T, refreshments from New Pioneer Food Co-op, and free KRUI merchandise.

“Because we’re sort of in a digital age, people might think radio has gone out of style or isn’t used as much as it was, but now is a good time to show how long KRUI has been around and the impact it has had on the community,” said KRUI marketing director Vanessa Ruiz. “KRUI is a sort of learning laboratory for anyone interested in music, broadcasting, and even marketing.”

The exhibit, which will run through April 12, features posters, merchandise, and newspaper clippings preserved throughout the station’s history, including a colorful poster from the 1990s featuring Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody, former KRUI administrative director.

“It’s interesting to see how the station’s branding and image has changed since the ’80s and ’90s,” Ruiz said. “I think it’s gotten a lot more sleek, but, at the same time, KRUI has always had a quirky, off-beat approach to branding that goes along with the type of music and programming we have.”

Ruiz said the station’s enduring identity as Iowa City’s “sound alternative” applies to all elements of its programming, from the news and sports broadcasting to its various student employment opportunities. But most of all, she said, KRUI is home to alternative music outside the top 40, often highlighting local acts — two of whom are Buick and Dana Telsrow.

“They’re both up-and-coming Iowa City musicians, and they both have gone to the University of Iowa for the last four years and are well-ingrained in the KRUI aesthetic,” Ruiz said.

Guitarist Buick will play original works on Friday in her typical lo-fi folk-pop sound, accompanied by Jay Schleidt on kazoo, train whistle, bells, and other instruments. Buick was featured on the station’s weekly “Little Village Live” show on Feb. 14 and works on sound for the program as well.

“It’s nice to get local musicians a chance to have air time, and it’s a really great place for people who are interested in radio to work,” Buick said. “[Radio] is more real, especially when there are live shows. The sounds are being sent to radios everywhere without being altered by going through a digital process.”

Telsrow, who plays guitar and horns while incorporating electronic beats produced on his laptop, has also had his work played on KRUI 89.7 and has done promotional designs for the station. Having seen the exhibit, Telsrow said he is excited about the performance.

“It’s definitely cool to see all the posters, who has been through KRUI, and what the radio station had to do to get into existence,” he said. “And I don’t think there could be a more appropriate place for it to be in. Public Space Z has been a huge venue for the art and music scene, and it’s a unique place.”

Having risen from AM to FM, from the basement of Quadrangle to the IMU third floor, and from radio waves to online streaming, Ruiz said she believes that KRUI will continue to stand the test of time.

“KRUI has been a mainstay in the community for so long,” she said. “Even if radio becomes obsolete in the next 29 years, I think we will continue to excel and evolve.”

What: On The Air: 29 Years of KRUI art exhibit and opening reception
When: 5 p.m. Friday
Where: Public Space Z, lower level of Wesley Center, 120 N. Dubuque
Admission: Free
Get more information about Megan Buick at meganbuick.com and Dana T at danatelsrow.com

1952 — KWAD, the UI’s first student broadcaster, opens in Quadrangle and serves Quad residents exclusively
1968 — KWAD becomes KICR as it expands to audiences in other residence halls, with a listenership of approximately 5,000 and advertising income of around $10,000
1976 — KICR changes to KRUI, but soon suffers from financial woes and is forced to shut down for a time
1983 — KRUI is granted a noncommercial radio license by the FCC to operate at 89.7 FM
1984 — KRUI officially hits the FM airwaves as “Iowa City’s sound alternative”
2010 — KRUI begins broadcasting “Live from Prairie Lights,” a series of readings from the Dubuque Street bookstore
2011 — “The Lab,” KRUI’s online radio station, débuts
2012 — KRUI begins to broadcast Hawkeyes athletics

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