MIPoPS + MOHAI present: Virginia Brookbush's Public Access Legacy [In-Person Only]
“I broke two prosthetic devices carrying TVs,” she says. “I dedicated my time, my money, my body to public access.” – Virginia Brookbush, Seattle Times
Channel 29, Seattle’s first public access channel, was introduced in 1983 as part of an agreement between the city of Seattle and cable provider Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI). TCI owned the channel and funded the Northwest Access and Production Center on Aurora, where citizens could learn to operate and rent TV production equipment and record TV programs of their own design.
Virginia Brookbush was one such citizen, and absolutely a cut above the rest. After graduating Idaho State University at age 52, the “matron saint of Seattle public-access TV” moved to Seattle in 1970, and promptly began laying the foundation for her Community Television Agency (CTA), an organization dedicated to helping amateurs access the communicative potential of television. Brookbush’s staunch commitment to uncensored freedom of speech and information was magnetic, and the community she created through her work was highly productive. By the late 1970s, CTA was producing as many as seven half-hour public-access programs a week; predominantly volunteer productions that were financed by Brookbush herself, first from her regular income, and eventually out of her Social Security checks.
This program is a selection of excerpts from CTA shows, digitized from 3/4″ U-matic videotapes donated to Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry in 2021 by Derek Creisler, a friend of Brookbush who she trained as a videographer. They tell the story of CTA’s origins, then vault through a gamut of topics – local, international, artistic, spiritual, historical, political – that emphasize the inclusion of perspectives that are unlikely to be heard from in mass media.
Addendum: There is an interesting continuity from the CTA-era Seattle Public Access Network, to Seattle Community Access Network (SCAN), to SCCtv’s reiteration of SCAN as Seattle Community Media, to 911 Media Arts, Reel Grrls, and finally Northwest Film Forum. A media literacy lineage is clearly visible, rooted in the “each one teach one” mantra, in all of these nonprofits and collectives who have dedicated themselves to increasing and broadening access to media and helping to dissipate the firehose of the mainstream. From this screening forward, we intend to celebrate that legacy on January 10th: Virginia Brookbush Public Access Day, as declared by Seattle Mayor Charles Royer in 1983.
Ticketing, concessions, cinemas, restrooms, and our public edit lab are located on Northwest Film Forum’s ground floor, which is wheelchair accessible. All doors in Northwest Film Forum are non-motorized, and may require staff assistance to open. Our upstairs workshop room is not wheelchair accessible.
The majority of seats in our main cinema are 21″ wide from armrest to armrest; some seats are 19″ wide. We are working on creating the option of removable armrests!
We have a limited number of assistive listening devices available for programs hosted in our larger theater, Cinema 1. These devices are maintained by the Technical Director, and can be requested at the ticketing and concessions counter. Also available at the front desk is a Sensory Kit you can borrow, which includes a Communication Card, noise-reducing headphones, and fidget toys.
The Forum does NOT have assistive devices for the visually impaired, and is not (yet) a scent-free venue. Our commitment to increasing access for our audiences is ongoing, and we welcome all public input on the subject!
If you have additional specific questions about accessibility at our venue, please contact our Patron Services Manager at email@example.com. Our phone number (206-329-2629) is voicemail-only, but we check it often.
Made possible due to a grant from Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, in partnership with Sensory Access, our Sensory Access document presents a visual and descriptive walk-through of the NWFF space. View it in advance of attending an in-person event at bit.ly/nwffsocialnarrativepdf, in order to prepare yourself for the experience.
NWFF patrons will be required to wear masks that cover both nose and mouth while in the building. Disposable masks are available at the door for those who need them. We are not currently checking vaccination cards. Recent variants of COVID-19 readily infect and spread between individuals regardless of vaccination status.
Read more about NWFF’s policies regarding cleaning, masks, and capacity limitations here.
1 | Virginia Brookbush interviewing residents of The Beacon Tower
2 | Skokomish tribal leader and master weaver/carver Bruce Miller, or Subiyay in the Skokomish language
3 | Virginia Brookbush extends a microphone to collaborator Liz Smith
4 | L to R: Jean Watley (Black Business Association), Lyle Quasim (Tacoma & Pierce County Black Collective), James L. McGhee (WA State Business League), Joan Hunter (Evangelist)
5 | Derek Creisler doing double-duty, giving Brookbush on-camera comments while recording an event commemorating the Community Television Agency’s history
6 | A title card from You Have the Right to Know, a recurring program Brookbush was involved in
7 | Beautiful juggling chaos from Cabangahan Jugglers (later known as the Philippine Pride Jugglers) Amy Adams, Joyce Bonachita, Emiliana Cafino, and Regina Tayko
8 | Kim (last name unknown), foreground, operates a camera on a taping of “You Have the Right to Know”
Presented by MIPoPS and the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI)
All archival videotape included in this screening are part of the Community Television Agency Videotapes (Collection 2021.84) housed at the MOHAI’s Sophie Frye Bass Library. Videos from the collection can be viewed on MOHAI’s Internet Archive collection.
MIPoPS is a nonprofit whose mission is to assist archives, libraries, and other organizations with the conversion of analog video recordings to digital formats according to archival best practices.
Featuring a variety of material and topics, this series curates a quarterly set of archival videotape clips that document diverse Seattle histories of the arts, politics, and community.
MIPoPS hopes this series will educate and entertain viewers during this time of uncertainty and isolation.
Find out more about MIPoPS at mipops.org
Watch past screenings on their YouTube Channel
Browse hundreds of videos they’ve digitized on their Internet Archive collection
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