Second year for ArtPrize film category

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One of the best, hidden secrets of ArtPrize is “ArtPrize on Screen” — the free mini film festival that shows innovative pieces of cinema. For the second year in a row, both Celebration! Cinema and the Michigan Film and Digital Office partnered with ArtPrize to present twelve new narrative and short films.

From September 20 to23, ArtPrize on Screen featured six critically-acclaimed documentaries from the past year. Added to the list was a Michigan-made short film curated by the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts. Most of the films were paired with a community partner. These organizations, in partnership with Celebration! Cinema, hosted post-film discussions on themes and topics that resonated with the crowd. Emily Loeks, Celebration! Cinema’s Director of Community affairs, said that they wanted each film to connect to the Grand Rapids community. “We wanted to tell stories of people who are in our midst,” she explained.

This year’s films differ vastly from last year’s line-up, which included more indie and drama films. Eric Kuiper – Chief Creative Officer for Celebration! Cinema – explained that this decision was deliberate. He chose films that gave a broader view of what is happening in the world of film right now. “Documentary films are art. There are a lot of interesting things in storytelling happening in docs, and they deserve space as much as any other type of film,” he said.

Coincidentally, one of the films chosen to be presented in this ArtPrize space literally reflects it. “More Art Upstairs” documents peripheral stories of ArtPrize Seven, which took place in 2015.

At first, “More Art Upstairs” seems to be a typical documentary giving a behind-the-scenes look at one of the largest art competitions in the world. It starts by following four talented Art Prize artists from different parts of the country to document their ArtPrize experience from the conception of their piece to the final round of voting. The portrayal of these sweet, quirky artists grips the viewer by portraying them as relatable and comprehensible. This type of relatability shatters a common view of art that is insular and uninviting by altering the belief that artists are on an unreachable level of culture and sophistication. Yes, artists are innovative and talented—but they’re also people, just like us.

The film, like ArtPrize itself, shares this vision of the art world as something that is personal and attainable. It creates a space where people can “let go of what they think art needs to be” and just see it for what it is, as Kevin Buist, ArtPrize’s Director of Exhibitions explained. The film encourages people to pay attention to art, engage with it, and start conversations to learn about other people’s worldview. Ultimately, the film is an introspective experience that asks: “What is art to you, and why does it matter?”

It is contemplative questions like these that ArtPrize on Screen sought to ask with each documentary. And although this year’s festival has come and gone, we can’t wait to see what films are in store for the future.