Chicago Film Archives is so pleased to announce that we are a recipient of the 2016 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. It came as a surprise. We are among several other cultural institutions in Chicago who have received this honor, and we are in great company.
“These superbly imaginative organizations exemplify Chicago’s thriving arts and culture community, which is vibrant and economically vital to the region,”said MacArthur President Julia Stasch. “Support for these diverse and leading organizations reflects our enduring commitment to Chicago and to its cultural life that enriches us all.”
This honor is particularly sweet because of our grass roots beginnings and the huge amount of “back room labor” that is required to make any archive and its holdings accessible. Since much of the work we do is invisible to the public, we are especially moved that the folks at MacArthur imagined the scope and nature of what we do in our office every day.
Another reason this award is so important lies in the fact that no other film preservation organization (or any media preservation organization for that matter) has ever won this award. The critical nature of moving image preservation often goes unnoticed, giving way to other cultural pursuits, leaving history behind as something merely made of nostalgia. The ability to recognize that moving image records offer a glimpse into our future as well as our past is something rare. Moving images can offer a more visceral, dense and rich reflection of our collective past than either text or photographic images can provide. So we are doubly thankful that the MacArthur Foundation is throwing light on this often over-shadowed cultural endeavor.
Just recently, CFA completed the preservation, digitization and cataloging of the massive Ruth Page dance collection funded by The National Endowment for the Arts and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. The results can be found on CFA’s website where nearly 400 films are described and streaming in full with extensive notes about each of these works. In addition, CFA has conserved twenty-eight films with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation including the Film Group’s Cicero March which was selected for the National Film Registry in 2013.
Particularly satisfying, though, was Davia Crutchfield’s note to CFA after we shared with her one of our obscure films that featured her great-uncle Doug Crutchfield.
Due to your generosity several generations of the Crutchfield family were able to revisit (or see for the first time) my great-uncle Doug as well as my great grandparents, Howard and Jean Crutchfield. I did not have the opportunity to meet my great-grandfather so to see him and my great-grandmother (who passed away a few years ago) interact was absolutely surreal.
My grandfather (who is nearing his 80s), as well as my great-aunt (who was recovering from bypass surgery) sat on the edge of their seats gleaning as they watched their parents and brother argue once again
Please spread the word and join us as we celebrate throughout the year with special programming and events with the goal of expanding our capacity to rescue films, creating new archival presentations and serving our constituents with new digital capabilities.
This award of $200,000 will be placed in reserve to ensure the stability, longevity and integrity of CFA’s operations and mission.