PRdream/MediaNoche, the first new media gallery and digital studio of Upper Manhattan, and Manhattan Neighborhood Network, the community access organization for Manhattan, opened a satellite public access, cable television facility in PRdream’s loft on East 106th Street in 2004. This past Friday, December 1, they met to finalize the terms of MNN’s departure which was set for Wednesday, December 13. According to Judith Escalona, Director of PRdream.com and MediaNoche, “the split was long in the making.” The two organizations, one small and the other large, are remarkably different in their uses of media and their ultimate aims.
PRdream/MediaNoche seeks to utilize digital technology and the internet to advance an agenda that opens a dialogue among artists and filmmakers worldwide while maintaining a strong community base. That agenda involves the production, exhibition and distribution of digital artwork and films. It also involves an ongoing theorizing and critique of media practices.
Manhattan Neighborhood Network is mandated by the franchise agreement between the city of New York and Time-Warner, to provide free training in video production and programming time to the residents of Manhattan over the designated public access channels in Manhattan. They also have a website at http://www.mnn.org. Public Access television came into being in the seventies, as an enticement created by the cable companies who wanted to install coaxial cable in city streets.
Neither organization plans to leave Spanish Harlem aka El Barrio. PRdream first came to El Barrio in 1999 to showcase an unique film festival called Nuyorican Cinema at the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center and later opened its new media loft on East 106th Street in order to collect the oral histories of the Puerto Rican diaspora. This work continues unabated and can be seen online at http://www.prdream.com.
They later expanded their activities by creating the first new media gallery and digital film studio of Upper Manhattan, MediaNoche, and The Handball Court Summer Film Festival, screening international films at sunset by projecting them on the handball court wall on East 106th Street. This past summer, they launched MediaNoche_wifi, offering free wireless internet access on East 106th Street and White Park.
In a move that involves temporarily downsizing, MNN will occupy a smaller space on Lexington Avenue, according to Dan Coughlin, the Executive Director of Manhattan Neighborhood Network, while they prepare for a permanent residence on East 104th Street, where they are in the process of purchasing the delapidated firehouse located there. The sale of the firehouse by El Museo del Barrio was surrounded by controversy by community residents who saw the loss of a cultural asset. The building has been closed for two decades and shows the wear of disuse and neglect.
For Escalona, it’s all part of a process of cleaning house and streamlining activities at PRdream/MediaNoche. “We’ve reached a point of growth that necessitates refocusing and assessment in order to continue to deliver smart, good quality work.” 2006 was apparently a great year for the organization which hosted the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition “In the Making.” They also completed a webcast that featured an international dialogue of the work of Diogenes Ballester with El Museo de la Historia de Ponce, and The Caribbean University of Puerto Rico, this past September.
PRdream/MediaNoche has also collaborated with the Center of Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, El Museo del Barrio, the Museum of the City of New York, and El Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, and the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. PRdream.com and MediaNoche have been featured on WABC-TV, WCBS-TV, NY1, The New York Times, NY Daily News, NY Post, El Diario, Hoy, El Mercurio (Chile), Siempre, Tiempo, and After Image, as well as international publications and web sites.