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Nurturing New Voices: VPM + ICA Community Media Center

VPM + ICA Panel 2

Dr. Chioke I’Anson, VCU professor and Director of Community Media at the Institute of Contemporary Art  (ICA), wants to hear stories—community stories, unheard stories, hyper-local stories—preferably in the form of a podcast.

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The more specific the story, I’Anson says, the more relatable, the more human it is. And we all have one (or more) to share. But do we all have media access? Do we have media skills? Do we have the means by which to make our voices heard?

VPM recently announced its partnership with the ICA to create the VPM + ICA Community Media Center, where nurturing new voices in our community—as well as providing skills and access to technology—is the central focus.

A small panel from VPM and the ICA chatted via Zoom Wednesday night about what this collaboration means to our community and to the many voices that have yet to be heard. Joining I’Anson were Jayme Swain, CEO of the Virginia Foundation for Public Media and President of VPM; Steve Humble, VPM’s Chief Content Officer; and Dominic Willsdon, Executive Director of the ICA.

Both I’Anson and Swain pointed out the vast changes that have taken place in media over the last decade. Not only is the ability to create video and audio content accessible to anyone with a smartphone, but the way we consume media has shifted dramatically—particularly with the introduction and subsequent explosion of podcasting. 

And now, more than ever,  public media is poised to tell local stories that national and commercial media often overlook.  The ICA and VPM hope the community media center will serve as a space for “new voices” that highlight humanity and bring empathy to stories that, while local, have a national relevance and appeal. 

VPM’s mission to educate, entertain and inspire, paired with our decades-old focus on local storytelling makes this collaboration especially powerful. Having only stepped into the podcast world this past Spring with Social Distance Assistance and Resettled, VPM has found a like-minded partner to develop new talent and bring to the forefront our community’s unheard stories. 

In fact, the ICA believes that the community media center, located in their Murry DePillars Learning Lab, is a natural extension of what they represent in the community. Willsdon pointed out that the ICA is an art institute rather than a museum, and so rather than focusing on the history of art, the ICA is focused on the “work” of art created by a community.

How will it work? Beginning this fall, the VPM + ICA Community Media Center will offer learning opportunities, free of charge, for those in the community who wish to develop media skills and produce their own podcasts. The community media center also plans to partner with local schools to offer youth programs on media literacy and production know-how. Once the physical media center is complete in Spring, 2021, the public will be invited into the space to collaborate and create their own stories in their own voices - through podcasts and other emerging media.

For more information about upcoming programming for the VPM + ICA Community Media Center, email [email protected] or visit online at icavcu.org/communitymedia.