Continuing its commitment to outreach and education, Downtown Community Television Center is pleased to announce the hiring of Stephanie Skaff, artistic activist and organizer, to begin community outreach and planning of a national anti-gun violence media campaign made possible with generous support from the Ford Foundation. Following the success of its past media tours, DCTV’s renowned Cybercar, a 40-foot-long bus converted into a mobile TV studio, is preparing for a Fall 2009 20-city tour to promote community-driven initiatives to end gun violence.
Downtown Community Television Center is New York City’s premier Center for Independent Media Arts and a producer of award-winning documentaries. For over 35 years, DCTV has expanded public access to the media to invigorate our democracy; it assists thousands of aspiring filmmakers in all aspects of media production, offering affordable classes and workshops to media artists, free training to underserved youth, screenings of new material, low-cost equipment rentals and post-production facilities and a full-service television studio.
Stephanie Skaff is a Brooklyn-based artist, arts manager and fundraiser. Originally from Ohio, she has spent the past seven years in NYC creating community-based, issue-inspired art projects and serving a number of arts initiatives with social justice concerns. Stephanie developed an interest in arts for social change through the international humanitarian theatre company, Bond Street Theatre. There, she helped research, coordinate and secure funding for their collaboration with Afghan Exile Theatre, a theatre company of Afghan refugees exiled from Afghanistan by the Taliban. Her work with Bond Street Theatre earned her a 2003 Theatre Apprenticeship Award from the Princess Grace Foundation-USA.
With a résumé as impressive as it is diverse, featuring such prestigious organizations as Rooftop Films, Smack Mellon, Aperture Foundation, Rhizome Communications, J Mandle Performance, The Equus Projects and endeavors such as acting with Only Make Believe, an organization that brings interactive theatre to hospitalized children throughout NYC, and a performance project documenting and exploring the lives of street vendors, DCTV is proud to welcome her aboard to coordinate preparations to take its ongoing anti-gun violence campaign to the national level.
“I’m honored to be a part of this project; I consider it both an outreach campaign and a public media art project,” said Skaff, “it combines so many of my interests: economic justice, arts for social change, and urban planning while engaging me in issues and tactics that are new and challenging. Now is the ideal time for this project; there’s both a greater awareness of politics among low-income communities thanks to President-Elect Barack Obama’s historic campaign and an impending recession that could easily lead to an increase in violence on our streets. It’s imperative to reach communities already plagued by gun violence to provide alternatives before things get worse, and to reach those that might tip toward violence as their economic opportunities disappear.”
The Cybercar was created in 2002 by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that converted the passenger bus, which formerly carried missionaries around the South, into the cutting edge mobile broadcast studio it is today. It features state-of-the-art equipment including a large Times-Square-style video display on the side. The Cybercar made its maiden voyage in 2002 with the Main Street USA tour, where it toured twelve main streets from cities across the country. Through town meetings, Main Street USA showed tapes DCTV recorded at Ground Zero, in Afghanistan and Iraq and recorded the responses. It was followed by the Emmy, Telly and Aurora Award-winning Speak Up NY!, a project encouraging youth involvement in politics that registered over 2,000 new voters, and The Russians are Coming, part of an international journalist exchange to promote cross-cultural exploration. One of its latest expeditions was a 2006 continuation of DCTV’s anti-gun violence campaign, where it took filmmaker and activist Terrence Fisher (Bullets in the Hood) across New York and Hartford, CT, to reach out to youth communities effected by gun violence in schools, libraries and other gathering places.
DCTV’s new 2009 national tour intends to raise awareness of gun violence, promote anti-violence initiatives by reaching out to at-risk communities through various channels: town meetings, schools, youth events, the Internet, meetings with community leaders and policy-makers and more. By establishing a national support network and forging relationships between the organizations that already exist, the tour can enable a grassroots movement against gun violence and provide every community the essential tools to combat violence, tailored for the specific needs of each.
Over the next few months, Skaff will be researching the individual communities and the issues they are facing, discovering personal stories, pinpointing how each city can utilize the capabilities of the Cybercar, developing specific anti-gun violence action plans, designing a website to connect local initiatives and provide a forum for youth effected by gun violence, making contact with community leaders and organizations and proposing a final schedule and activities for the tour. The Cybercar’s mission is to sow the seeds of democracy by providing an interactive medium for education, communication and empowerment, and Skaff knows its importance and its promise.
“More young people are being killed on the streets of Brooklyn than in Baghdad,” said Jon Alpert, co-founder and director of DCTV, “With the support of the Ford Foundation, we are going to work to get Americans to pick up cameras instead of guns and to stop the bloodshed. This will be a nationwide effort, featuring teen filmmakers, community organizers, mothers, fathers and DCTV’s traveling Cybercar theater, led by Stephanie Skaff. There is no time to waste.”
ABOUT DOWNTOWN COMMUNITY TELEVISION CENTER:
DCTV is the most honored independent nonprofit media center in the nation. DCTV’s productions reach over 100 million viewers each year and have received fifteen National Emmys, two Student Emmys, two DuPont-Columbia Awards, a Peabody, and every other major prize in the broadcast field. DCTV consistently produces some of the best and most important documentaries about issues in America and around the world. For over thirty years, DCTV offers unique programs for underserved youth, community programs, affordable workshops in digital media, production facilities, and equipment rentals. For more information, visit http://www.dctvny.org.
DCTV, 87 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10013