Sanctuary Origin Stories: Hudson Mohawk Independent Media

Ever wonder how did The Sanctuary for Independent Media end up in an old church in North Central Troy? What were the early sparks that blossomed into what the Sanctuary is today?

The Sanctuary’s IndyMedia Roots: Hudson Mohawk Independent Media Center

A group of independent media makers met together from the years of 2020 to 2005 as the Hudson Mohawk Independent Media Center, in places around town including the Harriet Tubman Peace Room at the Troy YWCA. We were part of the Independent Media movement, which had over 150 groups from around the world.

We produced several videos during that time, including the IndyMedia War & Peace Trilogy, which included “Independent Media in a Time of War,” created after we invited Amy Goodman to visit Troy to feature her new book. As a collective, we recorded her speech. and then gathered together to incorporate media footage of the war to illustrate Amy’s inspirational words. Amy distributed many copies as she gave book talks around the world as she , which gave us royalties: this money allowed us to rent then buy this old church from local community organizer Russell Ziemba. 

In 2005, we immediately began to transform this abandoned space, which in its roots a century earlier was a Lutheran Church. Originally thinking that this would offer us a place for production, we quickly realized that this space offered the much-needed opportunity to generate a community around anti-war events and screenings. There were no places around focusing on making and showing independent media dedicated to anti-war and justice networks. Our roots were dedicated to a non-commercial model for arts and culture!

A collective of founders met to strategize, and named our new home The Sanctuary for Independent Media. After hours of engaged discussions reviewing diverse non-hierarchical models for organizing, we came to realize that becoming a non-profit model was critical for applying for grants. Rather than starting a new one, we resuscitated an independent media arts organization that several of us had been engaged in as part of the early video art scene: New York Media Alliance, representing a network of independent media arts organizations across New York State (who connected before the internet!) for creative support and advocacy, and had recently gone dormant. We took up the 501c3 with New York Media Alliance, deciding that our shift to a non-profit was essential to long-term sustainability, while still embracing our non-hierarchical philosophies for community-engaged participatory art and action, media democracy and independent journalism.

The Hudson Mohawk IndyMedia collective was still active during the first several years at the Sanctuary. There are almost no IndyMedia groups left, with only a few surviving organizations which still offer independent media platforms for progressive community building.

Hudson Mohawk Independent Media Center’s Productions [2003-2010]

IndyMedia War & Peace Trilogy

Independent Media in a Time of War (29 min.)

Journalist and host of Democracy now!, Amy Goodman, criticizes the pro-military bias of the mainstream news media, whose reportage of the U.S. invasion of Iraq downplays or ignores the impact on civilians while overstating the success of U.S. military operations. The speech was recorded at Christ Church, Troy, New York on Apr. 21, 2003.

We even created a study guide to use for discussions after screenings:

Voices against war: F15 NYC (22 min.; 2003)

Following peace activists from the Capital Region to NYC, the video chronicles the experiences of people on the streets of Manhattan who participate in a Feb. 2003 protest against the war in Iraq.

Women’s Fast for Peace (29 min.; 2003)

Examines the case of 125 women in upstate New York who, on the eve of the Iraq War, fasted to create a culture of peace rather than of war. Examines the case of 125 women in upstate New York who, on the eve of the Iraq War, fasted to create a culture of peace rather than of war.

Awake From Your Slumber (excerpt: 2 min.; 2008)

Art Not Terrorism [22:48; 2010]

Hudson Mohawk Indymedia produced a definitive account of the whirlwind of events surrounding Wafaa Bilal’s controversial art exhibit, “Virtual Jihadi.” “Art ≠ Terrorism” goes beyond the sound bites to find out what happened when an Iraqi artist came to Troy, NY only to be censored–not once, but twice. First, Wafaa Bilal was chased off the RPI campus after his artwork was mis-characterized as terrorist propaganda by undergraduate bloggers. When the exhibition was given refuge by The Sanctuary for Independent Media, the city government responded by shutting down the space.

WikiLeaks’ Collateral Murder: US Soldier Ethan McCord [2010]

In July 2010, U.S. Soldier Ethan McCord spoke about the civilian massacre documented in WikiLeaks’s April 2010 video disclosure of Apache helicopter footage of a New Baghdad attack that took place in 2007, allegedly released by PFC Brad Manning. McCord’s story was delivered to attendees of the United National Peace Conference, which took place in Albany NY the weekend of July 23-25, 2010. Produced by the United National Peace Conference Media Project, powered by The Sanctuary for Independent Media and the Hudson Mohawk Independent Media Center.

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We use art and participatory action to promote social and environmental justice and freedom of creative expression.

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