Between Saugerties and Woodstock, a solitary barn stands at a junction where three roads meet. On one side stretches a rolling field of hay along a low mountain ridge. There is a sense of timelessness here, away from any of the events that overflow in the news.
This is the future home of the Forge Collective Community Media Lab.
The idea originated from Flick Book Studio, a stop-motion animation studio operated by Keiko Sono, Founder/Director of Forge Collective. She loves how stop-motion animation marries hands-on experience with digital technology and platforms. For nine years, she provided classes, workshops, summer camps, and screening events for artists of all ages.
She also learned many things. She found out that all kids have stories inside them, ready to burst if given the right environment and incentive. She observed that the right equipment and space were more important than instruction. She also witnessed how the social aspect—collaborating and sharing—was an integral part of creative development.
One of the unexpected benefits was that her studio attracted a large number of students on the Autism Spectrum. The process of animation—telling a story frame by frame—is widely adaptable yet methodical, rendering itself as a perfect creative outlet for children on the spectrum. Keiko developed a flexible workflow in partnership with other institutions such as SUNY New Paltz, giving students a choice in the degree of interaction with other students, from a large classroom where they could mingle as much as they wished to an isolated studio where they could deeply focus on the process. Either way, the pure joy Keiko saw in all students exhorted her to find a permanent home for her animation studio.
While operating Flick Book Studio, she also directed a public outreach project called Catskill Waters, sponsored by stream programs with grants from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. A large part of the project was story collection—she interviewed more than 50 residents in the NYC watersheds located in the Catskill Mountains 100 miles north of the city and recorded their conversations.
Even in small communities, people can go for years or decades without talking to their neighbors. Keiko was told by more than a few people that her interviews revealed new things about the storytellers they had known all their lives, changing their views of them positively. She saw potential in using community-based podcasts and other digital story-sharing methods as a way to resolve conflicts or achieve common goals.
These two paths led Keiko to dream up the idea of a community media studio where people can access the tools, space, and knowledge needed to tell their stories in a wide array of styles and expressions.
Our office currently occupies one of two small studio spaces inside this historic barn. Our plan is to convert the entire structure into a media studio that includes facilities for stop-motion animation, podcast and YouTube recording and streaming, photo-shoots, digital animation, and post-production.
Our focus is to provide high quality equipment and applications, often out of reach for non-professionals, in an open, inclusive, and collaborative environment.
In today’s world of division, misinformation, and chaos, honest and deep communication is the glue that builds the foundation for trust that is needed to not only avert calamity, but to build a better society.
We hope to contribute in our small way to this endeavor.