‘American Masters’ gets $90,000 from NEA for new digital archives

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A profile of director Mike Nichols by his longtime partner Elaine May opens the new season of American Masters in January. The program is digitizing its archives with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. (Photo: Magnum for American Masters)

A profile of director Mike Nichols by his longtime partner Elaine May opens the new season of American Masters in January. The program is digitizing its archives with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. (Photo: Magnum for American Masters)

Several public media organizations were among recipients of $27 million in grants announced Tuesday by the National Endowment for the Arts.

One of the larger outlays, for $90,000, went to American Masters at WNET in New York City for the first phase of a new digital archives project.

Some 2,200 tapes of more than 800 artist interviews will be digitized and cataloged, giving the public access to recordings of luminaries such as Lena Horne, Placido Domingo, Nora Ephron, Rita Moreno, Tom Hanks and Stephen Sondheim discussing their craft. Some clips are already online.

Once complete, the archives will reside on a new platform separate from the show’s website, said Natasha Padilla, WNET spokesperson. She declined to discuss details and said the platform is still in a planning and development phase.

The digitization efforts funded by NEA should be completed by Dec. 31, 2017, she said.

The PBS Foundation received $50,000 for PBS Indies, a digital platform for independent film. The cash will also support the PBS Online Film Festival and will go toward providing documentary content to PBS LearningMedia for classroom use.

Other public media grants include:

  • $75,000 to KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif., for its Independent Producer Project, providing opportunities for professional development work and creation of new content for broadcast and digital platforms;
  • $50,000 to the Bay Area Video Coalition Inc. for preservation of some 300 hours of audiovisual materials of “artistically significant works” from organizations including Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Poetry Center and Video Data Bank from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago;
  • $35,000 to New York Public Radio for Radio Rookies, a training program for young people in New York City to learn radio production.
  • $30,000 to the Kitchen Sisters in San Francisco to back distribution and archiving for the podcast Fugitive Waves, which tells “little-known stories of culture, ritual, and tradition”;
  • $30,000 to Alabama Public Television for Journey Proud, a documentary series highlighting Alabama folk arts and cultural traditions;
  • $25,000 to the Center for Asian American Media for CAAMFest 2016, its annual media arts festival; and

The NEA grants, the first of fiscal year 2016, support 1,126 projects in 49 states plus Guam, American Samoa and the District of Columbia. Read the full list of grants.

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