Sanctuary Story: Art/ Media/ Science Overview

We see both art and science as ways to understand the world. We found ourselves in a hotbed of attack on both fields, and how art and science could be combined to realize our mission and the struggle for social and environmental justice and freedom of expression.

A look at one of our 2020 Technical Assistance Grant recipients: Along a stretch of 6th Avenue in Troy, between 110th Street to the north and Glen Ave to the south, the Sanctuary for Independent Media has transformed vacant buildings and empty lots into an incubator for science, art, and social justice.

Check out this article by one of our funders, the Preservation League of NYS, and their focus on the intersection of art, media and science: The Sanctuary for Independent Media: Where Social Justice, Science and Art Meet — Preservation League of NYS.

Background in Video Art

The Sanctuary’s story is connected to the early history of video art and alternative use of media technology tools. The invention and mass marketing of the “portapak” shifted the power of the media delivery system, with tools getting into the public’s hands. Collectives of artists, including the racial justice, feminist, LGBTQ movements, broke through the past’s 2-way delivery system to experiment with alternative narratives to the mainstream mass media.

Our non profit organization Media Alliance began, long before the internet, with the goal to network independent media makers across New York State. Founders of the Sanctuary include several professors from the Arts Department at RPI, and we have a history of collaboration presenting cutting edge media artists with the iEAR Presents! series. From the beginning, the Sanctuary has been presenting high quality media art work that connects art and politics and outside of mainstream venues. 

Background in Community Media

The history of community media is profoundly influenced by the revolutionary liberation movements of the 60s, part of a very rich intellectual activist tradition that we keep connecting to in our programming today.

The Sanctuary’s roots to converging threads of community media activism came out of the video arts community as well as community radio history. We have a thriving Radio Initiative, with 3 low-power FM stations. We are a Pacifica Affiliate, and part of a history of community media that goes back to the 1940’s origin with founder Lew Hill dedication to using media for peace activism with KPFA, freed from corporate influences — which grew into a network of 5 stations which during the Viet Nam era was a critical way to get information out about the war.

We are also part of the Low-Power FM movement, which grew out of the community radio activism. There was a civil disobedience movement in the 1990s which turbo-charged the Low-Power FM movement, with “radio pirates” broadcasting without FCC license. This was a booming movement for freedom of expression across the country — and inspiration our Sanctuary radio consortium today.

Arts Funding

Funding the the late 60’s and after were important to the legacy of the Sanctuary, coming out of a “gift economy” including support from MacCarthur Foundation, Rockefeller, NYSCA, National Endowment for the Arts. We are mindful of how this funding has shifted in the 21st century, as we explore different models for support.

It has been a real struggle for us to map out our path, structuring our grants to build infrastructure and resources in our local community to strive for freedom of expression.

We grew through a series of arts funding to build the Sanctuary and campus, evolving towards more interdisciplinary work that included sciences into the arts. This support helped to bring focus through participatory community engagement to our long-neglected neighborhood in North Central Troy at the Northern tip of the Hudson River Estuary and the beginning of the Erie Canal, and a growing understanding of the ways that arts can communicate social and environmental justice issues.

  • 2008 NY State Music Fund, “Free Jazz from the Sanctuary”

Creative Placemaking

  • 2012  NEA Creative Placemaking grant: “Our Town “Found Art in North Troy”
    • Freedom Square Art Stage with Isaiah Zagar, “Making of Freedom Square”
    • Kenneally created a living, learning museum to preserve the history of families in our neighborhood, “North Troy People’s History Museum.”
    • Kellhammer’s “Brownfieldlandia” was a botanical interventions remediating contaminated soil with hyper-accumulating weed plantings, DIT kits, soil detox garden sculptures.
  • 2017, NEA Artworks, “Bioart Futures and (Forgotten) Urban Ecologies”
    • This proposal supported a series of artist residencies presenting contemporary art working with living systems, sustainable practices, and using biological techniques and materials. This project designed to continue our program NATURE Lab and our citizen science laboratory, connecting artists to issues around the natural sciences, and using the arts to create critical knowledge and skills in this neighborhood. 01/01/2018 – 12/31/2019
    • Leila Nadir Cary 3eppermint/EcoArtTech In this residency entitled )eral FermentationSchool of Live Culture,
    • Heather Dewey-Hagborg, “Who Do You Think You Are”
    • Ellie Irons and Anne Percoco In “Adopt-a-:Seed” Seed Viability Testing with NESL (Next Epoch Seed Library), ́ Irons

The youth at Uptown Summer 2018 put together a time capsule of seeds in collaboration with Next Epoch Seed Library. Together, we collected plant seeds likely to survive the unpredictable future, and buried them at the future sight of the NATURE Lab in North Troy. 

Seed Time Capsule from Uptown Summer 2018 

Environmental Funding

And, we leveraged these arts grants to inspire new funding sources from environmental organizations:

  • 2015 DEC Hudson River Estuary Grants for River Access and River Education Round 17. “Troy Citizen Science Center: Teaching Stewardship of Our Hudson”
  • 2018 DEC Environmental Justice Program, “Germinating NATURE Lab Environmental Education Center
  • 2016 DEC Environmental Justice Program, “Environmental Stewards of North Troy”
  • 2022 Hudson River Estuary Grant, Nature’s Computer Lab: A Virtual Canal from the Estuary to the Classroom
  • 2022, DEC Environmental Justice Community Impact Grant, “Nurturing the NATURE Lab”

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About The Sanctuary

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

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