As a significant element of the UCF College of Humanities, the Hurston Institute will bring a world focus to the theory and practice of forms of storytelling, cinematic expression, research and programs that encourage civic engagement and meaningfully address the work of excluded communities using an arts, culture and humanities framework that is located outside the interests of the mainstream. Its' concern is creating cultural identity, sustaining community heritage and empowering communities. One of its visions is to preserve the cultural legacy its namesake embodies by employing a multidisciplinary approach to the study and presentation of communities located throughout the African Diaspora, with particular emphasis on Hurston's hometown, Eatonville, Florida, the oldest incorporated municipality in the United States established by people of African ancestry. The Hurston Institute will work in close collaboration with the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, Inc. (P.E.C.) to develop "An Eatonville Curriculum" which will provide a basis for community-wide education and lifelong learning, while at the same time, providing a dynamic cultural context, for UCF students to practice their craft. Further, the Hurston Institute and P.E.C. will collaborate on establishing a structure which will insure that Hurston's multidisciplinary approach to documenting and preserving the culture of people of African ancestry becomes "institutionalized" within the American academy. The African Diasporic focus of the Hurston Institute will encompass most specifically the places where Zora Neale Hurston conducted field studies, namely in Haiti and in Jamaica, with additional program outreach to various regions of the African continent.
Our world cinemas framework recognizes the convergent interests of marginalized communities, whose needs are not addressed in mainstream cinema. We are concerned not only with the storytelling, intellectual, artistic and technological, but also with the civic implications of filmmaking. As a result, on the local scene, the institute seeks to study the use of cinema within a framework of community and social responsibility as well as foster a filmmaking practice built on the creation and management of independent films with an understanding of the entrepreneurial and aesthetic demands of contemporary society. Our definition of documentary includes the traditional genre of reportage, but utilizes a broader view of documentary as a way of seeing—a technique of experiencing, interrogating and reflecting on our world through cinema. Our principal concern is the exploration of forms of storytelling that allow our target communities to advantageously use film, video, digital media and different types of programs, in innovative and creative ways to articulate community voice and agency.