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A Long, Long Now Powered by AT&T Premieres

A Long, Long Now Powered by AT&T, a partnership between AT&T, Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology (BCAT), and Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center, created a persuasive hybrid documentary and futurist narrative short film in which students explore different possibilities of how future technologies can impact, transform and improve their communities, Buffalo and the Western New York region.  Fourteen high school students from throughout the City of Buffalo worked as a team for six weeks as part of the tuition-free 2018 Summer Youth Program at BCAT to look into the future and capture technology’s potential to improve their world, create greater social equity and build a better quality of life.   Instructor Kevin Kline (Squeaky Wheel) worked with teens to develop this unique Buffalo specific documentary supported by AT&T.

The premiere of A Long, Long Now Powered by AT&T was held on Thursday August 30 at 1pm at Burchfield Penney Art Center.  A brief ceremony highlighting the student filmmakers’ accomplishments preceded the inaugural viewing of the film, followed by a question and answer session with the student filmmakers.

This hybrid documentary/narrative film, allowed students of the Buffalo Youth Media Institute to explore various scenarios of the future of technology and how it relates to current uses and equitable access and use in their communities. The film blends interviews with futuristic artists and elected officials with fantastical skits offering up future machines that can cure social, economic, and cultural ills in their community. The film’s premise is based on the student filmmakers exploring their hopes and fears about the future of technology, taking place 300 years in the future and examining technologies role in the culture.  Part fiction and part fact, this film leaves viewers thinking about how their own roles and narratives are related to the future, ensuring equitable access to technologies that can benefit the greater community. The film has already been accepted to be screened at the Buffalo International Film Festival in October and will be submitted to other festivals around the country.

The students collaboratively explored and created the film based on a series of interviews with artists, researchers and local elected officials. The students created a fantastical space housing ideas for our future selves. Several skits show students portraying a future with technologies that help our communities have greater access to health care, nutrition, and the ability to heal racial divides. This film is designed to stimulate thinking by the viewers, asking themselves how they see the future and the role that technology plays in our communities to make them better and sustainable spaces.

AT&T’s partnership with BCAT and Squeaky Wheel on this initiative was a unique and creative way to expose local students to the skills and technology necessary to create film, new media and multimedia projects. As video content continues to become more and more popular, the profession of filmmaking and content development is becoming a high demand profession. This project provided the students with a unique opportunity to learn valuable lessons on how technology can be used to solve social issues and be used for social good. The participation of distinguished artists, technologists and elected leader in the documentary proved very rewarding for the students and will encourage viewers to form their distinct perspective on the transformative power of technology.

Educational programs like this are important because according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor, much of the growth in the domestic and global economy will come from science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM)-related jobs – a highly lucrative and competitive field. It is estimated that by 2020 there will be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs. This underscores the importance of engaging students in STEM and providing them with the tools and skills necessary to compete in an innovation economy.

AT&T’s $20,000 contribution to support this film and STEAM program is part of the company’s legacy of supporting educational programs focused on STEAM and emerging technology disciplines in New York. The support was made possible by AT&T Aspire, the company’s signature $400 million philanthropic initiative that drives innovation in education by bringing diverse resources to bear on the issue including funding, technology, employee volunteerism and mentoring. Aspire is one of the nation’s largest corporate commitments focused on school success and workforce readiness by creating new learning environments and educational delivery systems to help students succeed and prepare them to take on 21st century careers.

Technologists, artists and civic community leaders featured in the film include:
• New York State Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes
• New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan, Chair of the Commission of Science and Technology
• American Artist, an interdisciplinary artist whose work extends dialectics formalized in Black radicalism and organized labor into a context of networked virtual life.
• Stacey Robinson, a designer, illustrator and professor of Art at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, creates art that speculates futures where Black people are free from colonial influences. He is part of the collaborative duo ‘Black Kirby,’ which explores Afro Speculative existence via the aesthetic of Jack Kirby.
• Devin Hentz, a researcher and writer based in Dakar, Senegal, and her writings have been published in LESS Magazine and Something We Africans Got. Her areas of interests include, Afro/African futures, development narratives in Africa, dress practices, and radical pedagogy.
• Phillip Stearns, is the creator of the Year of the Glitch, a yearlong glitch-a-day project, and Glitch Textiles, a project exploring the intersection of digital art and textile design. Stearns’ work is concerned with our relationships with technologies and through deconstruction and reconfiguration the technologically mediated environment is approached as an assemblage, where human activity plays a role of equivalent importance to environmental agency.

“AT&T is proud to support the production of this inspiring film and to provide an opportunity for these impressive young minds to share their unique perspective and artistic vision on technology and how it can be used to improve the quality of life in Western New York, and I thank Assemblymembers Peoples-Stokes and Ryan for participating in this film and sharing their personal insight on technology with the students,” said Kevin Hanna, director, External Affairs, AT&T.  “As the world’s economy continues to transform at a robust pace — requiring a workforce with a focus on technological education and literacy — STEAM programs like this one that provide immersive learning environments are vital to ensure that the students of today are equipped with the transformational skills needed to compete in the global innovation economy of tomorrow.”

“I was extremely impressed by the students who put this film together,” said Assemblyman Ryan who participated in the film. “These young people worked incredibly hard on this project and were extremely professional during our interview.  It’s always encouraging to see students spending time in their summer focusing on STEAM education and I’m sure the skills learned in this program will help prepare the participants for a bright future.”

Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes, who also participated in the film, said, “I am impressed by the maturity, talent and professionalism of these young people and their savvy ability to take on such a project.  AT&T, BCAT and Squeaky Wheel should be commended for their dedication and support to their students!”

BCAT Youth Coordinator Da’Von McCune said, “We are so thrilled with the work and dedication from all of the students on this project. It has been inspiring to see their teacher Kevin bring out the best in each of the students as individuals while bringing them together to create a team. The technology theme of social good in this film project was selected by the students because technology is becoming more significant in their lives and community, while also having the ability to address and solve social issues that. At this moment, now more than ever, residents across the country are re-evaluating what it means to be engaged in their communities, politics and neighborhoods.  It was also selected because Buffalo is known as “The City of Good Neighbors” and students wanted to learn more about how technology could be used to better the city and their lives and tell the story via video on the region’s vibrant and diverse makeup.”

Kevin Kline , education director, Squeaky Wheel, added, “This is our 16th year running the Buffalo Youth Media Institute (BYMI) providing media literacy and training in media arts to the youth in the City of Buffalo. Each year we set out to create a project that engages the students with different aspects of their city. This year was an exceptional group of youth and a very daunting project that allowed the kids to grow, become leaders and find a platform for their voices through the media arts.”

BCAT is based on Pittsburgh’s Manchester Bidwell Corporation, a nationally recognized arts and training center founded in 1969. Results indicate that 85% of adults who go through its program attain employment, and over 90% of high school students enrolled in its arts programs graduate from high school. The mission of the BCAT, as part of Buffalo’s economic revitalization, is twofold: to keep youth in school through high school completion so they are able to take advantage of the post-secondary opportunities the “Say Yes” scholarship program makes available to them. This is accomplished by offering high-quality and high-tech arts instruction and studio space; and to assist unemployed or underemployed adults in securing jobs with wages sufficient to support a family.

Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center is a non-profit arts organization based in Buffalo. Established in 1985, the Center has been providing equipment access, education, and exhibition opportunities to Western New Yorkers of all income levels, backgrounds and skill levels for over 33 years. In partnership with AT&T and Buffalo Center for Art & Technology, Squeaky Wheel’s 2018 Buffalo Youth Media Institute is made possible through the generous support of the City of Buffalo, the County of Erie, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Children’s Foundation of Erie County, as well as individual donors and sponsors.

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

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