Danielle Orr and Brenda Pérez. Photo by Freddy Brewster

Tucked away in a closet at the Arcata Playhouse is Humboldt Hot Air, a newly formed group of former KHSU employees and volunteers dedicated to audio production. 

The genesis of the project came about just days after the gutting of the NPR-affiliate channel back in April, when the Playhouse’s Jackie Dandeneau approached Danielle Orr during a protest at the Arcata’s Farmers’ Market on April 13. With donations of equipment from the folks over at Access Humboldt, Humboldt Hot Air is slowly becoming a reality. 

“By late June we had cleared out the storage [area], built the studio and soundproofed it,” Orr told the Outpost. 

Orr said the content being made consists of audio magazines, community calendars, Arcata Playhouse program highlights and interviews. The main focus of Humboldt Hot Air will be to showcase local artists and give attention to some of the “hot topics” in the community, such as racial equity and homelessness.

“We believe in public access public airwaves,” Orr said. “We don’t have the airwaves anymore, but we have the access to record the voices in our community.”

Orr was a volunteer at KHSU since 1981. She produced music and was one of the hosts for the KHSU Magazine. During her interview with the Outpost, Orr was visibly upset at times when speaking about how Humboldt State handled the gutting of the radio station. 

“It was a huge community service,” Orr said. 

Dandenau is the executive director of the Arcata Playhouse and decided to set aside the room for the content creators because she feels that it’s important for a community to have a local voice that’s not attached to commercial interests.

“To have programming that is not generated locally is crazy,” Dandenau told the Outpost. “The arts are an essential part of a society, they are a reflection. By having access to this station for local audio artists we are supporting what is unique to who we are.”

Dandenau went on to say that the space set aside is not a radio station, but more of an area to be used for content generation where the arts and public affairs will have the main focus. She said the content generated from Humboldt Hot Air would differ from regular radio stations because of the focus the creators can give to a topic. 

“There is an in depth conversation that happened on KHSU that commercial radio stations can’t do,” Dandenau said. “It’s a hub that can generate programming here in Arcata.”

Brenda Pérez is currently producing Radio Centro from the Humboldt Hot Air studio. It is a Spanish-language news show with a focus on national and local events. She said the stories will focus on impacts to the Latinx community.

“We have been isolated not only because of the area, but also by the language here,” Pérez told the Outpost. “Most of my community is not bilingual and this content provides the news and issues that allows us to feel integrated into the community.”

Pérez moved to Humboldt three years ago from Chalchicomula, Mexico to work as a guest researcher for HSU’s Anthropology Department and the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research. Her radio roots started with a guest appearance on Charlondo Con La Raza, a show formerly hosted by Jessie Eden. 

Eden asked her to be a regular fixture on the show after her first appearance. Pérez invited guests from Mexico and other countries onto the radio show where they discussed issues such as immigration law and rights for migrants. Pérez’s show can be found on the Radio Centro Soundcloud page as well as Centro del Pueblo’s website: https://cdpueblo.com/

Most of the other content being generated from Humboldt Hot Air can be found on KZZH-LP 96.7. The EcoNews Report — also a former product of KHSU — is also edited in the Humboldt Hot Air studio and has found a home here at the Outpost, as well as KHUM 104.7 and 104.3 every Saturday at 10 a.m. 

Starting in about three weeks, Orr hopes to have a website up and running. She said they are not in a big hurry to expand to an actual radio station and wants to figure things out before making any big leaps.

“It’s a perfect time to start small and see where we’ll go,” Orr said. “I’m not going anywhere and radio is something I enjoy doing.”