Gerald O'Grady

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Gerald "Gerry" O'Grady (30 November 1931, Framingham, MA - 26 March 2019, Boston, MA) was a media scholar and professor of English at the University of Buffalo, who led the media revolution in Buffalo in the early 1970s, making Buffalo among the first cities in the United States to create a public access center for film and video equipment and education.

O'Grady, an Oxford-educated medieval scholar, established the Center for Media Study at the University at Buffalo and Media Study/Buffalo as a not-for-profit image center for Western New York in 1972. While Media Study/Buffalo acquired and lent media equipment to novice and accomplished artists and documentarians, the Center for Media Study formed a creative ensemble of visiting artists to educate graduate students. A steady stream of internationally regarded guest lecturers found an anchor for their activities at the Center for Media Study with an equally regarded assembly of resident faculty-artists (Tony Conrad, Hollis Frampton, Paul Sharits, the Vasulkas and others) from every media discipline.

Gerald O'Grady’s first career was as a medievalist. After studying for a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin (1954-58), he was a Marshall Scholar at St. Antony's College, Oxford University, for the next three years, working with C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Beryl Smalley. He had a huge impact on culture in Buffalo and the world. He was a thought leader, it turned out, along with colleagues John McHale and Marshall McLuhan. The plowshare of his medievalist studies became the camera of a new media for the late twentieth century.

Before moving in 1967 to the State University of New York at Buffalo, he established a Media Center in Houston, Texas under the auspices of John and Dominique deMenil, reflecting his interest in the coming impact of technology on education (McLuhan) and his interest its reform. At that time, in film, there existed only graduate programs in production at NYU, UCLA and USC, and he began to explore curricula for the establishment of historical, interpretive and cultural studies in the field of media. He visited over 100 campuses to observe beginning courses and programs in film or cinema study and, to better understand existing institutional structures, taught seven courses at five different universities each week for the next three years, traveling more than 5000 miles each week between Buffalo, Austin, Texas (Department of Radio/Film/Television), Houston and New York City (Columbia University School of the Arts; New York University Department of Cinema Studies, and New School of Social Research Center for Understanding Media).

He established three new organizations, for all of which he simultaneously served as Director: (1) The Educational Communications Center at SUNY at Buffalo that served all of the media production and classroom exhibition needs of 128 departments and included management of the Public Radio Station, a studio transmitting engineering and business courses to industries on cable television, and the foreign language laboratory; (2) The Center for Media Study, an academic department that offered undergraduate and graduate degrees in film, video and digital production and in media interpretation; and (3) Media Study/Buffalo, a regional community development center that provided access to equipment, workshops and nightly exhibition of media to the Buffalo community.

Media Study/Buffalo was a free-standing public not-for-profit institution, independent from the University, of which he was founder and President of the Board. It provided job training for the unemployed and produced public service materials and other programs for community institutions and city/county/state agencies. Through Media Study/Buffalo he became the producer and host of programs to bring the works of independent media-makers to the attention of national television audiences (Film-Makers and The Frontier through WNED-17 PBS in Buffalo, and The Independents through The Learning Channel in Washington, D. C., which was the first satellite transmission of such works to cable and public stations).

He also was Project Director for two prize-winning documentaries for public television, America Lost and Found and The World of the Fair, both supported by The National Endowment for the Humanities. In all of these projects, the focus was on giving a voice to individuals who had not been heard, supporting a full participation of all persons in civil society and he brought together the finest film, sound and video artists in the world. Their presence in Buffalo helped transform an industrial city into one of higher education and cutting edge art.

During these same years, he served on the media panels of the New York State Council for the Arts, the New York Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and played a role in establishing the guidelines for the support of artists and scholars by each agency, while serving on national committees for the John and Mary Markle and Rockefeller Foundations to set priorities for support of national media resources and services.

Also during these years, he delivered through 1995 over 100 lectures on media pedagogy and the support of independent filmmakers to national and international audiences. In 1994 he became a Ford Foundation Fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute of Afro-American Research at Harvard, while consulting and teaching globally. (Source)


  • "Piers Plowman", in New Catholic Encyclopedia, XI, NewYork: McGraw-Hill, 1967, pp 351-353.
  • "The Great American Good Dream", Rice Alumni Bulletin 4:1, Sep 1965, pp 1-11.
  • "The Preparation of Teachers of Media", The Journal of Aesthetic Education 3(3): "Film, New Media, and Aesthetic Education", Jul 1969, pp 113-134.
  • "Alice's Restaurant--(M)ess, (M)ess, Mein Kind!--Eyeconucopia for U.S.", See 4:4, Jan 1971, pp 24-29.
  • "The Dance of 'The Misfits': A Movie Mobile", The Journal of Aesthetic Education 5(2): "Film II, the Teaching of Film", Apr 1971, pp 75-89.
  • "Teaching the Film", Filmmakers Newsletter 4:12 , Oct 1971, pp 23-30.
  • "Review of Summer Institute", University Film Study Center Newsletter 2:1, Oct 1971, pp 1-2.
  • "Our Space in Our Time: The New American Cinema", Rorr 3:26, 30 Mar 1972, pp 5-9;; exp. ver. in The American Film, ed. Donald Staples, Washington, DC, 1974, pp 171-184.
  • "To Amend the National Foundation of the Arts and Humanities Act of 1965", in Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Education and Labor on H.R. 17021, 93rd Congress, 2nd Session, U.S. House of Representatives.
  • "The Teaching of Film and Television", National Committee on Film and Television Resources and Services, Dec 1975.
  • "Toward a Definition of Media Studies", The Antiochan 46:1, Jan 1975, p 6.
  • "The Spectrum of Cinema", Film Library Quarterly 8:1, 1975, pp 7-16. Conference paper.
  • "Integrating a Cinema Program into a Humanities Curriculum", Ethos 8:21, 27 Feb 1975, pp 6-11.
  • "Consciousness--Codes--Cultures", in ArtTransition '75, MIT, Oct 1975, p 48. Catalogue text. [1]
  • "Sound Track of a Tele-Vision", in The New Television: A Public/Private Art: Essays, Statements, and Videotapes: Based on "Open Circuits: An International Conference on the Future of Television" Organized by Fred Barzyk, Douglas Davis, Gerald O'Grady, and Willard Van Dyke for the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, eds. Douglas Davis and Allison Simmons, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977, pp 222-229. [2]
  • "Bergman: Old Traditions/New Directions", Video17 4:2, Nov 1975, pp 10-11.
  • "Resources for the Oral History of the Independent American Film at Media Study/Buffalo, New York", in Performing Arts Resources, Vol. 3, ed. Edward S. Perry, New York, 1977.
  • "Film Study", in The Independent Film Community: A Report on the Status of Independent Film in the United States, ed. Peter Feinstein, New York, 1977.
  • editor, Rossellini, New York: The Public Theatre, May 1979, 24 pp. Catalogue.
  • editor, From the Crash to the Fair, New York: The Public Theatre, Oct 1979, 16 pp. Catalogue.
  • editor, Beau Fleuve, Paris: Center for Media Arts, Dec 1979, 32 pp. Catalogue. Traveling film and video exhibition.
  • editor, MacDougall: A Retrospective of the Ethnographic Films of David and Judith MacDougall, Buffaly, NY: Media Study/Buffalo, Mar 1980, 24 pp. Tabloid on Conference on Ethnographic Films.
  • "The Frontier: Fact and Symbol", in The Frontier, Buffalo, NY: MediaStudy/Buffalo, Dec 1979. Catalogue text.
  • "Ee-ee-ow! A-yip-i-o-ee-ay! A Farewell to James Blue", The Reporter, Buffalo, NY: State University of New York at Buffalo, 11 Jun 1980; repr. in Media Study/Buffalo, Sep-Dec 1980, pp 30-35; repr. as "Eulogy for James Blue", The Independent 3:5, 1980; repr. as "A Farewell", Houston Breakthrough 5:6, Jul-Aug 1980. [3]
  • "Throwing a Snowball with a Rock in It--A Momentum Mori for Marshall McLuhan", MediaStudy/Buffalo, Jan-Mar 1981; repr. in The Buffalo News, 11 Jan 1981.
  • "Arthur Miller Considered and Reconsidered", The Buffalo News, 8 Mar 1981.
  • editor, Tribute to James Blue, 1930-1980, Ontario Film Theatre/Ontario Science Center, Jun 1981, 12 pp. Catalogue.
  • "Bodies of Knowledge (The Echoes Resound from the Lecture Arnold Gave in Buffalo", The Buffalo News, 23 Jan 1983.
  • "I Have a Dream--Go Tell It on the Mountain", The Reporter 16, 31 Jan 1985, pp 12-13; repr. in The Second Story 16, 16 Jan 1985, pp 3, 10.
  • "Claymation: A Magical New Technique", The Reporter 17, 10 Apr 1986, p 7.
  • "James Baldwin", The Reporter 17, 8 May 1986, pp 7, 10.
  • "Seeing Shoah on Sunday Morning", The Reporter 18, 25 Sep 1986, pp 11, 14.
  • Statement on Marshall McLuhan in Marshall McLuhan: The Man and His Message, eds. George Sanderson and Frank MacDonald, Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 1989, p 20.
  • editor, The Films of the Civil Rights, June 16-24, 1989, New York: The Public Theater, 1989, 48 pp. Catalogue.
  • "James Baldwin and James Blue: Civil Rights in the Age of Film and Television: Black and White Becomes Color", in The Films of the Civil Rights, June 16-24, 1989, New York: The Public Theater, 1989, pp 27-29.
  • editor, Theo Angelopoulos, February 16 - March 9, 1990, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1990, 28 pp. Catalogue.
  • "Tesselations and Honeycombs: The Beekeeper", in Theo Angelopoulos, February 16 - March 9, 1990, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1990, pp 23-24; repr. in Theo Angelopoulos, ed. Andrew Horton, London, 1996.
  • editor, The Banned and the Beautiful: A Survey of Czech Filmmaking, 1963-1990, New York: The Public Theatre, 1990, 64 pp. Catalogue.
  • "Hallelujah for Prague: An American Orbis Picta", The Banned and the Beautiful: A Survey of Czech Filmmaking, 1963-1990, New York: The Public Theatre, 1990, pp 50-69.
  • "Interview with Theo Angelopoulos", The Buffalo News,G1, G4, 16 Sep 1990.
  • "The Films of Hollis Frampton", in Circulating Film and Video Library Catalogue, Vol. 2, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1991, pp 34-38.
  • "The Films of the Civil Rights Movement", program notes for The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, May 1991.
  • editor, Remembering Malcolm X, New York: The Public Theatre, 1990, 12 pp. Catalogue.
  • "Jan Amos Comenius", in Celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the Birth of Comenius, March 28, 1992, UNESCO, 1992.
  • "The New Media Technologies and Human, National and Global Development", in 41st Annual Assembly of The International Council on Education in Teaching, Istanbul, Turkey, Washington, DC, 1994, pp 20-25.
  • editor, Nelson Pereira dos Santos, Cinema Novo's "Spirit of Light, New York: The Film Society of Lincoln Center, 1995, 48 pp. Catalogue.
  • "Interview with Nelson Pereira dos Santos", in Nelson Pereira dos Santos, Cinema Novo's "Spirit of Light, New York: The Film Society of Lincoln Center, 1995, pp 17-22.
  • editor, Makavejev Fictionary: The Films of Dusan Makavejev, Cambridge, MA: The Harvard Film Archive, 1995, 48 pp. Catalogue.
  • "Image, Sound and the Real Person, Richard Leacock", in Vision, Boston Film and Video Foundation, 1995, pp 8-9.
  • editor, with Bruce Posner, Articulated Light: The Emergence of Abstract Film in America, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Film Archive, and New York: Anthology Film Archives, 1995, 16 pp. Catalogue.
  • "Articulated Light: An Appendix", in Articulated Light: The Emergence of Abstract Film in America, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Film Archive, and New York: Anthology Film Archives, 1995, p 3.
  • "The Historic Role of Czechs in the International Media Arts", in Orbis Ficus: New Media in Contemporary Arts, eds. Ludvik Hlavacek and Marta Smolikova, Prague: Soros Center for Contemporary Arts, 1996, pp 14-22.
  • editor, Kenji Mizoguchi, Toronto: Cinemateque Ontario/Toronto International Film Festival, and The Japan Foundation, 1996, 48 pp. Catalogue.
  • "Henry Hampton's Career: From Pettus to Prize", in Vision, Boston Film and Video Foundation, 1996, pp 4-7.
  • "James Blue's Octagon", in The Work of James Blue: A Retrospective, Buffalo, NY: Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, and Buffalo, NY: Burchfield-Penney Art Center, 2005, pp 12-20. [4]
  • [Woody Vasulka's Spherical Knowledge. From Pinhole Camera to Pinball Machine], n.d.
    • "Sférické poznání Woodyho Vasulky. Od dírkové kamery k otvorům v pinballu", trans. Ivan Vomáčka, Iluminace 18:2, ed. Lenka Dolanová, Prague: NFA, 2006, pp 9-30. (Czech)



  • Howard Lindsay, "Gerald O'Grady, Medievalist of the Future", The Educational Forum 36:2, 1972, pp 159-168.
  • Karen Mooney, "Gerald O'Grady: The Perspective from Buffalo", Videoscope 1:2, 1977.
  • Woody Vasulka, Peter Weibel (eds.), Buffalo Heads: Media Study, Media Practice, Media Pioneers, 1973-1990, MIT Press, 2008, 840 pp. [6]
  • Lenka Dolanová, "Buffalo: 1973-1979", in Dolanová, Dialog s démony nástrojů. Steina a Woody Vasulkovi, Prague: Nakladatelství Akademie múzických umění, and Jihlava: Mezinárodní festival dokumentárních filmů Jihlava, 2011, pp 111-130. (Czech)
  • Wish You Were Here: The Buffalo Avant-Garde in the 1970s, ed. Heather Pesanti, Buffalo, NY: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 2012, 208 pp. Catalogue. [7]. Exhibition.