From Celluloid to Cyberspace

The Media Arts and the Changing Arts World

Kevin F. McCarthy and Elizabeth Heneghan Ondaatje

2002, 79 pages. RAND Corporation , 1700 Main Street, P.O. Box 2138, Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138 (310) 451-7002,

In From Celluloid to Cyberspace, supported by a study the Rockefeller Foundation, McCarthy and Ondaatje create a systematic picture of the media arts. Like an earlier RAND study authored by McCarthy, The Performing Arts in a New Era, this valuable report describes the intellectual and economic structures that sustain and support the arts. Based on an extensive literature survey as well as interviews with prominent museum curators, foundation personnel, film and art group presenters, and senior staff of art policy organizations, the authors paint a vivid picture of the changing arts environment both in the commercial and nonprofit sectors. They document changes in public support for the arts, describe changing U.S. participation in the arts and the abundance of choice for leisure pursuits. Also they point out that as public revenues come increasingly from state and local rather than federal government sources, community-level economic and social concerns guide the projects funded.

Against this backdrop, the authors provide an in-depth view of the emerging media arts arena, dividing media arts into three categories, narrative, documentary and experimental. They trace the brief history of media arts, portraying developments in film, video, and digital technology. As an emerging discipline, they conclude the media arts are experimental and innovative.

The report then compares media arts to other art disciplines. Using the four-part analytical framework developed in Performing Arts in a New Era, the authors examine how new trends and developments affect the audience, artist, organizations, and funding in media arts. The report makes clear the significant impact of technological innovations in this field as new technologies can both change the medium of creation and affect the public's ability to view the work.

For the media arts, the authors argue, much work needs to be done. The field needs to create a clear identity and greater visibility. The sector also needs to define a common vocabulary and develop systematic data, such as the size and characteristics of audience, employment and background of the artists, and characteristics of support organizations. The broad recommendations and vital research of this informative report can help grantmakers envision funding strategies to strengthen and support the media arts field. WHY Fund Media, published by the Council on Foundations, conveys the vitality and innovative values of media arts projects and is an important companion piece to this report.

Jane Levy, Marin Community Foundation.