Positive Core Value: Community building and collaboration
In organizing the first Boston Cyberarts Festival in 1999, George Fifield described a process that began with “back porch conversations” and ended up attracting many groups that were excited about exploring the intersection of arts, technology and performance. As these groups came together, the initiative grew, attracting international artists and resources.
Community building was also key to Sandra Thomas’ success in leading Images Cinema in doubling membership and improving financial stability based on strengthening local relationships and collaborating with other nonprofits on screenings and events. And Caroline Cumming recalled a time the community rallied, coming together to celebrate the 911 Media Arts Center during a time of financial need. “The support of the community was really validating,” she said, noting the importance of knowing your roots and history in order to move forward.
For many participants, community relationships are at the heart of their media arts practice. While in graduate school in Arizona, Elise Marubbio was involved with a youth literacy program on the Tahono O’odham Reservation that engaged children with still photography and writing stories in English and their native language. Working behind-the-scenes, Elise was able to build bridges so that the community felt deep ownership of the project—continuing it well beyond the period for which it was initially funded.
When Dan Bergin produced a short video about the 1920s lynching in Duluth, MN, he “got to know the community from the inside and outside as a filmmaker.” According to Dan, his greatest reward was that “a problem brought the community together beyond the film itself,” including ongoing efforts to teach tolerance in Duluth. In working with Cambodian groups to provide television coverage of the Southeast Asian Water Festival for Lowell Telecommunications Corporation, Wendy Blom was able to develop trusting relationships despite the technical challenges of the production. After the festival, the participating groups continued their involvement with LTC, learning to produce their own programming for the community access channels.
The Precious Places initiative at the Scribe Video Center has emphasized community building in several ways. Filmmakers and humanities scholars collaborated with community people to tell the stories of special places; the process of filmmaking and local screenings strengthened the bonds of community among participants, and some of the 42 films made to date have been used in community organizing campaigns. According to Scribe’s founder Louis Massiah, “In an era of isolation and alienation, this process is breaking down barriers between people, neighborhoods and communities.”
In working with Michael Zinzun in 1992 after the L.A. uprising to produce the Watts Up video, Nancy Buchanan was involved in a local community building project that ended up spreading around the globe. Production of the video involved collaborating with residents of the largest housing projects in Watts, including ex-gang members. After using the video to create local dialogue about gang violence and the intractable problems of poverty, Zinzun and some of the workshop participants took it to France and Brazil to do similar work. A community building experience was also at the heart of the Wingspan Film Festival’s tenth anniversary. A group of 12 people organized the entire festival, taking responsibility for all aspects including reviewing films, working with distributors and arranging logistics. According to Wingspan’s Liz Burden, “This was a case where small group passion engaged the larger community.”
Explore more POSITIVE CORE values:
|Find more POSITIVE CORE stories on the Media Arts Movement Timeline|
|In launching the initial cleanup of the decrepit building that will be rehabilitated as the new home of the Nickelodeon Theatre, Larry Hembree was energized when over 50 volunteers showed up and made light work of what he had anticipated would take much more time and effort. The transformation of a historic theatre has the potential to transform the community, although theatre renovations are expected to take two years, the initial energy and goodwill generated by the cleanup have set the stage for success. find this story on the timeline|