ICA at VCU and VPM announce initiative to launch a new community media center at the ICA

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ICA at VCU and VPM announce initiative to launch a new community media center at the ICA
Dr. Chioke l’Anson with students at VPM. Photo by VCU University Relations.

RICHMOND, VA.- The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University and VPM, Virginia’s home for public media, today announced a joint initiative creating a new media center inside the ICA for the production of audio content by VCU students, local community members, and VPM professionals. Through this innovative partnership, the ICA and VPM will also launch a multi-year educational and media-making program comprised of VCU academic seminars, youth media programs, and public seminars, workshops, and symposia.

Leveraging the ICA’s connections to VCU students and faculty as well as local creatives; VPM’s resources, expertise, and dedicated listener base; and the vibrancy of the Richmond community, the VPM + ICA Community Media Center will create new opportunities for storytelling, train and educate the next generation of audio producers, and amplify voices often missing from traditional media. Under the leadership of newly named Director of Community Media Dr. Chioke I’Anson, the Media Center will launch this fall with community and student podcasting workshops, training sessions, and a special performance—all of which are expected to begin virtually due to COVID-19. Construction on the VPM + ICA Community Media Center is slated to begin in fall 2020 and is targeted for opening in spring 2021.

“Over the past several years, we’ve witnessed the rise of podcasting as a new genre of narrative and documentary art. With that in mind, the ICA—as an institution responsive to new currents in public culture—sought to partner with VPM and launch an initiative that supports audio story-telling by, for, and about our communities, especially those that have suffered historical inequity,” said ICA Executive Director Dominic Willsdon. “We plan to grow this over time to include audio, video, and community media-making more broadly. Beginning in 2021, our new Community Media Center will provide the space, tools, and support for this.”

“The VPM + ICA Community Media Center is a unique opportunity for public media to play a role in engaging a new generation of diverse content makers,” said Jayme Swain, CEO of the Virginia Foundation for Public Media and President, VPM. “We are honored to partner with the ICA and Dr. I’Anson to provide a creative space for students and the community to learn how to harness the power of media to tell their stories.”

As home to this initiative, the ICA’s second-floor Murry DePillars Learning Lab will be transformed to house the VPM + ICA Community Media Center, complete with two recording booths and workspace for conceptualizing, editing, and producing podcasts and other audio programs. The space is being designed by architect and VCUarts Associate Professor of Interior Design Camden Whitehead, interior designer and VCUarts adjunct professor Jillian Chapin, ICA Director of Facilities and Experience Design Michael Lease, and graduate students from VCUarts’ Department of Interior Design who participated in a studio course and design charette in partnership with the ICA during the 2019-20 academic year. This project reflects the ICA’s continued engagement with VCU students and faculty to develop new ways of thinking about and utilizing its space, a precedent that’s been in place since the ICA’s conception and has actively shaped its building design and programming.

Once completed, the VPM + ICA Community Media Center will host VCU academic seminars, youth media-making programs, and community podcasting workshops—all designed to provide unique educational and mentoring opportunities for students and community podcasters, as well as the technical and editorial support needed to elevate their programs’ production quality and reach. It will also serve as a remote hub for VPM staff to produce and edit their own broadcast stories.

The VPM + ICA Community Media Center will be helmed by Dr. Chioke I’Anson, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at VCU and underwriting announcer at NPR. As Director of Community Media, I’Anson will teach a podcasting seminar each semester for students in the Department of African American Studies and will work with a managing team comprised of VCU students to plan and create a series of community events and youth programs including podcasting and media classes, workshops on podcast development and critique, symposia with invited speakers and mentors, and live podcasting programs.

“Everyone in Richmond has a story that only they can tell, or a perspective only they can share,” said I’Anson. “The VPM + ICA Community Media Center is the lab where anyone with something to say or a desire to create can get the technical skills to share their vision. The Media Center will be an arts and storytelling focal point, serving the city of Richmond and helping deliver its stories to the rest of the world.”

While construction on the physical space is underway—and with current COVID-imposed limits on in-person gatherings—the initiative will launch this fall with a slate of remote programming. These programs include a series of monthly training sessions with I’Anson for students and community podcasters, and a larger Producer’s Institute, wherein individuals with existing podcast projects will be able to share their work and receive critique and guidance from I’Anson, media professionals at VPM, and other special guests. The program launch will also include a live or streamed performance of a popular podcast.

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