The growing team at Mass Epiphany Studios and I are very pleased to write this letter introducing our organization, sharing our plans, and enquiring about the possibility of collaboration with you. The paragraphs that follow will expand on these objectives and offer more context for a conversation we hope to schedule.
Mission statement: Creating and facilitating equity, inclusivity, and visibility for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ peoples through arts, media, and economic opportunity.
Origins and purpose
Mass Epiphany Studios is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and social enterprise organization created in 2020 by actor and social rights advocate Joe Miñoso. The concept derives from Miñoso’s career involvements in film and the dramatic arts, and his observations that these areas can offer personal, creative fulfilment as well as real, enduring livelihoods and financial independence. Informed in great part by Miñoso’s activism with various social causes, Mass Epiphany Studio’s concept and orientation are formed around boosting BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities in recognition of their historically marginalized and suppressed socio-economic status.*
Mass Epiphany Studio’s tagline—A key to every room and a seat at every table—underscores our commitment to inclusion through opportunity at all levels. The concept incorporates three program pillars, each individually significant yet supportive of the others:
1.V.O.I.C.E. Academy. This career training program area provides specific and useful career preparation through combined hands-on, class-time, and mentored learning in subjects connected to film and television, and ranging from hair/make-up to stage design and construction. Academy attendees will be primarily young adults who demonstrate interest, capability, and maturity, and each will complete their program path ready for employment.
*BIPOC is an acronym for Black, Indigenous, People of Color; LGBTQIA+ is an abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersexed, Asexual people, and, by extension, is intended to be inclusive of all related identities.
2. Mass Epiphany Studio system and production house. Operating through a standard for-profit model, these spaces serve numerous purposes. In response to Chicago’s lack of available stage sets and recording spaces, we will own, maintain, and lease studios to film and other production companies for commercial use. This process also creates job opportunities for the immediate communities in which they are located and, for Mass Epiphany Studios, will offer employment for V.O.I.C.E. Academy graduates. These spaces will also feed into our third program area, completing a self-supporting circle of opportunity for Mass Epiphany Studios and our affiliates.
3. ME Films. Also operating as a social enterprise, our production company will produce and distribute commercially viable films with casting and content that spotlights the traditionally overlooked demographic groups Mass Epiphany Studios is designed to serve. As with our other program areas, the body of work we produce will underscore our operating credo that financial success should be inclusive, and that meaningful creative success must be inclusive. And, as with the studio and production house, ME Films generates opportunities for both hands-on training and post-graduation experience for VOICE Academy students.
While Mass Epiphany Studios relies on a degree of outside-the-box thinking, our plans are based on a combination of operational best practices for nonprofits, far-reaching community engagement, and sound business management guidelines. Mostly, the project is driven by a strong, apparent need to address lingering conditions that have blocked both creative expression and material independence for many people over time. With this comes an intense energy and desire to thrive within the communities Mass Epiphany Studios will serve.
As noted above, inclusion will characterize Mass Epiphany Studios and its programs, including the significant intentionality with which we approach the greater communities in which we will be located and carrying out our work. Strategic partnerships will be at the core of our work for both practical and philosophical reasons.
Our team includes professionals with expertise in areas of chief importance for the planning and launch of Mass Epiphany Studios such as nonprofit management, program/curriculum development, business and entrepreneurship, finance, and real estate development. We are in the final stages of recruitment for both our governing board and our advisory committee. Our constituency building process involves gathering communities of supporters, whether financial, political, advocacy, or from the nonprofit sector.
Mass Epiphany Studio’s operating model places Managing Directors in lead positions for each of the three program pillars described above. According to need, each will engage full- and part-time staff, technicians, creatives, adjunct faculty, and administrators.
Planning and Decisions
Momentum was established rapidly for Mass Epiphany Studios as a concept, and our team is working hard to maintain the pace as plans are realized. While working closely with architects to generate standard designs and renderings, we have visited and evaluated properties across Chicago, ultimately focusing on a 3+ acre property located in the Belmont-Cragin community on our city’s West Side. This property has passed initial inspections and, showing notable promise for our interests and purposes, remains available. As we focus on program details, continue board expansion, and make planning decisions at all levels, our team is implementing early-stage fundraising that will help us secure this property and begin building our home base.
My team and I approach you because we believe an opportunity exists for collaboration, and that you might find our overall concept and plans interesting.
At this exciting early moment in our work, we seek stakeholders capable of appreciating both the details and the importance of our plans. With this letter and the support pages enclosed, I would like very much to arrange for a conversation in which we can share more about Mass Epiphany Studios, gauge your potential interest levels, and learn your feedback about this project.
We believe Mass Epiphany Studios is capable of initiating real change for thousands of deserving Chicagoans, both at the individual level and, through ripple effect, for people citywide.
We encourage you to visit our website www.massepiphany.com for more thorough information on our vision. We look forward to hearing from you.
For now, please accept our thanks and best wishes.
With kind regards,