By Judy Carmack Bross
“Free Spirit Media is about a better future that is inclusive of everyone. We build bridges between communities and understanding between individuals, resulting in increased empathy and civic health. The media pieces that our participants create make our world a better informed and more vibrant place.” —Jeff McCarter, Founder & Executive Director, Free Spirit Media
Jeff McCarter, who created Free Spirit Media in 2001, lights up any room with that rare combination of being a free spirit and a grounded community activist determined to help young people from under-resourced communities in transformational ways. Free Spirit’s recent Founders Circle event at the Arts Club showcasing opportunities for emerging creators to produce and distribute original content, proved no exception.
The son of radiant volunteer Judy McCarter and President Emeritus of the Field Museum John McCarter, Jeff once made feature films with Steven Soderbergh and Ron Howard as well as documentaries with PBS and ABC News. He left his New York career behind, choosing instead to work in youth media education in his hometown. Jeff started with HoopsHIGH, a sports broadcasting after school program with two volunteers run out of a school supply closet. Today, a team of 27 highly talented and passionate media production and youth development professionals—including program alumni—now lead Free Spirit Media, which has expanded to offer a comprehensive foundation in media literacy, as well as hands-on media production experience and professional opportunity across seven program sites on Chicago’s West and South sides. Correspondingly, the reach of Free Spirit Media’s programs has grown to serve over 700 Chicago youth ages 14 to 25 annually.
Crucial Conversations, which addressed both the city of Chicago and the nation’s societal challenges, was the topic of the evening’s panel discussion with University of Chicago Professor Cathy Cohen, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Lewis Williams, Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of Burrell Communications, Angellic Ross, an Industry Pathways graduate and Samuel González Kelly, representing Free Spirit Media’s Real Chi program.
The 100 guests engaged with the panelists on how civic, cultural and media innovators are activating effective solutions. The event powerful showcased the importance of Free Spirit Media’s programmatic offerings and greater mission of transforming media and society. Free Spirit Media provides opportunities for emerging creators, primarily from communities of color, to produce and distribute original content and to pursue artistic, personal and professional aspirations.
To learn more about Free Spirit Media visit freespiritmedia.org.
Photo Credit: Briana Shields