Strong communities celebrate diversity and empower individuals to make their voices heard. The Grand Rapids community displays its strength, by turning these words into acts of positive social change. We exemplify our strengths and commitment to community through our partnerships.

In our third year partnering with The West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology (WMCAT) and Gorilla, we collaborated with the biannual Project 1 by ArtPrize, Carbon Stories and WMCAT’s Idea:Lab students to create a video project, to support and promote the first Project 1 theme and site locations.

In 2019, the inaugural Project 1 features five world-renowned artists, considering how access and boundaries, both visible and invisible, affect our sense of belonging.

“One of our goals is to generate conversation about what art is and why it matters. For Project 1, we’ve identified the theme of crossed line and addressing the question of what it means to belong,” said Becca Guyette, ArtPrize Director of Learning and Engagement.

The theme of Project 1 provided the perfect opportunity for us to collaborate with The Belonging Initiative and combine efforts with WMCAT students. Project 1 provided the theme, local film professionals provided the resources and mentorship, and students provided the voice to inspire the story.

This video project presented the opportunity to showcase local student talents and show the community what we can do. Allowing students the freedom to share their vision and call the shots, provided an authentic, hands-on experience with professionals in the film production industry.

“We are out here setting the stage for students to really be able to facilitate their own production,” said Eric Johnson, Gorilla Founder and Creative Director. “They’ve taken a lot of ownership, they know what their vision is, and they’re bringing it to life.”

We strive to provide access to educators and resources students need to pursue their talents and career aspirations. This project allowed us and our community partners to continue investing in the future of filmmakers and diversity in Grand Rapids.

One of the WMCAT students, Dagan McClure-Sikkema, said, “working with people in the film industry and learning about lighting, cinematography, and directing,” was his favorite part of the video-making experience.

“The only way we’re going to change the industry is to let people know there are opportunities here and what those opportunities are,” Derk Baartman, MFE Vice President, said.

It is exciting to see youth find new and innovative ways to share their unique stories, as well as those of other people. In the future, we will continue collaborating with community-focused organizations to elevate student voices, show them career possibilities, and create conversations that spark change in our communities.

Click here to watch the final video.