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. To that end we operate a Community Media and Arts Center out of the historic downtown Urbana post office building, which we purchased in 2005, located at 202 S. Broadway Ave., Urbana.
The UCIMC is a central hub for creative activity in East Central Illinois with:
- Performance venue
- Art gallery and studios
- WRFU 104.5 FM radio station
- Artist in Residence program
- Public i newspaper
- Makerspace Urbana
- Book and zine library
- openED archive
- Public-access computers
- Community data center and wireless network.
The UCIMC also collaborates on programming with several partners: The Bike Project, School for Designing a Society, Build Programs Not Jails, Restorative Circles, Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, and dozens of fiscally sponsored projects. 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 2017, 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
- Launched Open Scene, a youth-led project to reimagine downtown Urbana and IMC’s role in it, supported by a National Endowment of the Arts Grant in partnership with the City of Urbana.
- 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 to launch UC2B, public broadband that now connects hundreds of households.
- Shipped over 150,000 free books to Illinois prisoners and created 2 new jail libraries and won Governor's Hometown Award for this work.
- Led the Illinois Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, connecting elected leaders to families of the incarcerated to win the lowest cost of calls from prison in the U.S.
- With the Center for Media Justice, co-hosted a national campaign to support the rights of those electronic surveillance.
- Connected impacted residents to members of Congress and the Federal Communication Commission to advocate in support of Net Neutrality, expansion of broadband to low income families, and prison phone justice, as part of our work with the Media Action Grassroots Network. Our leaders testifed before the FCC about the role of Community Media in the Future of Journalism.
- Hosted numerous national conferences including: Prometheus Community Radio Barnraising, Books to Prisoners conference, Midwest Zine Fest, Restorative Circles.
- Recycled thousands of bikes back into the community through the Bike Project.
- With Pixo Technologies, provided the first wifi access available to visitors of the Urbana Free Library.
- 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.
- Provided free community web hosting and listservs to 204 organizations such as the Red Cross and Volunteer Illini.
- Our members taught media activism workshops in Burma, Thailand, Kenya, Italy, Mexico, and the U.S.
- 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.
- Is supported by over 1000 volunteers whose time equates to 24 full time staff.