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Civic Impact

Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre gets lease extension

With its home secure for another five years, the Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre is planning to expand its TV production capabilities to reach even more of the downtown neighbourhood.

City council voted last week to extend the lease of the media centre, a grassroots youth organization that engages young people through participation in media arts activities such as live radio broadcast, storytelling, poetry and music, arts instruction, music recording, photography, and other arts activities. The nominal rent on the 3,729-square-foot basement space is only $2 a year, though the operating expenses are estimated to be close to $40,000—a big chunk of the not-for-profit’s annual budget.

“It’s great that they’ve renewed our lease but it certainly doesn’t take off the financial pressure to do what we do,” says executive director Adonis Huggins. Much of the funding comes on a project-by-project basis.

The centre was founded in 1990 as something of an antidote to negative media coverage of Regent Park, often depicted as especially crime-ridden. The initiative has evolved as has the community, which has been transformed oer the last few years with a major revitalization that’s razed most of the dilapidated 1940s and ’50s-era community housing. A community newspaper led to radio and TV programs that cover local news and concerns.

“Regent Park seemed to be all things bad ,and the community felt that. We wanted to give people a different picture of Regent Park, including themselves,” says Huggins.

Until 2011, the program was located in the basement of a Toronto Community Housing Corporation building. The existing space is smaller but better designed for the centre, whose 250 members create more than 50 programs.

Currently working with Rogers to get a digital channel that can broadcast more content to more residents, Huggins suggests that there is a market for hyper local broadcasting. “People become more engaged in their neighbourhood if they can see themselves, if they know where to go to for things they’re interested, they’d be more engaged in the services in their neighbourhood if they knew what they were,” he says.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Adonis Huggins
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