birds-eye view overtop the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond. The monument is covered in graffiti
A podcast by VCU students, “When Time Slows Down,” is one of 10 finalists in the NPR Student Podcast Challenge: College Edition. Winners will be featured in segments on “Morning Edition” or “All Things Considered.” (Max Schlickenmeyer, University Marketing)

Podcast by VCU students on graffiti-covered Confederate monuments named a finalist in NPR national contest

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When Time Slows Down,” a podcast created by three Virginia Commonwealth University students that explores disruptive art through the lens of Richmond’s graffiti-covered Confederate monuments, has been named one of 10 finalists in a national podcast competition held by NPR.

“We were inspired to create this podcast after witnessing the racial reckoning that not only happened here in Richmond, but globally,” said Gabriela Santana, a senior creative and strategic advertising major in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences, who co-created the podcast with VCU students Hassan Fields and Joshua Gordon. “People took to the streets, in the midst of a pandemic, in the middle of their own loss and grief, to challenge the institutions that have propagated racism in this country. That is how important it was.

“As students at VCU we thought it necessary to pull our audience through a brief history of the beloved Monument Avenue,” Santana said. “A street adorned with multimillion-dollar homes and the legacy of the Confederacy. As protest surrounding these monuments surged, it became evident how they no longer served this community. Our investigation captured in essence the rebirth of these symbols, and they will never be looked at the same.”

College students from across the country submitted podcasts of three to eight minutes in length and exploring any topic to the NPR Student Podcast Challenge: College Edition. The grand-prize winners will be announced next week and will be featured in segments on NPR's “Morning Edition” or “All Things Considered.”

When Time Slows Down - NPR College Competition

In their podcast, the VCU students set out to answer questions such as, “What is the difference between art and vandalism?” and “Do the monuments, now transformed by Black Lives Matter graffiti, qualify as art?” Along the way, they consider the concepts of how graffiti can be intertwined with community and taking back one’s voice. They interview Richmond artist Hamilton Glass; Tracey Bowen, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga who studies graffiti; and artist Dread Scott. Ultimately, they conclude they weren’t asking the right questions.

“By and large, I think the question is not whether it’s art or not art,” Scott said in the episode. “The question is, why are these damn monuments still here?”

The students’ podcast was created as part of the class “Podcasting While Black” in the Department of African American Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

“We submitted the podcast on a whim,” Santana said. “It had been something our professor Chioke I'Anson, Ph.D., had suggested in the beginning of the semester and we decided to go for it. We are happy we did! It is incredible to receive this recognition, especially amongst so many other incredible student podcasts.”

The full list of finalists in the NPR Student Podcast Challenge can be found here.