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The Portal: Talk instantly with 13 countries from a shipping container in downtown Tempe

Tempe Portal
Shared Studios Portal
Posted at 3:26 PM, Mar 20, 2019

TEMPE, AZ — What questions would you ask someone who lives in Afghanistan? Kenya? Nigeria? Sweden? Greece? Or perhaps someone who lives a thousand miles away in Brooklyn, New York?

For the last couple weeks, more than 1,000 people in the Valley have done that... from inside a gold shipping container in the middle of Tempe's Centerpoint Plaza, a mere steps away from the city's bustling Mill Avenue near.

You can, too.

It is part of Shared Studio's Portal Project, a network of 40 shipping containers equipped with cameras and microphones that have been placed in 13 countries around the world. Some are in popular cities, while others have been in placed at refugee camps, schools, parks and conferences.

In addition to the countries listed above, there are containers in Doha, Qatar; Mexico City, Mexico; Karachi and Lahore, Pakistan; and Kigali, Rwanda.

In the U.S., containers have been placed in Andover, Massachusetts; Dallas, Texas; Richmond, Virginia; and more than a dozen other cities. View full list.

Inside the containers, people will see a live video feed from inside another shipping container.

"You have a full body experience. You feel like you're in the same room. It's really exciting. It's much different than FaceTime," said Julie Kent, the director of pacemaking at Downtown Tempe Authority, the organization that helped bring the project to Tempe.

She said the goal is to "break down cultural barriers and social stereotypes" and talk to people you may not be able to interact with in everyday life.

People can visit the shipping container on their own or reserve a time slot online, https://www.sharedstudios.com/tempe.There is no cost; it is a free experience.

The hours are Monday - Thursday, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., Friday, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. - 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

During the spring Tempe Festival of the Arts, March 29-31, the Portal will be open from 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Right now, the Tempe portal is scheduled to close after March 31.

Kent said it costs about $25,000 to run the Portal for a month, but that the expense lessens the longer it is here. She said DTA is hoping to find sponsors to help fund an extension.

"Each time you come, it's always a different experience because it's a different connection, you're talking to different people. Not only are you talking to the people in Rwanda, you'll be in the portal with other people. There could be 10 other people you've never met before," she said.