Long before YouTube, amateur performers flocked to public access television for exposure and self-expression—and New York City was home to the first public access television station in the world.
The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria is paying tribute to the history of public access television with "TV Party: A Panorama of Public Access Television In New York." The series of screenings celebrates the medium unofficially known as the city's "off-off-off-off Broadway."
The material on view is a quirky mix of book clubs, church choirs, naked talk-show hosts, and almost everything else under the sun. Most of it came from private collectors and from the Fales Library at N.Y.U.
Public access enthusiast and show co-curator Nicolas Rapold says that the programming documents a different era in New York City. “Public access has always been a quintessential part of an older, grittier New York,” says Rapold. “There hasn’t really been a large-scale show about the history of public access in New York. There are a lot of really fun programs, and lots of interesting overlaps with other parts of New York culture.”
Co-curator Leah Churner says that aspiring artists often used public access television as a creative medium. “It’s no coincidence that New York has always had a high volume of creative types, so it’s not too surprising that New York’s public access programming was often very creative also,” Churner says.
"TV Party: A Panorama of Public Access Television In New York" screens twice this weekend at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. Check out the trailer below.