Working Circuits

By Sullivan, Felicia M. | Afterimage, January-February 1999 | Go to article overview

Working Circuits


Sullivan, Felicia M., Afterimage


Media Generation: What Works to What's Next National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture biennial conference Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania October 22-25, 1998

From October 22-25, 1998, the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC) held its biennial conference at the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, PA. Appropriately entitled "Media Generation: What Works to What's Next," this gathering of more than 250 media arts center directors, museum curators, community activists, scholars and artists discussed the state of the field of media arts with a renewed sense of purpose and an eye focused on the future. After the last two NAMAC conferences, the energy and optimism at this meeting were a welcome relief. The fear and confusion created by funding cuts in the '90s have faded as NAMAC's member organizations settle into a funding world where them are no free tickets and the entrepreneurial for-profit world sometimes provides more successful models.

Hosted by Pittsburgh Filmmakers under the direction of Executive Director Charlie Humphrey, "Media Generation" offered three workshop tracks - Non-Profit Management, Artists/Producers and Community Partnerships - which spanned the range of interests among NAMAC's often disparate constituencies. Many of the topics and presenters were reminiscent of past offerings. However, such decidedly pragmatic programs as "Beyond Foundations: Raising Money Like the Big Folks," "Successful Partnerships with Communities, Funders and Corporations," and "Partnerships with Artists: Managing Fiscal Sponsorships," provided participants with new and effective strategies.

Geared toward the media arts center administrator, the Non-Profit Management track offered working sessions such as "Organizational Planning, Positioning and Values Clarification" and "Media Arts Education: Its Role and Incorporation into an Arts Facility." Sessions in this track gathered the collective knowledge of some of the field's more seasoned leaders. Tom Borrup (Intermedia Arts), Anne Marie Stein (Boston Film/Video Foundation), Gall Silva (Film Arts Foundation) and Susan Walsh (Center for Independent Documentary) all shared their strategies for keeping organizations alive in an ever-changing environment. While administrators collected practical tools to aid in their operations, artists and producers participated in working sessions to tackle the real challenges of getting work made and seen. "Staring at the Screen: Creative Exhibition and Distribution for the Future," "How to Represent: Artists Discuss How Venues Package Their Work" and "Navigating Interdisciplinary Collaborations" dealt with issues of distribution and funding. "Cameras in the House: Youth Media Production at its Peak" spotlighted the work being produced by youths and the support mechanism necessary to sustain it.

Scarce funding for the media arts over the past eight years has created a tension between supporting media arts and reaching underserved communities, By devoting an entire track to Community Partnerships, organizers created a balance between often competing interests. "Underserved Communities and Access to Media Arts," "Working with Public Institutions: Public Libraries Supporting Media Centers" and "Opportunities and Obstacles Facing Media Arts" integrated the social responsibilities of media artists into a variety of communities with the creative concerns of artists devoted to these communities. "Beyond Local Boundaries: National and Global Partnerships" was a particularly powerful session. Presented by longtime activists Michael Eisenmenger (Videazimut, Paper Tiger TV), DeeDee Halleck (Deep Dish TV), Paul Teruel (Street Level Youth Media) and Bulgarian media artist Illiyana Nedkova, the session reminded participants that the media arts reach far beyond our own national borders.

In all of the tracks a strong emphasis was placed on emergent digital technologies and how media arts organizations incorporate new equipment and production processes into their facilities.

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