Congratulations! As a community, the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (IMC) was able to overcome the fiscal crisis that surfaced at the beginning of this year. We have each other to thank: our board members, working groups, volunteers and community members.
Overcoming financial crisis
In February, after becoming aware that we had been spending more than we took in each month for three years, the recently elected IMC board realized its only sustainable option was to lay off staff and go back to its origins as an all-volunteer organization, until financial stability could be regained. Since then, the board and other volunteers have put in hundreds and hundreds of hours, working to fill rental vacancies, address deferred maintenance on the building, minimize general costs, and rethink our leadership structure. As a result, we are proud to say that we have been revenue-positive since March. In addition, we are now in a position to hire an Executive Director, who can work with the board on the next phase of the IMC’s growth. Stay tuned to www.ucimc.org for the announcement, and please share the word that we are hiring.
Update on Our Coordination with the City
In the middle of our financial difficulties, we also faced a turning point in what had been a longstanding and positive relationship with the city of Urbana. In response to the presence of unauthorized alcohol at an IMC event in March of 2019, the IMC was required by the city to apply for expensive and time-consuming special use permits for ALL public events. This requirement put huge constraints on our ability to hold events, and created great strain in our relationships with many of the groups who use the IMC space. In response to this requirement, we saw an amazing outpouring of community support. This was heartwarmingly beautiful—and effective. In July, the city dropped the 12-month probation, so that the IMC no longer needs to apply for Special Event Permits for events without alcohol. The city also refunded the application processing fees already paid for IMC co-sponsored events since the new requirement was imposed. And the community has also been incredibly generous: over $2,500 in donations came in to help make up for the events that we had to cancel during months of negotiating with the city.
As we go forward, we are relieved to say that we feel mutual respect in the conversations happening between the IMC and city administration about how we can collaborate to ensure safety for all visitors of the IMC. The IMC hosts many events with vibrant, yet vulnerable and often targeted, populations who come together to make art, share poetry, explore expression, and celebrate special occasions. We are glad to say that we are having productive dialogue with city officials about what different populations need to feel safe. As part of that initiative, we are currently working on a memorandum of understanding with the City of Urbana that outlines shared agreements to ensure we have a safe, welcoming, accessible performance venue and event space for the community. Please help us achieve this vision by providing input on the future of the IMC venue. The IMC is fully aware that we need to involve the music community in particular during this process, since its events tend to go longer into the evening than others.
On Sunday, September 8, at 7 pm, we will hold a forum for those who use the IMC as a venue to give input. This session will help the IMC prepare for the negotiations ahead with the information we need to accurately represent the needs of our community.
And we are still in it together! As we get closer to beginning our 20th anniversary year in November, we are calling for everyone to step into their collective power to actualize our mission of fostering the creation and distribution of media and art that emphasizes underrepresented voices and perspectives, and to promote empowerment and expression through media and arts education.
Looking forward to Fall
On October 5, Books to Prisoners is having their annual Fall book sale, and this year they have invited the IMC as a whole to help turn it into a festival. We have a stage and space and are accepting proposals for creating that festival-like event.
Also on October 5, Makerspace will have their annual Heartland Maker Fest right next door at Lincoln Square.
What about a community music studio? People come to the IMC all the time asking if there is a community music studio—a place where musicians young and old can come and record their work. This spring there was an attempt to create that studio at the IMC, but it was never formalized into a working group; and it ended up as a private space rather than a public amenity. We are now taking proposals from the community to move forward with a public studio that can serve the whole community.
What about starting a new working group? Any group can pull together a proposal for a working group or fiscally sponsored project. The Bike Project, Books to Prisoners, and Makerspace are great examples. These groups started off as a group with a passion who came to the IMC with a proposal. The IMC has long been an incubator for groups looking for a place to plant their idea. Please bring proposals to the Board’s attention, by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thousands of IMC members have put epic love and effort into its mission, and we inherit its legacy with gratitude and commitment to carry it forward. Thank you for being part of our future.
As our community faces increasing social and political difficulties, from growing youth depression to climate crisis, we know that media and art are indispensable resources for survival. We know, as Audre Lorde said, that “poetry is not a luxury.” In the first quarter of this year, our choices were often some version of: “Do we sink or do we swim?” But the answer has always been to stay afloat, because we know how important it is for the IMC to survive.
Where do you fit in?
You can be part of all this!
- On one of our board committees: Facilities, Personnel/Labor/Volunteers, Tech, Finance, Membership, Outreach, Fundraising, Conflict and Communication, Programming…
- In one of our working groups: Books To Prisoners | Gallery | MakerSpace | Media Justice Working Group | Open Scene | Prison Liberation Project | Public i | RFU | Zine Library | Archive
or by making a donation.