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Gainesville’s Civic Media Center Celebrates 20th Anniversary

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Gainesville’s Civic Media Center celebrated a milestone Friday night.

“We’re celebrating that we’ve made it 20 years through grassroots community support,” said CMC coordinator Robbie Czopek, 30.

The CMC hosted a block party Friday to celebrate the second decade since its founding.

The CMC is an alternative library and radical infoshop with over 10,000 books, DVDs and CDs in its inventory. It’s also a hub for local organizations to congregate and work.

The Civic Media Center is an alternative library and community organizing space. It is frequently used to host events, group meetings and guest speakers.
The Civic Media Center is an alternative library and community organizing space. It is frequently used to host events, group meetings and guest speakers.

Zealous community involvement is what has kept the CMC relevant and essential to Gainesville culture, Czopek said.

Volunteer Fred Pratt, 57, said events such as movie screenings or visits from guest speakers are a big draw and were part of the reason he visited the CMC long before he began volunteering a couple of months ago.

“It’s a place where the community can come in and just interact,” he said.

The support of groups and individuals has kept the CMC afloat for two decades since it takes about $5,000 per month to operate, according to Czopek.

“We’re entirely supported through our membership program, which is $10 to $50 per year, sliding scale,” he said, “And then by donations at our events.”

Birthday donations at the block party are requested and appreciated, but there is no entry fee.

“We don’t turn anyone away,” Czopek said.

The celebration of community support is more apt than ever in light of the small neighborhood of progressive businesses that has formed around the CMC.

“The block we’re on has blossomed,” Czopek said. “When we first moved to this location a little over four years ago, we were pretty much the only thing going on in this block.”

The CMC’s neighbors now include the Sequential Artists Workshop, the Citizens Co-Op and Wild Iris Books, which opened there over the summer. Radical Press Coffee, an in-house addition to the CMC, opened in April.

Radical Press co-owner Kenzie Cooke, 21, said breathing life into the CMC was the initial motivation behind the founding of the coffee shop.

“One of the biggest reasons we decided to open is because people thought it would be a good idea to have a coffee shop inside the CMC, to just bring new energy in,” she said.

Czopek said his future hopes for the CMC include continuing to work with their neighbors to help make the block as a whole more comfortable, inviting and cohesive. There are also plans to rearrange the inside of the CMC to use the space more effectively, and the long-term goal is to buy the building and cement the CMC’s location.

“I’ve been to a lot of infoshops, and none of them last very long in a lot of other places,” Cooke said. “And the CMC’s been around 20 years. It’s solid.”

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