The Civic Media Center at 20, Why It Matters

by Joe Courter

What started as an audacious idea, to open a storefront to promote non-corporate media, is about to pass a 20-year mark as an ever-growing counter-culture oasis in downtown Gainesville. If you are reading this, you might be one of its supporters, perhaps aware of the CMC for the whole run, or perhaps you weren’t born yet when the run started. It’s been that long.

The CMC has touched countless lives— attendees at events the CMC created, volunteers who gained experience, musicians who were provided a place to play when starting out, people who checked out a book or DVD they might not have run into otherwise, even people who through the CMC met another person who changed their life, or even became a life partner. And definitely life-long friends have been created, and advances in peoples’ knowledge and understanding of the world we live in as well.

There’s been the big events like Chomsky, Zinn and Parenti. They have also hosted Glenn Greenwald, Norman Soloman, Col. Ann Wright, Stetson Kennedy, and the Cointelpro Speaking Tour, among many others. There’s annual events like Radical Rush, which benefit and connect all kinds of local progressive organizations. There’s the meeting space the CMC provides for groups just starting out. There’s the weekly poetry jam (rolling since 1994!) where people find their voice in the power of spoken word. And now, with the move to S. Main Street a few years ago, the CMC set off a momentum which brought the Citizens Co-op, Sequential Artists Workshop and the new home for Wild Iris Books to the little counter-cultural oasis sometimes referred to as SMACC—South Main Arts and Cultural Center.

With our 20-year anniversary, a call has gone out to as many old volunteers for them to check in with the CMC and report on how the CMC impacted their lives. Friday, Oct. 18, the CMC will share these messages as part of the block celebration at the CMC, just days after the visit from Noam Chomsky on Oct. 15. The CMC is also asking for donations to mark the day, either by annual donation or a monthly or quarterly direct deposit. The CMC takes about $5,000 a month to run, with that breaking down to one full time staff, rent, utilities, publicity fliers, and supplies.

Since Radical Press Coffee Collective opened up inside the CMC, there is an increased vibrancy to the space, and a way for people who attend to get drinks and snacks. Twenty years is a long time, and it is worth celebrating. It has mattered to countless people and in constant ways. And it doesn’t plan on stopping. But it moves forward only with community support. Elsewhere in the Iguana you’ll see ways to be involved in keeping it going down the road.

A shorter version of this article ran in the CMC quarterly newsletter “Media Notes,” which is mailed to its membership list. Anyone who donates becomes a member and gets the right to check out books, DVDs and CDs.

Comments are closed.