Education Blog

Art Houses at a High Altitude

By Emily Keating, Director of Education 01.23.15

Every year, a growing network of cinemas gathers in Midway, UT before the Sundance Film Festival for the Art House Convergence to talk exhibition, distribution, and all things independent movie-going. The entirely volunteer-run entity began as an initiative of the Sundance Institute in 2005 with just 12 participating theaters. This momentous 10th year boasts 500 “delegates” from every rural, suburban, and exurban corner of the country.

This past week my colleagues Edie, Brian, Sam, Dominick, and I have been participating in keynotes, presentations, workshops, roundtables, lunches, dinners, and informal conversations with likeminded champions of independent cinema. Being here has been a reminder that we continue to be the model of community engagement, sophisticated graphic design, ambitious programming, sustainable funding, and innovative education.

On Tuesday, the JBFC led a presentation on our brand new education platform, which features tools and curricula built for teaching visual literacy in traditional classroom environments and beyond. Anne Thompson’s (writer, critic, and and blogger extraordinaire) Keynote speech eloquently captured the essence of this annual event: we are independent but we are not alone.

Lest this become entirely self-congratulatory, there’s also, of course, so much to be learned. The challenges like-minded organizations are facing in diversifying audiences and effectively communicating their nonprofit identity can be heard at every table, and we are listening and learning. Conferences like the Art House Convergence remind us that we share a collective vision for providing experiences that compete with, and win over, solitary home viewing experiences, asking ourselves , as Andy Smith at the Nickelodeon Theater in Columbia, South Carolina phrased it, “what will make people want to put their pants on?”

As our team heads back to Pleasantville enriched and motivated, we look to the future with our charge to lead.