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Spinning Home Movies

In March 2020, as organizations across the country canceled public events in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the South Side Home Movie Project and Arts + Public Life envisioned new ways to connect with our communities as they sheltered in their homes. Seeking to maintain public access to the home movie collections and provide some comfort to families and supporters, we drew on Arts + Public Life’s creative network to invite local DJs to collaborate with us on setting our silent home movies to music. Each DJ explored the video archive in depth, developing themes and selecting film clips, before designing a custom playlist with a distinctive mix of songs, sounds and audio clips.

What started as a creative response to the call for online programming has emerged as a new paradigm for meaningful artist/archive partnerships and for robust community engagement. Hundreds of viewers join a lively cross-generational, interdisciplinary conversation with archivists, artists, film donors, and family members, generating the intimate energy of a live performance as audiences stay home. With over 13,000 views to date, Spinning Home Movies makes ideal use of the screen as a stage while tapping into a desire for meaningful shared experience. In this era of isolation, this unique program offers genuine connection between viewers of all ages, South Siders as well as viewers from a distance, finding delight in the touchstones of mid-century Black life.

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We know that this ground-breaking program has touched a chord with viewers – they describe it as “magical,” “a gift, “just too moving for words,” “goosebumps,” “a balm.” We believe that it can not only uplift our local neighbors and educate newcomers about film preservation, but also elevate the way the world views the South Side of Chicago and the people who live, work, play and raise families here. The program was selected as a “Best of 2020” by Chicago Magazine, featured in an ABC 7 News report, and written up by the Chicago Sun-Times and Hyde Park Herald.

Spinning Home Movies is produced and presented by Arts + Public Life (APL) and South Side Home Movie Project (SSHMP), with support from the University of Chicago’s Women’s Board, Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture (CSRPC), and Chicago Arts Access. Each episode features a 20-30 minute set of 8mm, Super 8mm or 16mm vintage home movie footage shot by South Side residents from the 1920s to 1980s, curated and soundtracked by Chicago DJs, musicians and performing artists. Each episode is followed by a live discussion, “The Rewind,” where the Spinning Home Movies production team, guest artists and film donors dig deeper into the episode’s themes, discuss the curatorial and creative process, share the back story behind the film clips, and reflect on the unique experience of engaging South Side artists with this local film archive.

More Spinning Home Movies Episodes: