You have to really scour the streets these days to find a public payphone or, better yet, someone who has actually used one. One neighborhood in Texas is re-purposing these former street corner staples into audio time capsules. The Third Ward artist community in Houston, with support from Project Row Houses, came together to rebuild three decommissioned payphones into interactive urban artifacts that are telling the stories and history of the neighborhood where they were installed. And, Houston Public Media reports that these payphones won't cost you a dime.
The three solar-powered phones, known as TrePhonos, play snippets of music, ambient sounds of the area and bits of spoken history when numbers are pushed, the coin return switch is pulled down or when the coin door is swung open. Marc Furi, one of 24 artists and residents who worked on the project, describes the Third Ward community as the "Harlem of Texas" where music, food, culture and activities bring people together in the mostly African American neighborhood. Activist Kofi Taharka says, "All of the ambassadors or curators, we all live in the community, so this is not a new story...we live it." Taharka says relaying the community's history and challenges through these time capsule payphones has melded the worlds of long-established local artists, musicians, residents and community leaders. He says the collaboration makes the area feel more connected. You can check out the payphones outside of Wolf's Pawnshop, the Crumbville, TX bakery and the SHAPE Community Center.