Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Add media arts centers to the endangered list. . . .

Read this on indieWIRE this morning, and forwarded it to some friends involved in running the Downtown Media Arts Center (D.MAC) in Orlando. In some ways, what it has to say about the impending demise of media arts centers doesn't really apply, since D.MAC has never met its mandate in that arena, anyway. A microcinema/cafe/gallery? Yes. A media arts center? Hardly. I guess that's what happens when your creative father leaves town to direct Mormon epics.

In any case, I used to work at D.MAC when it first opened, and it was probably my least pleasant employment experience. Lots of infighting, no direction, and a general resistance to trying anything new. I soon found myself hating everything about it and became part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Fortunately for all involved, my tenure there lasted only a few months, and instead of sticking it out, I left to clear my schedule for production projects.

Since that time, D.MAC has been reborn, at least in its management. From what I've seen so far, this has only been good for the organization. Unfortunately, the change may have come too late. UCF still underfunds the poor beast, and having been financially left out to dry for its first two years, its fate may have already been sealed, regardless of what the present management does to head it off.

The reason I'm thinking about any of this is that there's a possibility I may be back at D.MAC by early fall, helping with some marketing and programming responsibilities as part of my graduate MFA work. If this happens, it will mean having to care once again about an organization I had once sworn never to give a damn about again after I got burned by it. In reality, however, that D.MAC has already been dead for quite a long while. The new D.MAC barely resembles it, and the people in charge now seem to have a vision, a direction, and an eagerness to hear new ideas. I joined D.MAC the first time hoping to be a part of something revolutionary and new, and instead, I found myself mired in a completely backward thinking endeavor. I have good reason to hope that if I do re-engage, it will be as if that first experience never happened.

Media arts centers are endangered -- everything having to do with arts in America always has been -- but I think there's still hope for D.MAC. I think Orlando needs an excellent media arts center. It just doesn't realize it yet.

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