Funder FAQ: Experimental Television Center

When and why did the Experimental Television Center (ETC) come into being?
ETC was founded in 1971, an outgrowth of a media access program established by Ralph Hocking at Binghamton University in 1969. The center’s original programs involved individuals from the arts, education, and regional community in activities that included access to portable video equipment and editing facilities, a weekly community cable series, an extensive series of workshops, an annual exhibition series, a residency program, support services for artists, plus research and development of imaging tools and systems.

The driving philosophy behind ETC is…?
To support artists as they investigate the media and create powerful, innovative, risk-taking artwork. All of our programs—residencies, grants, and our work on video history and preservation—derive from our belief in the importance of the individual artist in our culture. Specifically, our mission is to support the self-directed creation of new work using electronic media technologies by providing space and time to artists, and by providing them with funding and administrative support.

For years, ETC has been working on the Video History Project, documenting the early development of video art and community television. What are the ultimate goals of the project?
The Video History Project is an ongoing research initiative that reflects the multiple and interrelated histories of the media field. The goals are realized in an interrelated set of activities combining research; oral history interviews; a conference on the links between the early history and contemporary practice called Video History: Making Connections; and a web site [http://videohistory.alfred.edu]. Briefly, we are interested in providing a dynamic vehicle for the creation and dissemination of an inclusive media history, crafted by those who are shaping it.

ETC offers an artist residency program. What do you provide film/video artists?
We have offered residencies to artists since the center began. Each residency is treated individually. The residency is self-directed; artists are provided with the tools, the time, and the space, and then left to do their work. We are located in the small village of Owego, along the Susquehanna River about 25 miles south of Ithaca. The studio space is comfortable—much like a personal studio or loft space.

Artists can set their own schedules, working around the clock if they desire. We teach them to use the analog/digital system, so they are free to explore in any direction they wish. There is no external pressure to complete a work; we feel that learning and creative exploration are worthy goals. The tape collection offers artists a chance to see a lot of work.

ETC offers two different grants: the Finishing Fund and the Technical Assistance Fund. In addition, the Presentation Fund is offered to nonprofit arts organizations. What constitutes these funding programs?
Actually, both Finishing Funds and Presentation Funds were designed to provide direct support to individual artists, although their mechanisms are different. Finishing Funds provides artists with grants up to $1,000 to help with the completion of works-in-progress.

Eligible forms include film, audio, and video, as well as works for the Internet and new technologies. All genres are eligible, from documentary to narrative and experimental work. Presentation Funds provides grants to nonprofit organizations throughout New York State. The program provides fees to electronic media and film artists for personal appearances. It’s important to note here that, although an organization must apply, all funding goes directly to individual artists, so in a real sense this program also provides assistance to individuals.

The Media Arts Technical Assistance Fund, offered in partnership with the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), is designed to help nonprofit media arts programs stabilize, strengthen, or restructure their organizational capacity, services, and activities. This fund will provide upward of $1,200 per project.

For example, the fund can help you with staff attendance at professional media conferences and meetings that will build critical skills, or with the hiring of consultants or other professionals to help with organizational, management, and programming issues that influence the media arts activities of your organization. By strengthening media organizations statewide, we are helping to bolster the infrastructure that media artists rely on.

What other ways do you assist fund recipients?
The center serves as a sponsoring organization for artists’ projects in the electronic and film arts. We provide support services, assist with development, and provide fiscal and administrative management services.

How much of your overall funding goes toward individual film or video projects?
Since 1996 we have administered awards to artists totaling $186,100.

How many media awards are given out per year for each fund? What is the average size of a grant?
Each year, Finishing Funds awards about $13,000; grants are either $500 or $1,000. We had about 145 applicants to this year’s program, with 17 awards given. That’s about average. Presentation Funds awards about $25,000 annually to nonprofit organizations to pay artist fees ranging from $200 to $350 per appearance. If the organization meets the funding requirements and guidelines for the program, we will probably be able to offer some level of additional support.

This is the first year of the Media Arts Technical Assistance Fund; awards are generally limited to $1,200 per project.

What are the restrictions on applicants’ qualifications (e.g., ethnicity, geography, medium)?
For the Residency Program, applicants must have prior experiences in media arts production and be working on a project that concerns electronic media art; full-time students are ineligible.

On average, between 30 percent and 40 percent of artists each year reside outside the state or country.
The Finishing Funds program is open only to New York State artists; full-time students are ineligible. We fund electronic media, film, video, digital, sonic work, and work for the Internet and new technologies; all genres are eligible. We can support single and multichannel work, installation, performance, and mixed media works.

Presentation Funds is open to nonprofit organizations in New York State; support is available for personal appearances and exhibition of work. The same genres are eligible.

The Media Arts Technical Assistance Fund is open to nonprofit arts, cultural, and educational organizations in the state that are currently receiving funding from NYSCA through the Electronic Media and Film Program or through the Decentralization Fund. Priority is given to organizations with established media arts activity in the areas of exhibition, distribution, facilities/equipment access, training, preservation, or information services.

Name some of the best-known titles and/or artists ETC has funded:
We are currently fiscally sponsoring artists whose projects have received support from NYSCA, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Soros Documentary Fund, ITVS, and other organizations. Among them are Alan Berliner, Barbara Hammer, and Susan Muska. Abigail Child, Kathy High, Ellen Spiro, and Brian Springer have received support from Finishing Funds.

Last year we supported presentations by such artists as Ulrike Koch, Joan Braderman, Sadie Benning, and Caspar Stracke at such venues as the New York Animation Festival, the Harlem Film Festival, the “Video on Video Series” at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, and at DCTV, Videoteca del Sur, Hallwalls, Squeaky Wheel, and many other places around the state.
One activity that was supported by the Media Arts Technical Assistance Fund during its first year was attendance by key media groups to NAMAC’s 14th Conference, hosted by Pittsburgh Filmmakers last October.

Explain your funding cycle for the different funds. And who makes the awards decisions?
Finishing Funds has a single deadline each year of March 15. Applications are available in January and awards are made by a peer review panel. Past panelists have included Steina Vasulka, Ken Jacobs, Chris Hill, Arthur Tsuchiya, Mona Jimenez, Pam Jennings, and Carlota Schoolman.

Both Presentation Funds and the Media Arts Technical Assistance Fund accept applications on an ongoing basis. Organizations are notified by the 15th of the month following the month the application was made. Review is based primarily on the organization’s ability to meet the funding requirements and guidelines for each program, with awards affected by availability of ETC funds. Residency Program deadlines are twice a year, with a potential six-month wait for eligible artists.

What advice do you have for media artists in putting forth a strong application?
Speak from the heart. Be passionate. Be honest. Read carefully.

What is the most common mistake applicants make?
Writing an application in “proposal-ese.” I encourage people to craft a simple and clear description of a project that they care deeply about.

What would people most be surprised to learn about ETC and/or its founders?
Perhaps that we are still at it.

Other foundations or grant-making organizations you admire.
I have a great deal of respect for the Electronic Media and Film Program at NYSCA. The council has been consistent and unfailing in its support of the field. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts also has a wonderful vision and a willingness to take chances on complex projects. The New York Foundation for the Arts has provided important leadership in regard to support for artists and its important work with the arts in education.

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