Third Coast International Audio Festival

Third Coast International Audio Festival, or Third Coast, is an independent nonprofit arts organization based in Chicago, serving a global community of storytellers and makers. Since our founding in 2000, we have steadfastly advocated for the medium of audio, the art and craft of sonic storytelling, and the people who build our world in sound.

Our Values

At our core, we’re always advocating for audio storytelling as an ever-evolving medium, and for the diverse communities of people making this work. We’re a fiercely independent organization, and we strive to make community-driven, intersectional, and accessible programming that pushes the boundaries of audio storytelling... and we are also evolving.

As a small team, we’re in active conversation about who we are, what we do, how we work together, and how we can help support our community. Here are the values we named in 2020 that define Third Coast:

Transformation & Disruption

We challenge traditions and nourish evolutions. Our work advances the audio industry by de-centering the status quo — including white, ableist, heteropatriarchal capitalism — and amplifying with care, the work of historically marginalized communities, producers, and artists.


We see radical artistry, imagination, and visionary craft as key to advancing the power of storytelling, community reporting, journalism, experimental sound, radio art, and work that defies categorization.


We prioritize accountability in our relationships by welcoming feedback, practicing transparency, and honoring the history and legacy of when we have failed in action or complicity. We adapt and adjust by listening and seeking counsel from those with the highest stakes in our work.

Responsiveness & Growth

We maintain a connection to our communities and have an awareness of their needs. Our work seeks to ladder opportunities for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, people living with disabilities, immigrants, and returning citizens so that they can participate in an industry that has equitable pay and hiring practices for individuals seeking representation, mentorship, guidance, freelance opportunities, or full-time employment. As a community with a deeply international reach, we seek to de-center our Eurocentrism, and forge relationships based on care, openness, and mutual understanding.

What We Do

Since our founding two decades ago, we have supported media-makers by recognizing talent, igniting innovation, curating boundary-breaking audio pieces, and bringing exceptional work of all styles to local and worldwide audiences. Every day, we re-commit to the work of becoming an anti-racist institution and creating radical spaces of inclusion, collaboration, and experimentation.

This programming includes, but is not limited to:

The Third Coast/RHDF Competition

Each year, we cast the widest net possible for the best audio stories made worldwide. Then, we listen to every single entry. The finalists are reviewed by panels of judges, selected carefully by Third Coast. We celebrate the winning stories with prizes, an awards ceremony, and more.

The Third Coast Conference

An annual gathering of the Third Coast community for a weekend of learning, idea-generation, collaboration, connections and shared love of audio. (In 2020, we’ve exploded this programming into the virtual... world—check out Third Place!) Check out our catalogue of past Third Coast Conferences.

The Third Coast Residency

Founded in 2016, our Residency is an application-based cohort of audio makers who are underrepresented in the field, who spend a week working on a project with feedback and guidance from onsite mentors.

Radio Shows & Podcasts

Our two podcasts, Re:sound and Third Coast Pocket Conference showcase some of the brightest talents in the field of audio storytelling. Our annual special Best of the Best airs on public radio stations nationwide and features the winners of our Competition.

Public Programs

An annually rotating selection of imaginative and engaging events, often intended to bring the general public and the audio producer community together in one room. These events all revolve around audio, but their formats vary widely, ranging from performances to installations to discussion-based gatherings. In 2017 and 2018, we presented these programs under the umbrella of The Fest.

Inclusive Programming & Platforms

Throughout all our programs, we invite makers and listeners alike to participate in conversations about storytelling, perspective, craft, audience and structure, and use these opportunities to raise the voices of those historically left out of the conversation: BIPOC, women, LGBTQIA+-identified, and folx living with disabilities.

At Third Coast, we believe that a more equitable, inclusive and anti-racist audio industry makes for more empowered workers, and better stories.

Thanks for being part of our Third Coast community.