Since 1981 the mission of the Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium has been to promote and advocate innovation in the art of the moving image with a primary focus on non-commercial film and video. The Black Maria Film Festival advances and exhibits the work of diverse filmmakers from across the US and internationally. These artists represent an under-served constituency who might not otherwise have the opportunity for live public exhibition nationwide or abroad.
The Black Maria Film Festival focuses on narrative, experimental, animation, and documentary works that push the boundaries of film. The Festival's juried collection addresses issues and struggles within contemporary society, such as public health, people with disabilities, race and class, climate change, substance abuse, family, sustainability, immigration, LGBT issues and more. We reach out to varied audiences in settings including colleges, museums, libraries, community and religious organizations, and arts venues, with custom-curated programs. The Consortium also administers the NJ Young Filmmakers' Festival, and the Global Insights/ADA collection. NJ Young Filmmakers' recognizes, celebrates, and supports students in NJ through workshops, a juried competition, and exhibition. The Consortium's Global Insights/ADA Collection draws work from the Black Maria Film Festival archive for exhibition with works that focus on people with disabilities, issues of the environment, and social justice.
The Consortium operates as a guest organization at New Jersey City University, and is responsible for securing its own funding. The Consortium does not own or rent the facilities where its office is located, New Jersey City University, nor those of the many and varied host sites which choose to exhibit the Consortium's programs. The Consortium requires that each host site complete a detailed ADA access survey, which was developed specifically from NJSCA ADA guidelines. Each host site must complete the Consortium's ADA survey in order to act as a host venue for a Black Maria Film Festival program, or a NJ Young Filmmakers' program, or for any program provided to the public as part of a Consortium initiative.
The Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium is committed to making its programs and facility accessible to everyone. It is the policy of the Consortium to maintain a working environment and a program exhibition environment free from all forms of unlawful discrimination. The Consortium is an Equal Employment Opportunity employer. Host sites presenting Consortium programs are required to be in compliance with ADA guidelines.
Date of adoption: In keeping with best practices for boards of non-profit organizations, the Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium reviewed and adopted the above on 11-29-14.
Steve Gorelick, Trustee, Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium
Jane Steuerwald, Executive Director, Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium; John McDonough, Faculty - A. Harry Moore School for Children with Disabilities; Debi Glennon - a member of the Ridgewood Community Access Network (CAN), a committee advocating for ADA Compliance in Ridgewood, NJ.
The Black Maria Film Festival, a project of the Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium, functions as a touring organization, presenting back-to-back film programs at venues in 20 or more states in the US and abroad. We work with our host institutions to accomplish the highest level of ADA compliance possible. Each host institution such as the A. Harry Moore School for Children with Disabilities; The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; The Des Moines Center for the Arts; the Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, NY; the Hoboken Historical Museum; New Jersey City University, etc. is ADA compliant and some can provide Assistive Listening Devices on site upon advance request. The Consortium requires the resources of its host institutions to fulfill ADA Compliance guidelines.
The Festival website carries synopses of all of the films in the annual award collection within the program booklet and thus is available for preview by patrons interested in reviewing an advance synopsis of any film in the Festival tour. Each program presentation typically consists of 10 or so independent film shorts, including experimental/abstract works, documentaries, animation, and narrative. These individually curated programs are made available to each host site in advance of program presentations.
The Black Maria Film Festival's annual program booklet is provided to each host site in advance via email. This allows a host site to provide program booklets digitally to patrons in advance of presentations, and for patrons to engage with program content as necessary. For example, a patron with vision loss can review the entire booklet in an enlarged print version at home via computer. The Consortium also provides a 16pt. print version of the program presented at every host site, to accompany the screening.
Perhaps most importantly, programs that are presented in-person by the Festival Director allow for personalized engagement with patrons of any given program. Not only does this practice allow for descriptive narration provided in real time by the Festival Director, but in Q & A the Director is able to lead a discussion and answer questions from patrons regarding visual and sound information included in each film screened.
The Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium has begun an ambitious project with the goal of providing personal screenings to patrons without the need for those persons with disabilities to travel to a venue. For example, a patron could contact the Festival office and request access to a curated program via his/her home computer. The program would be made available to the patron for an entire evening. Patrons can chose to zoom into images, increase volume, repeat segments they wish to view more than once, and customize computer settings from their home computers - thus making the viewing and listening experience of the films completely personal and adaptable to each individual's needs.
Toward that end the Festival has begun development and testing of a system for storing curated film programs on Amazon's cloud services and providing secure access. This project has the potential to provide access and enhance various aspects of the viewing experience for many potential patrons who find it difficult or problematic in any way to visit a venue. Also, because the access is available in the home, the user can set volume as needed or use headphones or other hearing enhancing equipment. The Consortium plans to contact host sites that have partnered with the Black Maria Film Festival in past years, to begin testing of this exciting new way to deliver content and provide access to those who otherwise might not be able to participate.
The Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium is currently seeking grants to re-design its website from the ground up. While some of the above requirements are currently supported, through functionality built into web browsers, items such as alternate text for images will be included in the new specification. Our plans for a new website include complete ADA Compliance with high contrast features, plain text options, streaming media, and much more.
One of the projects of the Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium is the Global Insights - ADA Collection. ADA related works are available on DVD upon request and are accessible to patrons. The Festival's executive director is available, also upon request, to custom-curate programs that focus on issues of the environment, people with disabilities, and/or social justice.
The Global Insights - ADA Collection is updated annually with works as they become available through the Black Maria's annual juried international film competition and tour. In 2014, the Black Maria Film Festival instituted a new award called the Global Insights Stellar Award, which recognizes an outstanding film focusing on issues of the environment, people with disabilities, and/or issues of social justice. By establishing this new award, which recognizes filmmakers with a stake in the promotion of ADA-related topics, the Black Maria Film Festival concurrently shines a light on, promotes and encourages the importance of ADA Compliance.
A new category for consideration for the Black Maria Film Festival is to encompass films that include closed captioning as part of their productions. The Festival jury would judge all films designated in this entry category separately on the individual merits, and the closed-captioned films chosen by the jury for the festival tour would be made available to host sites upon request. In this way the Festival will begin to promote closed captioning as a viable form for independent filmmakers.
The Consortium functions as a touring organization presenting back to back film programs visiting venues in 20 or more states in the US, and abroad. The Consortium partners with its host institutions to fulfill ADA Compliance guidelines. Thus the Festival must work with host sites to insure that host institutions implement conscientious policies, and that they provide clear information to people with disabilities.
To accomplish our ADA compliance goals, the Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium has developed a "Host Organization Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA Compliance) Rider and Survey" which must be completed by every one of our host sites annually. Through this survey the Consortium establishes a reasonable advance notification policy for patrons interested in utilizing ADA programs and services including large print programs, assistive listening devices, wheelchair accessibility, that they admit service animals whenever necessary, etc.
The Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium website lists the appropriate international access symbols and carries a statement regarding accessibility policies. Patrons going to the Consortium's home page and clicking on the link to ADA, can find this statement. In addition, every host site presenting a Black Maria Film Festival program throughout the touring season is listed on the website under the "Tour Schedule" link. Here patrons are informed as to what specific services are offered at each host site. International symbols are used to inform patrons of accessibility services. Patrons can also click on links to each host site's webpage to learn what accessible programs and services are offered.
The Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium - Black Maria Film Festival presents a program each year to children with autism, cognitive and developmental disabilities, vision loss, hearing loss, and physical disabilities at the A. Harry Moore School for Children with Disabilities in Jersey City, NJ. This program is open to the public and is custom-curated for the children and presented in-person by the Festival Director in cooperation with John McDonough, faculty member of the A. Harry Moore School. Mr. McDonough is also a member of the Consortium's ADA Compliance Advisory Board. This annual program is offered at no charge to the A. Harry Moore School.
New Jersey City University, the home base of the Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium, has an accessible route from the main bus stop - public transportation - at 2039 Kennedy Blvd., Jersey City, NJ, to the main accessible entrance to NJCU. From there, persons requiring wheelchair accessibility or with mobility issues may access the Consortium's office in the Media Arts Dept., Fries Hall, and can travel through the campus. NJCU has ADA compliant parking for persons requiring wheelchair accessibility or having other mobility issues at all parking locations on the campus, and an accessible route from accessible parking to all primary accessible entrances to buildings and facilities, including the Consortium's office in the Media Arts Department and throughout the campus.
NJCU has fully ADA compliant doors to entrances, bathrooms, assembly areas, classrooms, etc. throughout the campus and elevators for multi-level access and interior ramps at level changes. There are fully ADA compliant restrooms with positioned Braille signage on its doorway entrances, which also have remote opening pads. There is Braille signage at bathrooms as well as entranceways throughout the campus.
NJCU's ADA compliant wheelchair locations, including those for persons having other mobility issues, include classrooms, the Consortium's office space, and additional locations that are at times used for film presentations including Margaret Williams Theater, Ingalls Recital Hall, and the Gothic Lounge in Hepburn Hall. Percentages for seating are flexible, as seating in classrooms, the Consortium's office, and the Gothic Lounge is not fixed. It is adaptable for however many seats are required. Margaret Williams Theater which seats over 800 people provides more than 6 seats as needed, and Ingalls Recital Hall which seats 125 people, provides 5 or more seats as needed - both venues complying with ADA guidelines.