Art Out Loud: A Festival for Bold Conversations

An innovative, inspiring film festival is back again at Saugatuck Center for the Arts, but with a new approach.

What was once known as Mountainfilm on Tour is now Art Out Loud Festival, a multi-week experience that centers on one big community festival. Packed with action, adventure and excitement, Art Out Loud is serving up a day full of creativity through award-winning short documentaries (provided by Mountainfilm on Tour) alongside tours of SCA’s current exhibition, outdoor hikes and an after party with live music.

To learn more about what’s new at the festival this year and why you should join, we talked with Whitney Valentine, education and exhibitions manager.

Can you tell us why you made the shift to Art Out Loud?

We rebranded our spring festival to allow for annually broadening our approach, our scope, partners and our community engagement. Art Out Loud is an inspiring trifecta for us: utilize a variety of art mediums (one of which is film) to provoke bold conversations while celebrating our beautiful local landscape and gazing outward at more global perspectives. This immersive experience engages all senses, and highlights the impact of artful collaboration for all ages. 

What’s the big event Art Out Loud hinges on? 

Art Out Loud is centered around and inspired by Mountainfilm on Tour. The festival has been designed to spark wonder and provide inspiration during an otherwise gray and inactive time of year. Our 2-day experience is centered around storytelling and community: both days are packed-full parties, with Friday (March 24) as our all ages outdoor kickoff and Saturday (March 25) as a day full of themed film screenings.

Curious minds, adventure lovers, storytellers, environmentalists, film buffs, and entertainment enthusiasts will enjoy the Art Out Loud experience. At only a 30-45 minute drive from Grand Rapids, guests can come for the day or make a mini-vacation out of it and stay overnight! 

What would you say people get out of viewing these films?

Viewing the film “playlists” allows viewers to broaden their perspectives, travel the globe, embrace adventure, learn about different cultures, activism, social justice initiatives and inspire audiences about several different topics. Films will motivate viewers and communities to advance solutions for a livable, equitable world.

Take a deep dive into cultures, stories, and traditions from around the globe through film, music, food, and more. Open minds and hearts through reels of award-winning short films provided by Mountainfilm on Tour (via the acclaimed Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, CO).  Playlists feature films about our climate, our waterways, creatures and adrenaline rushing adventure; as well as stories of triumph, trauma, adaptive sports and so much more. 

What are some other aspects you’re excited about?

In addition to the film playlists, we’re really excited about the multi-sensory elements of the festival. We’ll be highlighting several talented Michigan creatives over the course of these two days: SCA Creative Fellow Chef Mindy Trafman, SCA Exhibition Artists Ruth Crowe, Corridor Exhibition Artist (and Grand Rapids based) Megan Megan Klco Kellner and jazz pianist Rufus Ferguson. 

Can you maybe say something short and sweet about The Journal Project and the mini-tours with the Ruth Crowe as well?

We’re proud to be debuting The Journal Project and believe that Ruth Crowe’s courageous messages will have deeply impactful ripple effects for our viewers. Ruth’s show – and what she embodies as a person –  authentic, raw, storytelling and open-ended art is what we as a community-based art center are striving to serve up. How can we amplify creative voices? How can art act as a bridge and a connector? How can film provide a peek into differing perspectives? 

Anything else you think people should know?

It’s more than just entertainment - Art Out Loud is also the celebration of, and funding source, for more than 20 years of work in local schools with our annual Children’s Film Festival. Every year, we partner with schools throughout West Michigan to bring unique experiences, perspectives, and stories to children through the power of film.

In 2022, we served nearly 4,000 students and we can’t wait to open up a world of possibilities for more students again this year. Every ticket purchased for Art Out Loud helps us keep our Children’s Film Festival free for local schools.

In addition, in 2019 we introduced the Film For Families branch of Art Out Loud. Film is more than just a fun thing to do as a family, it’s also an entertaining and approachable way to introduce conversations and new ideas to kids. We have curated a special set of family-friendly Mountainfilm on Tour shorts that will be shown in our theater followed by all-ages activities with community partners. Film For Families takes place on March 18 and a single ticket includes passes for up to 4 people.

Art Out Loud
Saugatuck Center for the Arts
March 18, 24-25