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"If we want a truly democratic society, we want truly independent voices. Documentary film is the best way to get those voices out. We want to make sure there is true democracy. Arts Engine provides access to social issues documentary films, in an effort to promote social change."
Katy Chevigny, in a Media Giraffe Project interview, April, 2006.
Chevigny runs Arts Engine, a non-profit promoter of mission-based indepent video and film production
Katy Chevigny received her B.A. in East Asian studies at Yale University, but her real passion was in social services and advocacy, with film as the preferred medium.
"I really love film," she says. "It is an incredibly important form of expression in our society today."
"I care about letting people know what's going on in the world," she continues. It is this passion to educate that drove Chevigny to create artsengine.net, of which she is now the Executive Director. Arts Engine is a New York City-based non-profit that produces independent media.
"Arts Engine provides access to social issues documentary films, in an effort to promote social change," says Chevigny.
Additionally, Arts Engine is a way to bring together interested collaborators. As described on their mission statement, "Arts Engine, Inc. supports, produces, and distributes independent media of consequence and promotes the use of independent media by advocates, educators and the general public. By fostering the production and use of independent film, video and new media, Arts Engine connects media makers and active audiences in order to spur critical consideration of pressing social issues."
"The problem is that independent media is extremely fragmented," explains Chevigny. "We form a community."
"Younger emerging media arts organizations are poised to make significant contributions to the field. And, independent media about progressive issues will be growing. Arts Engine is one of the main places people will go to get news; it's media they want to find. They want a range of it that is accessible, and, having the services we provide, people can get it more easily."
This rise in independent voices is the true future of journalism, but Chevigny believes there is still a need for established media. "Traditional news outlets need to change, for their own survival," she says. And, the way to evolve is through the incorporation of more diverse viewpoints.
The contemporary media system, which operates on singular voices broadcasting to the masses, should no longer hold the reins on news content. "Independent voices won't remain marginalized. They will become mainstream, and they will become the primary voice of the media."
Though projects like Arts Engine will increase in popularity, Chevigny is confident that her work will remain unique. "Partnerships and collaborations are at the core of what we do. But, we're not competing with other distributors; we are coordinating. We're building on good work and helping make it more efficient."
First conceived of in 1997, Arts Engine is continuing to grow with the help of diverse funding methods. The combination of foundation money, government grants, fee-for-service dollars, and corporate sponsorship keeps the project afloat. "But, we'd like to change the proportions so there isn't so much foundation funding," adds Chevigny.
Arts Engine (artsengine.net) is mostly concerned with making an impact. "If we want a truly democratic society, we want truly independent voices," says Chevigny. "Documentary film is the best way to get those voices out. We want to make sure there is true democracy."
(profiled by Jennifer Thomas)