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911 Media Arts Center, still keepin it real

Recently I was able to e-terview Peter Mitchell, Communications Director
for 911 Media Arts Center in Seattle. 911 has been a focal point in
Northwest new media for years. The following are excerpts from our
discussion on new media art, the Pacific Northwest and video.

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* basically I would like to hear your feelings on what's going on in
seattle…. in access, education, video, digital editing, cd-rom,
internet broadcasts… any type of new media being used in a creative

I can't really say what is going on in Seattle in general except to
observe that a whole lot of people are making money doing web content on
the Eastside [of the Seattle area, i.e. Microsoft, Starwave, etc.]. It
seems like half of my friends are doing stuff for internet delivery
these days. The coolest content to me seems to be the live broadcast
stuff like what's happening at http://www.mountainzone.com.

* what's 911 all about?

I could give you some boilerplate:

911 Media Arts Center is Washington's only non-profit (501c-3) cultural
and educational organization that supports the creative uses of media as
communication and art-making tools in a democratic society. Our mission
is to promote decentralization and participation in the media arts, and
to make media and media literacy an integral part of the
community-building process. We believe that everyone should be active,
not passive, media users. Therefore, 911 provides the resources
necessary to empower and educate people to critically analyze and
produce their own media. Our name comes from our original location - 911
Pine St. - where we were founded in 1984 to help artists and audiences
expand traditional definitions of art and connect art-making to daily

I could also put it in my own words:

We have low cost tools, training and interaction opportunites to
cultivate a community of mediamakers. Our tools are primarily video with
and emphasis on the digital realm.

* What sort of work is exhibited in your venue?

We show independent video of all sorts from around the world. The
schedule rotates on a bi-monthly basis. The only constant is that every
work shown is of independent origin.

* have you ever collaborated with other Seattle art institutions like

, the Speakeasy, NorthWest
CyberArtists, or other groups/venues?

Sure, we collaborated with the NorthWest CyberArtists in 1994 to produce
"Beyond Fast Forward: A Creative Convergence of Art and Technology" a
weekend interactive art fair at Seattle Center. We estimated that over
4,000 people checked out the art and computers on display that weekend.
Lectures were presented by some of the early interactive art gurus like
Greg Roach.

* does your space generally fulfill your artistic needs as far as space
and resources?

Our space has served us fairly well over the last few years, however we
are beginning to outgrow it and the neighborhood has begun to outgrow
us. A giant REI sporting goods store opened across the street. The
homeless shelter we used to share our building with has been converted
into a rock climbing gear store for the lycra crowd. Rumor has it that
luxury high rise condos and high end retail is going to replace the
Greyhound station next door. I fear that Seattle may outprice it's only
media-art creative resource.

Our space functions in so many ways: classroom, movie theater and post
house. On the weekends we sometimes rent it out for parties, informative
gatherings, theater, etc. There is a unique eco-system at risk here,
kind of like the rainforest.

* Do you feel that enough resources are available for local artists
working with technology?

There are some amazing resources available here at 911 that I am
surprised that more people don't take advantage of. Our power mac 9500
is probably the fattest fastest cheapest mac in all of Seattle. One of
our producers said it was better than the system over at Pinnacle at
about a fifth of the price.

* who would you cite as doing interesting work in the northwest?

One of our members, Sean Brinsfield has been following the cult of
Amachi around Northern India for the past four months. He interviewed
the prime minister of India. Another of our members has been making a
work about an all womens group of trapeze artists in Paris called

* any thing else you want to mention?

Embracing digital has helped our little non-profit arts center
tremendously. We started jamming with an HTML publishing class just
about three years ago, our web site went up two and a half years ago and
we switched most of our editing systems to digital in 95. For the first
time in our history we have equipment that is comparable to the high end
post houses in town instead of working with their castaways. Just to
know that someone can access our web site as easily as say microsoft.com
levels the playing field a bit. It is an amazing time to be involved in

Check out our web site: http://www.911media.org