Kathy Bisbee is the executive director of Brookline Interactive Group (BIG), a community media arts center in Brookline, MA, and the founder/director of the Public VR Lab, the first community XR lab in the U.S. The Lab provides all creators with access to XR tools and equipment, to classes and week-long trainings, artists’ residencies and fellowships, and collaborative support to develop content in the public interest. Kathy brings her extensive background as a community organizer, curious technologist, and cultural documentarian to her experimental, civic-focused, and collaborative work.
Originally from the woods of northwestern Maine, Kathy is an award-winning, multidisciplinary storyteller, producing traditional documentary content in the U.S. and in Latin America for broadcast and film festivals. In 2017, Kathy co-produced and demoed a global air pollution XR experience with partner Datavized, Inc., for the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, Kenya. Kathy is the producer/director of Arrival: Immigration in Full Frame, the first collaborative national immersive media project curating the immigration story of Americans from pre-1620 through 2018 in a visual XR timeline.
Kathy has worked collaboratively with journalism teams at the Boston Globe, with Women in Next Realities and Boston VR, and with the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). She shares her expertise at conferences for the Alliance for Community Media, NATOA, Education First, Boston Jewish Film Festival, VR/ARA VR Storytelling Symposium, Berklee XR, organized the first VR Eco-hackathon, and curated the immersive content for the 2016 and 2017 Northampton Film Festival.
As a Lead Creative Designer at the Public VR Lab, Nir generates VR/AR/360 storytelling through graphic design, video production, and interactive design. Nir has a BA in graphic design from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, Israel. Throughout his career, Nir has created opening titles for TV programs at ESPN and HBO, directed music videos, designed over a hundred book covers, and has taught interactive design in Tel Aviv and at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Nir also directed an award-winning short documentary film called “Fluent by Christmas,” about his son’s adjustment to life in the US.
Co-Created by BIG Staff
As the Manager of Engagement and Education, Erin manages partnerships with local organizations, community events, marketing, orientation tours for new members, and outreach efforts.
Erin has an MA in Media, Culture, and Communication and a background in media literacy, and is passionate about encouraging critical thinking about the media we consume and create. In her free time, she loves swimming, cheering on the Red Sox, dominating the dance floor at weddings, and a strong cup of coffee.
As the IT/Systems Administrator, Andrew is responsible for managing BIG’s website, YouTube page, OSX development, and programming our cable channels. He also runs productions in BIG’s studio and built our VR setups.
In his free time, Andrew is an avid Patriots fan and has a love of video games.
In her role as Community Engagement Coordinator at BIG, Shannen Ortale produces journalism/media content for the organization, teaches media production classes to children and adults, and helps facilitate community media arts projects. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Writing, Literature & Publishing from Emerson College. She has produced music videos, commercials, and short films as a freelance filmmaker, and is a programmer for the Boston Underground Film Festival.
As the Virtual Reality Coordinator, Josh organizes and facilitates our virtual reality demos and events as well as developing VR and immersive content at BIG. Josh is a self-described VR Evangelist and futurist who loves helping the public discover the amazing potential that VR has to offer as a new immersive medium.
Josh is currently Studying computer programming, at Quincy College. He is an avid gamer (board and video games) and dreams of making his own VR experiences and stories.
Carey Averbook is a photographer and designer creating interactive multimedia works grounded in the transdisciplinary investigation of compelling social issues and personal narratives. A fluent Spanish speaker and facile interpreter of diverse cultures, I bring to life critical social and environmental issues challenging the US and Central and South America. My recent work dissects climate change impacts in the lives of Bolivian women, migrant sensibility and transnational bridges, and queer time. I have an M.A. in New Media Photojournalism from George Washington University’s Corcoran School of Arts and Design and a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am based in Washington D.C. and travel extensively in Central and South America.
Sarah is a graduate of the Stanford MFA in Documentary Film and Video program, and an alumnus of Emerson College. After living in Silicon Valley, Sarah became fascinated with virtual reality and began working with startups developing 360 camera rigs and content. She is a fellow in the Oculus Launchpad program for emerging leaders in VR, and seeks to explore the storytelling potential of this new medium. Sarah is also an educator, and believes in increasing access to new media and fostering diverse voices to enter the field.
Rebecca Chadwell likes a good story. She manages Spokane Women/Art/Media, co-founded the Richmond Art Collective which provides live/work spaces for artists, and has guided future rock stars at Girls Rock Lab. Currently, she is working with Inland Media in the movement toward innovation and inclusion in digital storytelling.
Aggie Ebrahimi Bazaz
Aggie Ebrahimi Bazaz is an Iranian American documentary filmmaker with interests in diasporic identity and migration. Aggie’s first film, Inheritance (2012, 27 min), a poetic autobiography on the relationship between political and personal revolts, earned the Loni Ding Award for Social Issue Documentary at CAAMFest 2013 and the Best Short Film award at the 2015 Indie Grits Film Festival. Aggie has been artist-in-residence at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Skidmore Storytellers Institute, and Interlochen Center for the Arts. She earned her Master of Arts degree in Multicultural Literature, where she served as a researcher for the Emmy Award-winning digital humanities project, the Civil Rights Digital Library. Aggie currently serves as Assistant Professor of filmmaking at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania and continues work on a long-term project embedded within a farmworking community in California’s Central Valley.
Pipa Escalante grew up in the Philippines and made a living as a freelance filmmaker. She moved to Unalaska, Alaska a remote island in the Aleutian Chain in 2004. She was a volunteer for the community TV station, KUCB Channel 8 TV and eventually became its Operations Manager and Arts & Culture Director. Her involvement in the community and her interactions with residents, volunteers, and agencies, shaped the video producer she is now. The community has influenced her to not just be creative but also be a compassionate filmmaker, an open-minded listener and responsible storyteller. Her goal is to share stories that strengthen communities and allow varying perspectives. She currently manages the City of Everett’s government channel, producing videos for the City’s social media and broadcast network, from government meetings to stories that highlight people, programs, and community. She plans to interview residents of Everett and work with a journalist in Alaska, Anne Hillman, to share stories from the two U.S. states that she’s called home.
Danny Flores is an undocumented artist and filmmaker for the latinx and queer community. As a filmmaker, Flores develops projects that explore his identity and cultural dissonance, for example his short film Freak of Nature, a personal video diary, sheds light on the issues of transphobia and dysphoria.
Aakanksha Gupta is a recent graduate originally from New Delhi, India. She completed the Master’s program Civic Media: Art and Practice (CMAP) from Emerson College in September 2018. As part of this experience, she worked with Brookline Interactive Group and Public VR Lab to create an online resource for mediamakers: Community Storytelling Guide: Best Practices to Convey Stories About Migration. Having lived in three countries, Aakanksha is amazed by how different kinds of media travel and impact people across the globe in both similar and different ways. She is very passionate about storytelling as a means to empower communities, especially to raise awareness about migration in today’s sociopolitical climate. In her free time, Aakanksha loves exploring movies, music and photography.
Matt Henderson & Open Signal
Open Signal is a media arts center in Portland, Oregon with a vision for community-driven media. With a commitment to creativity, technology and social change, Open Signal makes media production possible for everyone. We provide skills, equipment, inspiration and we amplify local voices on five cable channels. Launched in January 2017, Open Signal builds upon the legacy of Portland Community Media (PCM), an organization that empowered thousands of Portlanders to access video and television technology during its 35-year history. Matt Henderson is a multidisciplinary artist, community organizer, and head of Open Signal’s new Immersive Media Lab (IM Lab).
Currently the Executive Director for WestfordCAT, with more than 20 years of experience in community access television, Lauren Horton started her involvement in community access as an independent producer in Bedford, New Hampshire and Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. She’s produced many programs for community television, and has received regional awards for a documentary of the affordable housing crisis on Martha’s Vineyard and for a mural artist profile in Manchester NH. In the 1990s she served on the Board of Overseers for her hometown of Bedford (New Hampshire) and helped start the town’s community television station. Her first documentary was on a school project of presidential candidate visits during the New Hampshire First in the Nation Primary. In 2000 she moved to Oak Bluffs and helped start the community access television station there, assisted by community access professionals in Plymouth and Falmouth. In 2005 she returned to New Hampshire and worked for Manchester Public Television as the operations director before joining WestfordCAT in 2010. Prior to her career in community television, she worked for Digital Equipment Corporation’s marketing and strategic planning group for office automation products. Lauren has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UMASS Amherst and a master’s degree in business administration from Southern New Hampshire University.
Juan Mas has been entrenched in the indie film world for over 30 years. Coming up the ranks the old fashion way has helped him become a seasoned producer and director of television, film and theater with budgets ranging from $2000 to $20 million. He has had the opportunity to work abroad and produce in Croatia, Lithuania, Hungary, for Warner International, TNT and Hallmark as well as over the United States doing features, television shows and mini-series. He has resided in Spokane for the last 19 years where he is actively involved with the Spokane Film, Theater, Music and Art scene as producer and director. Besides directing for the last five years ON SYFY’s ZNation he continues to create digital content through his company Purple Crayon Pictures and a conglomerate of independent film makers known as the SPOKANE FILM PROJECT , which he is a founding member and INLAND MEDIA. He also continues to produce and direct live theater in Spokane. He is presently working on an immersion theater series with TERRAIN, Spokane. He is a co-founder of 50 Hour Slam Film Festival, and serves on the advisory board and committees for Washington Film Works, Spokane Falls Community College Photography/ Video department, One Heart Native Art and Film Festival and Fired Up Film Festival,( a teenager created and run film festival). He is an avid advocate for the continual growth and development of the arts especially film and theater in Washington State and the eclectic city of Spokane.
Samantha Mustari is a filmmaker and artist focused on telling stories that empower and highlight underrepresented perspectives. She studied filmmaking at Emerson College, where she has been able to make many short films, including her BFA thesis film MARION, and begin her work in the virtual reality world. Samantha has been thrilled to work alongside Brookline Interactive Group to create A Different Lens, and is so excited to share this story. Her recent work includes doing research and development on films and television shows between Los Angeles and New York City. Samantha hopes to get more involved with virtual reality and wants to continue to explore the different ways this unique medium can be used.
Krystle Nowhitney Hernandez
Krystle Nowhitney Hernandez is the Deputy Director of the Saratoga County Equal Opportunity Council. As an oral historian, an educator, and a nonprofit leader she is rapidly growing into a recognized, statewide advocate for immigrant rights. Krystle brings her experiences and intelligences to bear on working alongside immigrant communities in ways that are deeply compassionate, ethical, brilliantly informed by impressive knowledge in policy and sociopolitical theory, and driven by a desire to find solutions that are rooted in community concerns and realities.
We continuously catalyze growth in our walkable, urban core by implementing policies and plans that usher in a new era of community and economic development underscored by a high-quality environment. High-level plans include community farms, bee farms, sidewalk activation, and, of course, plenty of public art. Through our community policing, we collaborate with the Departments of Public Works, Health, and Police to demonstrate a healthy, viable area that is safe for all residents. To fulfill the holistic merits of Transit-Oriented Development and Complete Streets policies, we work directly with residents, government officials, and private stakeholders. We execute outreach strategies throughout the MetroWest and greater Boston to promote downtown Framingham’s business-ready infrastructure and people-ready amenities, such as our restaurants, art studios, entertainment, and nine outdoor active spaces. We encourage local spending at our small businesses which directly generates increased local prosperity. Through our community strolls, cultural & historic tours, and numerous events, we bring neighbors together from across Framingham and the MetroWest to create a tangible sense of reliable, supportive community.
PhillyCAM is Philadelphia’s public access television station and community media center that brings together the people of Philadelphia to make and share media that promotes creative expression, democratic values and civic participation. A team of PhillyCAM members, producers and staff have collaborated to explore the possibilities of using 360 storytelling and VR to reveal hidden histories and placed based stories in Philadelphia.
Hannah is a full-time video editor for Hamilton Studio with a passion for story-telling. She is very excited to be a part of this project and work with a great team of people to explore the world of VR filmmaking.
Melissa Skolnick-Noguera is a multimedia artist and writer. Since 2010, she has been working with nonprofits and arts organizations throughout Philadelphia, while using a range of tools for community building and storytelling. She holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Delaware. Through her documentary work, Melissa collaborates with organizations and artists to advocate for equality. She has partnered with the Reentry Think Tank, Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice, Media Mobilizing Project, GSE Films, Taller Puertorriqueño, and others to create multimedia projects. She also works with Latin American and immigrant communities to document multifaceted stories of arts, culture, and justice. Her projects have screened at local film festivals, conferences, and community centers, in order to spark dialogue and action across audiences. She received the Leeway Foundation Window of Opportunity (’17) and Art & Change (’12) grants, and was a Movement Media Fellow (‘14) with Media Mobilizing Project.
Adam Strom is the Director of The Re-Imagining Migration Project. He is the former Director of Scholarship and Innovation at Facing History and Ourselves. He authored, edited, and produced numerous digital, print and video resources and publications including Washington’s Rebuke to Bigotry: Reflections On Our First President’s 1790 Letter to the Hebrew Congregation In Newport, Rhode Island, Stories of Identity: Religion, Migration and Belonging in a Changing World, Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement 1954-1986, Crimes Against Humanity and Civilization: The Genocide of the Armenians.
Leilani Thomas is a storyteller, creator, post production editor and travel enthusiast. She believes that the best stories come from those who open their hearts and minds to experiencing new cultures and new places. Leilani studied Marketing and Visual Productions at Emerson College where she found a love for video production, virtual reality, and had the joy of living in Boston, MA, Valencia, Spain, and Los Angeles, CA. She currently lives in Boston where she works at a marketing agency in digital marketing and media production. Through her work, she travels the country assisting in managing, producing, and directing video, photo, and virtual tour shoots.
Amada Torruella is a Salvadoran artist, storyteller and community organizer; her work explores identity, language, migration, globalization and cultural dissonance. She studied Visual Communications in Lyon, France, and as a journalism intern, has worked for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Salvadoran government. She is a National Association of Latino Arts and Culture Leadership Institute fellow. Amada was the film programmer at the Nickelodeon Theatre, South Carolina’s only non-profit art house cinema for the past three years. Currently she is based in Santa Ana, California and collaborates on various filmmaking projects in Central America and the American South.
Hello! I am Dr. Precious Vida Yamaguchi, and yes, that is my real name! My father named me because I was an awesome baby though he probably never knew I would have to endure people acting out their best Gollom impression from Lord of the Rings (“my precious….”) throughout my life. My recent book, The Journeys and Strength of Japanese American Women: Stories and Life Experiences During and After World War II, was published by Rowman and Littlefield/Lexington Books in 2015. I have my doctorate in Communication Studies from Bowling Green State University’s School of Media and Communication Studies with research emphases in critical/cultural studies, international communication, intercultural communication, and digital media. My academic research is interdisciplinary, focusing broadly on issues of culture, identity, generation, technology, social media, and international textile markets. Recently, I’ve been taking 360-degree photos of former Japanese American internment camp sites in the U.S. All four of my grandparents were U.S. citizens and incarcerated in the various internment camps during World War II. I am a free-spirited world traveler and have taught at a private university, a state university, an international university, a community college, a culinary institute, and a women’s college with diverse populations of students and faculties. I’ve finally settled down as an Associate Professor of Communication at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon, with my husband, baby, and Boston Terrier.