In his project, Got the Power, artist Bayeté Ross Smith uses ambient sound, music, and oral history to create portraits of American communities. As a project that began while he was a public artist in residence at The Laundromat Project, Ross Smith travels to historically-significant neighborhoods and invites community members, young and old, to collaborate in making a mixtape which archives their favorite songs and stories. Through a tower of boom boxes that the artist builds at each site, participants are able to play their own cassette tapes, add their favorite song titles to a public playlist, and record their memories about their community. Ross Smith then collects these contributions mixing them with ambient sound specific to the area, and creates a mixtape that can be played both online and through the boom box tower.
Referencing the role boom boxes have played in urban communities and within popular culture, the resulting sculpture and soundscape is a symbol of pride, power, and autonomy. By collaborating with local residents to realize each iteration of this project, Ross Smith creates an accessible and site-specific work that offers its collaborators an opportunity to record their own history.