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Rethinking Community

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Posted on: March 20, 2013

Embracing the radiance and vitality of people and place

By Pierre Walcott

What are the possibilities ahead for people and place in Hyattsville?

We are told two divergent stories. On the one hand, there’s a public narrative of Prince George’s County powerlessness in the face of daunting social and economic challenges: high unemployment and foreclosure rates, social misery, failing public schools and low business investment.  This narrative inspires disengagement or departure.

But we also hear uplifting stories of a community emerging full of promise and potential. We see longtime residents self-organizing around ideas of creativity (The Gateway Arts District), wellness and ecology (Port Towns), new immigrant communities, smart professionals, and active religious groups. We see educational and cultural institutions beginning to create structures that can allow individual dreams to become real.

When people decide that there is something they can do collectively with others who care; things can change. They stay and help create what does not exist today.

This is the dream of The Creative Edge Studio Collaborative. We came together to make change as filmmakers and artists because we believe that a great community expresses the radiance and vitality of all of its people and places. We asked ourselves: What is the role of filmmakers and artists at this moment? How can our vital cultural resources help to remind us of our obligations to self and to each other? How could we develop the capacity to tell our own untold stories of people and place?

The Collaborative brought together filmmakers, creative professionals, community partners and audiences to build a film and digital media community. We want to tell stories that affirm our heritage, remind us of the dignity of difference and celebrate our implacable belief in each other.

As an emerging community of filmmakers and artists, we are a part of a growing ecosystem that is nurturing new growth and opportunity around the ideas of creativity and cultural innovation. Our work is nurtured through strategic relationships with local educational, cultural and commercial institutions. The Hyattsville Community Development Corporation is our fiscal agent and provides leadership on developing the requirements for an economic study of film and digital media. The Prince George’s Arts and Humanity Council  is a community partner in launching a new film office. Empowerment Through Technology and Education, a Hyattsville-based technology services company, provides us collaborative work space.

We believe in the studio model of study and action through experimentation and prototyping solutions. So, we have set forth the following program priorities:

Communication Labs: Prepare students, professionals and organizations to experiment, play and communicate using a new visual language and digital technologies.We conduct interactive film and digital mediaworkshops with local partners. For example, we have partnered with the Arc of Prince George’s County to engage the learning community in a digital storytelling workshop using iPads. With  practical love and care, The Arc is transforming the lives of people with differing mental and physical abilities, their families and the extended learning community. Now, we are learning the wisdom of this tenderness.

Film Exhibitions:Present emotionally powerful cinematic experiences that touch the deepest hopes and  aspirations of our community. Beginning in 2010 with the screening of TEZA at Regal Royale, we have curated film screenings and community discussions with local partners.

Currently, we partner with Hyattsville Public Library to present the Cultural Exchange, a monthly film program curated from the library’s vast digital media collection. Libraries are transformational spaces that allow us to meet people we otherwise would not meet, sharing in the common cultural heritage of humanity. Our spring season, to be launched in April, will feature films on the theme “Bloodlines: Music that Connects.”

In addition, we partnered with the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center to curate and present a film series to complement the “Struggle for Dignity” exhibition, last year.

Innovation Platform:Reinvent cinema as we know it by collaborating with creative talent who bring a passion for great stories, technical proficiency to experiment with new forms of production, delivery and experiencing stories. Later this spring, we are planning to host a conversation among filmmakers and other cultural innovators at Busboys & Poets, Hyattsville Arts District. At the end of the day, we would like to see more productions with the brand MADE IN THE ARTS DISTRICT.

Pierre Walcott is the executive director of Creative Edge Studio Collaborative. For more information on the Gateway Arts District organization, see




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