Knapp Center to host Film and Media Studies


Sofiia Zaruchenko

The façade of the future Knapp Film & Media Studies Center downtown.

Daniel Stewart, Staff Writer

After years of preparation, Film and Media Studies is finally being offered as a concentration this Fall. Like all concentrations at Grinnell, the Film and Media Studies concentration emphasizes an interdisciplinary focus. Prospective students can expect to take classes in English, theater, and even computer science in conjunction with core film classes.

The program sets itself apart from other academic film programs not only with its interdisciplinary structure, but by stressing the importance of media production in curriculum while still being grounded in theory. However, the concentration still lacks a dedicated space on campus

Chair of the Film and Media Studies and Assistant Professor of Spanish Nick Phillips stated that the administration has been supportive in launching the program. Nevertheless, it has been a challenge to find which space works best for students. 

Courses, events, and related programming for students are currently split between the Humanities and Social Studies Center (HSSC) and Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. This has created myriad complications for students, such as lugging heavy audio-visual equipment from building to building.

There has been an ongoing conversation about which space Film and Media Studies should primarily occupy on campus: the HSSC, which would emphasize Film and Media Studies as a social study, or Bucksbaum, which would emphasize it as an artistic medium.

Phillips discussed some of the other constraints that came with not having a dedicated space to house the concentration. “Film and Media Studies does have some additional budgetary needs that other programs don’t have. It’s very expensive to run the equipment that is necessary, [which is] also very spatially sensitive.”

However, there is a space off-campus currently in reconstruction stages that will have the dedicated space needed for the concentration, a project expected to be finalized in 2025: The Knapp Film and Media Center, housed in a 100-year-old renovated auto garage. When the Center opens its doors, it will be the first academic building in downtown Grinnell.

The Knapp Film and Media Center was made possible by a leading gift commitment from alumnus Dick Knapp ’76. Knapp helped fund a number of other Grinnell College projects in town, notably including the Pioneer Bookstore. Knapp did not respond to our request for comment. 

This project, and the concentration that it will house, are representative of new directions for the College both infrastructurally and academically.

The new concentration provides opportunities that all students can benefit from. Recently, it co-sponsored a talk by Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker Dawn Porter on campus. In addition to Porter’s presentation, she also sat in on some of Visiting Assistant Professor Nich Perez’s film classes, discussing her career in the discipline.

Perez joined the Film and Media Studies faculty this fall as a temporary replacement for Prof. Nicky Tavares, who is currently on sabbatical and is credited as laying much of the groundwork for the Film and Media Studies concentration. Perez expressed excitement about new opportunities students can participate in, including the potential for a student-run film festival this spring, and the new space downtown.

The town of Grinnell holds a wealth of opportunities for expansion. Phillips mentioned that he hopes the College continues to grow with the Knapp Center. 

While it’s still a long process in the making, this new space would allow students to intentionally focus on their study of film while also being involved in community, linking the objectives of the concentration with the College’s emphasis on social responsibility.