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Cal State LA Students Embark on Making Documentaries with Million Dollar Grant from Hauser & Wirth

This semester, students are making movies on LA art organizations that are incorporating social work. The grant will provide new equipment and funds to hire guest artists as mentors.

Community Impact Media Program (photo by Heather Fipps, courtesy Cal State LA/Hauser & Wirth)

LOS ANGELES — Last week the Los Angeles Times reported that Cal State LA’s television, film, and media studies department will be receiving a one million dollar grant from international mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth. The grant, which will be disbursed over a five-year period, will support the school’s Community Impact Media Program, in which students create documentaries focused on Los Angeles-based nonprofit organizations. The partnership began in the fall of 2017, when the school received an initial $20,000 grant from the gallery to establish the program.

Nestled in the crook of the 10/710 freeway exchange on Los Angeles’s East Side, Cal State LA has over 28,000 students, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college. The school was recently ranked number one in the nation in terms of upward mobility of its students.

“They were looking for a community engagement initiative, and what we discussed in 2017 was that we could help them investigate the surrounding communities through student-made films, as a way to give back to both nonprofits and students,” Heather Fipps, director of the Community Impact Media Program, told Hyperallergic. She had originally connected with the gallery through a documentary she was working on about the artist Mark Bradford, a Los Angeles native who is also represented by the gallery.

After the success of the initial grant, which helped produce documentaries on organizations including the Learning Rights Law Center, Piece by Piece, and a Friend’s Place, the gallery asked her what it would take for the program to excel.

“I said we would really need to re-envision the program, bolster resources for students, have them trained effectively earlier with equipment. New computers, better cameras, extend the grant into our entire degree program,” Fipps recalled.

Community Impact Media Program (photo by Sean Shim Boyle, courtesy Cal State LA/Hauser & Wirth)

In addition to financing new equipment, the grant will include funds to hire guest artists as mentors, who can advise students on editing and cinematography. Hauser & Wirth also hosts a screening in its education loft at the end of each term. This semester’s films focus on arts organizations that incorporate social work: Music Mends Minds, helping those with neurodegenerative diseases through music; the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory, which offers career development for youth in television, film, broadcasting, and music; and Everybody Dance, which puts on low-cost or free dance classes for underserved communities.

“One of the important things is how meaningful this is to Cal State LA students in particular,” explained Fipps, “We already serve the community, it’s in our mission, serving the public good. The opportunity to get this level of support and see students engage is so transformative and motivating. It validates students and their voices, giving them visibility and strengthening their resolve to believe in themselves.”

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