United Media Arts Studies (UMAS)
Ten years ago a group of artists who were working in video stepped back to survey the scene and realized that there were small and diminishing opportunities for artists working in video. There was little dialogue with the visual arts community or with other video art centres-of-activity around the world. It was these and other observations which led that group of artists to create United Media Arts Studies (UMAS), a loosely structured organization which would undertake projects designed to fill in the gaps left by the existing artist-run and public institutions.
UMAS began in 1983 by commissioning artists to make videotapes. After it had commissioned and produced a dozen works by artists, it started to publish and promote them in a videotape anthology called DIDEROT. (DIDEROT is available on VHS for sale to the public through art book retailers and its price is comparable to the price of a book.) In 1986 UMAS, in collaboration with Trinity Square Video (Toronto), hosted a symposium designed to analyse and challenge the relationship between video art producers and television broadcasters. Representatives from mainstream television broadcasters, regulatory agencies and alternative broadcasters such as CKLN, Global Village and the Innuit Broadcasting Corporation, were on hand to discuss their policies towards video art and independent producers, and to receive comments, criticisms and suggestions from the many artists present.
More recently UMAS has begun to tackle the question of international dialogue around the media arts. In 1991 it organized an exhibition of Canadian video art which was shown at four museums and galleries in Europe, and UMAS now distributes international video art to Canadian art colleges and universities.
UMAS also hosts an annual artist-in-residence program: Andrea van der Straeten (Germany) and Jochen Traar (Austria) were invited to live and work in UMAS's studio for two months during the summer of 1993; the Vasulkas and PRINZGAU/podgorschek will be invited during the summer of 1994. UMAS's studio is located in an historic mill in Durham, Ontario, two hours northwest of Toronto.