Reflecting on Media Burn’s Past and Future

By Sara Chapman, executive director

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We are deeply grateful for the hundreds of people like you who contribute to help make this work possible.

Video message from Media Burn’s executive director, Sara Chapman
Video production by Meredith Zielke, editing by Media Burn, footage courtesy BLVE Consults


As we close out 2021, I wanted to thank you for being part of Media Burn’s journey.

During my winter break from college in 2003, I first visited the storefront on Irving Park Road. I called Tom up and said I wanted to help with his project, and he agreed to meet me at the new office. It was in a little strip of stores across from the YMCA, way out on the Northwest Side of Chicago. Inside, some wooden shelves had been built, and there were boxes and boxes of tapes everywhere–more than 4,000 in total.

Sara in the archive ca. 2004. Polaroid by Tom Weinberg.

I didn’t know on that day that I would still be surrounded by those tapes, 18 years later.

The 22-year-old me didn’t really know much about archiving or nonprofits. I just wanted to watch the videos.

We had no institutional sponsorship, no government or foundation funders. All we had was a small band of people willing to help figure out how we could realize the dream of creating a little corner of the internet devoted to “our kind of video.” Some people chipped in with expertise or creativity or connections, and some helped pay our rent and buy equipment. It took three years before we got our first grant: $10,000 from the Illinois Arts Council.

The Media Burn gang celebrates our website launch in 2006. Photo by Scott Szczurek.
Top row L-R: Jesse Weinberg, Judy Wallenstein, Russell Porter, Anna Kliner, Jim Morrissette, Jay Doyle, Scott Szczurek
Bottom row L-R: Carolyn Faber, Tom Weinberg, Sara Chapman

We’re no longer a scrappy little band of video freaks. Our video collections have more than doubled. We’ve presented work by some of the world’s best video artists, documentarians, and journalists. We’re a leading institution in the field of video preservation, trusted by top museums, universities, and corporations.

And we’re just getting started.

2022 will see new and expanded public programming, new community collaborations, and more ways for you to get involved.

Stay tuned for our exciting slate of winter Virtual Talks with Video Activists events, the launch of our new Video Lunchbox series, the return to our Chicago Lost and Found series of in-person performance events, a constant stream of newly digitized videos from the Guerrilla Television movement, and more.

We want you to be involved in all of it. Whether it’s a creative collaboration, a social media share, or a financial contribution, everyone matters.

See you soon.



1 Comment

  1. Julie Gustafson says:

    Many, many thanks to you, Sara, to Tom Weinberg and the rest of the board and staff of Media Burn for digitizing and archiving the work of so many pioneering video makers and groups. You’ve been a lifeline to me as I struggled to care for hard to see documentaries and deteriorating camera originals produced in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s by Global Village. Many scholars, students and media makers are unaware of the impact this ‘guerilla video work’ has had on today’s ‘golden age of documentary’ and digital cinema. Knock, knock — the latter is actually state of the art video. Keep on keepin’ on, Media Burn. The work you are doing is incredibly valuable.

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