Media Arts Santa Ana (MASA) is ready to help bridge the digital divide in the arts for Orange County residents with a new digital workspace opening in Santa Ana. The “Tele Visions & Giga Bytes” (TVGB) center at 1666 N. Main St. will host a public grand opening of its 2,000-square-feet gallery on June 11.

Victor Payan, founder and director of MASA, said TVGB’s mission is to “introduce creative and economic outlets for Santa Ana and Orange County residents that are on the other side of the digital divide.”

The notion of the computer digital divide emerged in the late 1990s, when it became clear in American society that some had access to high-speed internet and some didn’t. It is often correlated with a community’s socio-economic status.

Victor Payan, front, guides young filmmakers in the Millennial Producers Academy, a project of Media Arts Santa Ana. Credit: Photo courtesy of MASA

In Santa Ana, the medium household income is $72,406, but the per capita income is only $22,868, according to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau.  

MASA is a community-based digital arts organization that looks to inspire and empower the digital artists through free and accessible youth media classes, workshops, screenings, workforce development and access to technology. Some of MASA’s core programs include the OC Film Fiesta, the OC Cinema Camp, OC Día del Niño Festival and the Millennial Producers Academy.

MASA TVGB Center Opening/Screening of ‘Three Amigos

When: 11 a.m. June 11

Where: 1666 N. Main St., Santa Ana 

Tickets: Free

Contact: masamedia.org

Payan began fortifying the roots of what would become MASA back in 2010, when he started the OC Film Fiesta with the tagline, “A cinematic celebration of Orange County’s diversity and multicultural heritage.”

“After we started the film festival, we started developing more programs and partnerships were key to administering those programs, but now that we have a space, we can do them more regularly,” Payan said.

The new space will be located inside the Santa Ana Arts Collective building right across the street from Norms Restaurant, just one block from the Bowers Kidseum and several blocks from Santa Ana College, Payan said.

The art workspace has come to fruition, thanks in part to Arts Orange County’s (ArtsOC) president and CEO, Richard Stein, and grants awarded to MASA by the California Arts Council last August.

Stein’s relationship with Payan began about 12 years ago, he said, when Payan called him up to say he was starting a new arts organization in Orange County. Stein met with Payan and his wife, Sandra “Pocha Peña” Sarmiento, and learned of their initial vision to create the OC Film Fiesta. Stein said ArtsOC encouraged them and provided Payan and Sarmiento with guidance and has attended the festival periodically over the years, including the first festival held.

“We’ve seen it grow but we also saw them evolve in their thinking of what the mission of their organization could really be in terms of serving community needs best and they saw a real need for youth, in particular, being introduced to the skill sets necessary to exercise their creative muscles,” he added.

After working closely together for the last four to five years, Stein said ArtsOC received a grant from the California Arts Council to work with the Santa Ana Arts Collective.

The project’s developer, META Housing, contacted Stein regarding a grant and an ambition to open a gallery and makerspace in the building. The gallerist was identified and opened when the collective opened in July 2020, however, the makerspace was slow to get activated for a number of reasons including the developer, getting it properly equipped and making sure it was something that would adequately meet the needs of both residents and the community.

“When we saw there hadn’t been a lot of movement on that, and I knew that Victor and Media Arts Santa Ana was looking to find a space of their own, I brought them together with the developers,” Stein said.

Payan, Stein and Meta Housing Executive Vice President Chris Maffris met to discuss the possibility of MASA occupying the workspace and providing some of the services originally envisioned for the makerspace free of charge to residents and locals.

After a few months of hammering out the arrangements, MASA began a plan to move in.

“It’s finally coming to fruition and we’re really delighted because it was always the intention of META Housing in terms of activating those spaces for both its residents and to make it a place where local residents could also come in and take advantage of the opportunities,” Stein said.

With the scheduled grand opening just around the corner, Stein said he is eager to see what progress has been made on the space.

“I think that it’ll be great for Santa Ana to have its own space,” he said. “That’s the hardest issue that almost every nonprofit organization in the arts deals with. Especially in Orange County, where real estate is so expensive. This is a win-win for the developer and for Media Arts Santa Ana.”

Payan said MASA has a broad definition of what media arts are and, in addition to energizing the space with classes, film screenings and guest lectures, it will also hold poetry and performance art.

“Anything you can film is an art form and becomes media art,” Payan said.

MASA is excited to have features at the center such as a 35-foot, 12-feet-high green screen and high-speed internet with 20 ethernet ports.

The TVGB name is inspired by the famous punk club, CBGB, Payan said.

“That’s the kind of energy we want to have there. Something that’s creative and new and comes from the community,” he said.

Susie Lopez-Guerra, director of community relations for the Santa Ana Unified School District, said the workshop’s installation and provision of access to media arts for the community is exciting for those who, like her, were born and raised in Santa Ana.

“If COVID-19 taught us anything, and it taught us a lot, it taught us that nothing can supplant the human connection,” Lopez-Guerra said. “With visual and performing arts and the research we have on the impact it has on social emotional well-being, I have no doubt it’s going to be able to elevate the experiences the community has. 

“It’s going to expand its reach because now it’s not popping up here or there, it’s going to have a home. It’s going to have a permanent home and I think that is the key.”

Emily Melgar is an intern for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at emily.melg@gmail.com.


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