Notes from Recent YVXN Site Visits

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I recently undertook some travels on behalf of MNN Youth Channel, and more specifically the Youth Video Exchange Network ( I visited various youth media organizations and contacts, in addition to our partner sites, St. Paul Neighborhood Network and Portland Community Media. Here’s a brief report.

Overview of Sites Visited and/or Contacts & Meet-ups:

*Portland Area:*
Portland Community Media (and OLLIE) | |
Metro East Community Media |
KBOO Radio Youth Collective | |

*Twin Cities:*

TV By Girls |
Phillips Community Television |
St. Paul Neighborhood Network |
In-Progress |


Portland Community Media & MetroEast Community MediaI met up with Laura and Gariet from PCM TV and they told me about the program the run OLLIE. OLLIE is interesting for a couple reasons. First, the operate a mobile learning center – a van – equipped with all the youth media production gear, such as cameras, tripods, laptops, etc. They take the van to all of the various sites where they are working at a given time. They do almost exclusively off-site work at schools and afterschool programs. Kids produce PSA, short docs, and animations. The youth-produced programming on their channels is limited to a few shows per week. The youth work is prepped for air by Laura and/or Gariet and submitted to PCM TV. OLLIE is a partnership between two access centers – Portland Community Media and Metro East. I got a chance to visit both… and they are very different places with different vibes, and in very different communities. I got a full tour of PCM… and the facilities are similar to MNN minus the express studios and with less editing stations. They also recently (about a year ago) bought an ‘annex’ which is adjacent to the main building where classes are taught and there are more editing facilities. In that building Laura has a nice individual office. It is an undeveloped space and they arent sure what they will do with it yet. For now it is providing the OLLIE folks with a good amount of room and privacy.

I met more formally with Laura, Gariet, and executive directors from both centers – Rob and Carl – to talk about the progress and participation in the Youth Video Exchange Network. YVXN had already been talked about by Laura at PCM allstaff meetings so everyone had already seen the website and had a pretty good idea of what it was about. We went over the technical details of how it works, and what our plans are for the near future, in terms of further development.

I also visited MetroEast, which is a totally new and different facility. MetroEast trainers help teach in the OLLIE program.

I had an awesome, affirming, and analytical conversation with Rivka, (the Managing Director of PCM) over breakfast. We talked for nearly 2 hours non-stop and in the end didnt have time to eat all our food – which was really good food. Rivka has youth development background and emphasis, which is so refreshing to see in the community media field. She is also on ACM natl. board. We talked about how YVXN could be a bridge between Youth Media movement and antiquated outlook of the ACM. She recommended checking out an organization called Youth On Board to find out what kinds of things we should be thinking about when creating a youth staff. Rivka highly recommends YMLI or MALI – leadership institutes. youth leadership should be a big part of any YVXN gathering. check out:

I met with Erin Yanke – youth coordinator at KBOO community radio – a generation.prx member. It was good to talk with her about youth participation on national level, and compare concepts of generation.prx and YVXN. She has had the experience of travelling with a youth the generation.prx conference in cambridge a couple years back, whcih was a useful perspective in looking to begin organizing the National Youth Committee for YVXN

TV By Girls
I had an inspiring meeting with Barbara and Rebecca from TVbyGirls They are currently working out of a house/office with a very small, but highly dedicated staff. They are basically funded project to project. They have a mentorship model, and have built up an awesome corps of girls doing really good work. just amazing.

Phillips Community Television Then i saw PCTV – who you may know from Battleground Minnesota, and other great stuff we air on YC from time to time. Their office & work space is awesome. its like a suite of detective offices…. with one big common workspace. they rund daily afterschool programs some days are video… some mixed media and some photo… they have a darkroom!!!!! Michael Hay is on end of the fulltime employees and facilitators. their staff is small. they also had a VISTA volunteer who i met who is helping to revamp their website in drupal. They get a lot of cameras from ebay and have a nice nice mishmash of gear.

SPNN – St. Paul Neighborhood Network
I arrived at SPNN for met with fabulous youth producers. I learned about SPNNs youth outreach efforts and retention, strategies. For Set It Up (analagous to YMIC here at YC), participatns are expected to come in two days a week: one group day and one ‘lab’/work day. So, Monday, the whole group is there and then Tuesday-Thursday are open for youth to sign up to come in and work on their videos. The result is the monthly production of Set It Up, not unlike D.A.M.N, here at YC. There is an emphasis on collaboration among youth. Then SOL (SPNN youth Open Lab) is on Fridays – an open day for independent projects. They also have something called ‘connections classes’. this is when high-school and college students get credit for taking SPNN workshops and classes. The biggest thing was SPACE. SPACE. SPACE. The media lab is a youth space every day from 3-5:30. Other classes are taught there sometimes too, but not during youth hours. SPNNyouth has there own small room for equipment storage and about twice as many laptops and cameras as MNN YC for about 1/10 of the semesterly training volume. Another cool feature of the SPNNyouth program is YAC – the youth advisory committee. Set It Up participants can apply to be part of YAC. It is a bit more of a committment, but more rewarding, and a way for youth to get more involved at SPNN.

Youth programming on SPNN is 2 hours per day – on the educational channel. They have been airing YVXN material in that block. yay!

youth are excited to collaborate via YVXN and video-iChat. I got a chance to catch some of the enthusiasm on video… check out the video HERE!
I also had dinner with Kevin Kalla, two-year SPNN Americorps and generally great person committed to youth media…
Kevin is a bit worried about training people to facilitate YVXN beyond his existence at SPNN (… and with Nicola out on leave) He really likes the idea of a national youth staff/committee. thinks for SPNN, it would work better as a small group of youth, rather than a nominated individual because of intensely collaborative atmosphere… but not sure. He was excited by the idea of both a youth/mentor retreat and youth participation in general. We talked also about the idea of tiered membership; an inner-circle of NYMAP steering committee plus various other types of partners.

While in the twin cities, I was hosted by Mike Wassenaar and his wife (and three dogs and cat). In the evenings, I talked pretty extensively with Mike about where are at with this project and what it could mean for the field of access. It was striking to me how supportive and trusting Mike was of his staff. In the end, he wants a link and a paragraph to help build the hype in the midwest. SPNN is also willing to help with production of shirts and buttons for distro at ACM (also to build hype/buzzz). Mike has an interesting and valuable perspective of chair of ACM. He was overall impressed with the technical ground we have covered and interested in the plan for sustainability.

My breakfast at a St. Paul diner with Kris from In-Progress was sooo inspiring. I found her and the stroy of her small organization amazing. She says its not really an organization and that is how they (she) likes it. She is the volunteer E.D. and gets paid as a teaching artist through grant-funded programs. All programs are grant run and if there is not money, then no program. so.. .their programming changes from year to year. very seasonal, because much of their work is in the summers in native american communities and other rural communities. they work with a lot of small towns… 300 person communities; 100 person communities, etc. they started working out of Kris’s loft/studio, but now have a youth-run space in a small area downstairs in the same building. they have an ebb and flow of equipment which goes out to the community centers (or schools, or houses, or motel rooms!) during the production programs in the summer and will often return to ‘their’ space for the winters. almost all of their teacher/artists are past students. they are really building a community peer educator/artists and teaching young people much more than production – how to be a resourceful artist and building a network among people who would normally have zero access to the kinds of resources that make that possible. they are often working with kids from extremely poor circumstances. $20,000/yr per family of 6 kids not uncommon.

They are totally interested in being listed in the youthvlog section of YVXN and probably willing and interested to contribute videos to the archive and curate screenings from videos that are relevant to the communities they work in. Archiving is important to them. indigenous filmmakers are not recognized, and the photography (for example) of Native American culture virtually does not exist in the ‘canon’. so, to them… something like YVXN is an archival tool in addition to one for distribution.


picture from the airplane window