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Our first NAMAC Experience

David SloanWide Angle’s High School Coordinator, David Sloan, participated in a conference held by the National Alliance for Art, Media, and Culture (NAMAC) in St. Paul, MN. The annual conference brings public access television, museums, and arts centers together with talented youth and participatory media practitioners. This is David’s first time participating.

NAMAC attendees find the conference an inspiring occasion. We’re able to share experiences, our students’ work, and opportunities. After the conference, we often find ourselves looking for more ways to come together and continue to develop the connections between organizations working in youth media that began at the conference. Here are a few of the ideas we discussed on how our youth media community could start bridging those connections:

  • Here's David meeting with some awesome people from PhillyCAM and at St. Paul Neighborhood Network at SPNN's production facilities. SPNN has been a good friend to Wide Angle over the years, and they have a history of creating some great youth media projects. Check them out at spnn.org and check out PhilyCAM at phillycam.org.

    Here’s David meeting with PhillyCAM and St. Paul Neighborhood Network at SPNN’s production facilities.

    Building National Connections: We enjoyed meeting one another and sharing our work. We could have spent many more days getting to know each other. In fact,  many of us recognized that it might be time to start planning a conference specifically for youth media and media education. A representative from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston proposed seeing if NAMAC would allow us to piggy-back on their conference by having attendees stay a day after the main conference to focus specifically on youth media interests. Other ideas included holding regional events to share and discuss our work and having opportunities for our youth producers to communicate with each other online using Skype or Google Hangouts. We feel that having more opportunities to meet can only help to improve the work that we do and will also help the youth we work with to see opportunities and connections beyond their own communities.

  • Building Local Connections: Several presenters, including members of the Philadelphia Youth Media Collaborative, talked about how they have built a coalition of youth media advocates from different organizations. They began with quarterly brunch sessions, and they had built a network with eleven member organizations within two years,. While small conflicts over funding sources persist, they have been able to partner and apply their specialties to receive larger grants for joint projects. This presentation was an inspiring example of our how we can work together to do more and better work, rather than staying in the silos encouraged by limited funding.
  • While at The National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture conference, we visited with In Progress, an awesome youth media program in St. Paul. Check out some of their students' photography at http://ow.ly/dBjYB

    While at NAMAC, we visited with In Progress, an awesome youth media program in St. Paul. Check out some of their students’ photography.

    Sharing Media: Most youth media organizations are mailing DVDs or emailing links to videos online, which can increases the cost and time associated with distribution. Staff from Saint Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) expressed an interest in creating a simple tagging protocol so that youth media can be easily located online and aired on public access around the nation. While this is not a new idea, it has been difficult to put into practice. The biggest roadblock being the need for software engineering skills to create a universal workflow. Then, any video made by a young person in one of our programs could easily be shown on local cable channels across the country.

In the next year, Wide Angle has set high goals for distributing media to live, local audiences. But, as we do this, we will be reflecting on our experience at the conference and considering other ways in which we can connect with and share work between all of the other great youth and participatory media organizations around the country.

As someone who is interested in youth media, you may be interested in some of the many inspiring youth media organizations we met during NAMAC’s conference. Many of these organizations are branching out of video and using media production, game design, and other new media tools to help young people tell stories about their lives and communities.

Thank you to NAMAC and all of the organizations for the great experience.