Philo began three years ago as a solution to the question that often arises when pondering our current social landscape; “what can I do to help.” We wanted to build an original platform for tackling social issues that we could organize and orientate ourselves from. Being that our backgrounds were fermented in film and social issues the underlying foundation inevitably was video-centric, socially conscious and collectively constructed. We refined what that meant to us for a while before arriving at the motivating idea; we are a nonprofit promoting good by using digital media and collective social energy. 

Still, understanding how this philosophy could be effective when trying to help improve social issues was a challenge. We originally, started by pairing other non-profits with businesses/social institutions in an effort bring awareness from one party to the next. We would act as an organizing agent and try to encourage the use of digital media to further educate audiences about certain issues. Specifically, we started working with Hamilton to develop an idea for diversifying curriculum through film. This became a monumental project involving local teachers, nonprofits, and community members. Ultimately we realized that we had started a 5-6 year project and decided to, in addition to the Hamilton project, cultivate other ideas that were orientated around bringing awareness to the community instead of just one individual business/social institution. 

Coming off of our research for Hamilton we grew more confident that spreading awareness through socially orientated films was effective and well received so we developed a pop-up theater concept. Our idea was to have a short enticing experience that would bring awareness to certain social issues, Philo, and local non-profits. As a result, we connected with Pearl Street Brewery and began hosting monthly movie showings. We elected a movie with a relevant social issue and invited local non-profits to come and elaborate on the issue. Once again we acted as an organizing agent and also offered insight on what to look out for within the movie. We raised money at these events and donated profits to the partnered nonprofit. In total we donated just over $1000 dollars in a years time, hosted a variety of non-profits and had some great community conversations. 

Eventually, life intervened and demanded the team’s attention to be more focused on personal endeavors.  Specifically, Lia was graduating college, Tyler was raising his newborn and Cameron was traveling for work. Still, Philo’s bigger projects kept developing and smaller projects kept being generated. Specifically, during this time Philo was able to recycle a number of old laptops, cameras and other digital equipment being thrown away by larger production companies and donate them to various non-profits in LaCrosse WI. This was done in an attempt to help grow local nonprofit’s toolbox with devices we valued. Despite life’s demands Philo managed to keep integrating itself into the community. 

Specifically, the PumpHouse caught the attention of Philo with their annual Artspire event. Enticed by the opportunity to be the Interactive Arts Coordinator Philo moved forward with designing exhibits that allowed audiences to experience social issues via digital devices. We worked closely with the Artspire committee to secure a grant that allowed us to invest in Oculus VR headset in addition to other smaller devices. We premiered virtual reality movies that transported the user to places all over the world. Seeing the responses from people the team started brainstorming ways to familiarize the community with virtual reality in a way so that it can be viewed as a tool to enhance our community. 

Virtual reality is our current endeavor, well, that and managing our own lives. Which presents its own challenges. Specifically, because Lia, Tyler and Cameron are young and hungry we have a lot of personal exploring to do. In that spirit, Cameron and Lia decided to move to California to work. While part of the team resides in CA it is not uncommon to see everyone in LaCrosse quite frequently as we are working implanting VR and other Philo projects. So keep an eye out and stay pensive.