Maria Venuto, Executive Director, The Standby Program

Maria VenutoMaria Elena Venuto is Executive Director of The Standby Program, a New York City based non-profit that provides artists and cultural organizations with media post-production and preservation services. A innovative model for the field, Standby partners with private sector post-production facilities to provide access to high-end technology at low rates. Prior to relocating to NYC in 1992, Maria was the Technical Director at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in her hometown of Buffalo, NY. As a film and videomaker, she has created over a dozen film and video projects, which have been broadcast and screened at film festivals internationally.

What drew you to this work?
It started with a passion for watching and creating moving images and the realization that I wanted to be around media art as much as possible. The people, the tools, the ideas, there’s a lot to love about it. I want to support and be part of the creative process of independent thinkers and artists.

What keeps you engaged with this work?
Media art is part of who I am and how I identify myself in the world. Working in the non-profit art sector can be challenging, particularly economically, but I enjoy being in an environment that allows me to interact with other makers and support them in achieving their vision. It's rewarding in a way that can't be quantified.

What was the most pivotal moment of your leadership journey?
Being appointed Executive Director of The Standby Program. I started in 1993 as Operations Manager and was appointed Executive Director in 1995. It's a job I grew into, having come from more of a technological background as opposed to an administrative one. I received a lot of mentorship and support from former Standby staff Marshall Reese, Nora Fisch and Kathy High.

What are your strengths as a leader?
A passion about creating positive change, tenacity, and a good sense of humor.

How do you stay on top of your game?
Balancing the various aspects of my life and blending them as much as possible. My partner Bill Seery (another influential person in my life and career) has a shared passion for media art. We recently took our daughters (ages 7 and 4) to see a screening of early experimental media works. Getting their reactions provided me with a lot of fresh insights.

What are you working on that gets you excited and inspired?
Assisting in the creation of new work is always inspiring, but I’m equally excited about the older work we’re preserving through Standby. During my tenure, we have created a program to provide reasonably priced, comprehensive magnetic media preservation services for video and audio, designed specifically to meet the needs of artists and organizations. This has resulted in the preservation of fascinating work from Appalshop, Anthology Film Archives, Franklin Furnace, Muse Film & Television, The Kitchen, the Experimental Television Center and many others that might not have survived otherwise. It’s particularly rewarding to see pieces that were created through Standby decades ago come back to us to be digitized and preserved.


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