The Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center’s mission is to foster 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.
The UCIMC is a central hub for creative activity in East Central Illinois with:
- a performance venue
- art gallery and studios
- radio station
- media training facility
- book, zine, and instrument libraries
- public-access computer center and help desk
- and community data center and wireless network.
The UCIMC also collaborates on programming with several partners housed or affiliated at the center: The School for Designing a Society, a project of composers, artists, and activists and CU Citizens for Peace and Justice, a civil rights organization. UCIMC is a leading member of the Media Action Grassroots Network - a national network of 175 grassroots organizations dedicated to media access, rights and representation. In 2014, 1023 volunteers gave 51,150 hours of their time - the equivalent of 24.5 full time staff - making UCIMC truly a people powered organization.
Who We Are, What We Do
The UCIMC was founded in 2000 by a collective of artists and activists who wanted to democratize access to arts and media production in the wake of media consolidation and the defunding of the arts. Racial and economic divides were widening, and our creative community was stifled by the limited ability of media outlets to present local artists.
The UCIMC founders aimed to invent the space, resources, and atmosphere to draw artists and community members together to investigate local problems and design solutions. We envisioned a center where collaboration, cross pollination, and serendipitous interaction were encouraged; where youth could participate in a creative "third space" as an alternative to home or school; where consumers could be producers; and where the power of media, art, and narrative to transform our community could be realized. Our vision was long term: we carefully crafted a decentralized structure aimed at growth and sustainability, gained 501c3 status within our first year, and saved 10% of all income to purchase a permanent home.
The UCIMC soon became a Midwest nexus for independent media and arts projects. Members started the only independent newspaper in town, opened a gallery space showcasing emerging artists, and built an all-ages performance venue. Bursting at the seams, the UCIMC purchased the downtown post office building in 2005 through creative negotiation with the US Postal Service.
The move to the post office opened up room for dozens of new UCIMC projects including, Books to Prisoners, Makerspace Urbana, OddMusic, the Costume Closet, the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, and dozens of fiscally sponsored projects.
The UCIMC is able to serve the community because of our members and generous donors. Help us continue our work by becoming a member, making a donation, or one of the many other simple ways you can support the UCIMC in your every day life.
What We Have Accomplished
Since the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center's inception, we have provided innovative programming for the local (and eventually the national) community. Our mission is to foster the creation and distribution of media and art emphasizing underrepresented voices and perspectives and to promote empowerment and expression through media and arts education. To that end, UCIMC.
To that end, we operate a community radio station, media training facility, performance venue, public access computer center, computer help desk, and art gallery and studios. We host these projects in the downtown Urbana post office building, which we purchased in 2005 and have since converted into a Community Media and Arts Center. The UCIMC:
- Is supported by 2 paid staff members, 4.25 FTE contractors 10, and 1023 volunteers whose time equates to 24.5 full time staff.
- Serves vulnerable populations such as the working poor, African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants and new Americans, and youth.
- Helped bring $22.5 million dollars in broadband stimulus funds to our community, playing a lead role in organizing civil society participation in the grant process.
- Our leaders spoke on a panel before the FCC in June 2010 about the role of Community Media in the Future of Journalism, and have hosted workshops in Burma, Thailand, Kenya, Italy, Mexico, and the U.S.
- Shipped over 100,000 free books to Illinois prisoners and created 2 new jail libraries and won Governor's Hometown Award for this work.
- Recycled thousands of bikes back into the community through the Bike Project.
- Provides free community web hosting and listservs to 204 organizations such as the Red Cross.
- Developed CUWiN (cuwireless.net), an internationally recognized leader in open source mesh network software. Deployed the first open wifi network in Champaign-Urbana, Homer, Illinois, tribal lands of the Mesa Grande Reservation, and the townships of South Africa.
- Is an internationally recognized model for how a local community media center can be used by residents to transform and empower their community, changing policy and transforming lives. Foe example, residents of a contaminated Champaign neighborhood used the UCIMC to organize a series of toxic tours. On these tours, they revealed the history of cancer around the site, taping the testimonials to produce a multi-media piece called "Toxic Legacy: Douglas Park Residents in Their Own Words." This helped get the attention of the local city council and Illinois EPA, and the power company is now cleaning up the site with oversight from the neighborhood.