Art Out Loud festival brings together film, visual art and the outdoors

Art Out Loud
Photos: Saugatuck Art Center/Art Out Loud

By Jeremy Gonsior

The documentaries shown at the annual Art Out Loud Community Film Festival this spring will spark a unique weekend full of adventure, creativity and conversation, organizers say. 

Megan Scheerhorn
Megan Scheerhorn

Visitors to the festival on Saturday, March 25 will be captivated by short stories from around the globe shared on film, said Megan Scheerhorn, director of marketing for the Saugatuck Center for the Arts (SCA). The films, most of which run for less than 20 minutes, are organized in playlists, she said.

The festival playlists on March 25 include: 

  • 10 a.m., Big Green World playlist, shorts inspired by the love of the outdoors, creatures of all kinds, and creating a better future.
  • 2 p.m., Indomitable Spirit, a playlist full of stories of those who are impossible to stop, who never give up in the face of adversity and always find a way to carry on. 
  • 7 p.m., Medley playlist, a collection of motivation and moments of extraordinary awakening, including extreme sports and outdoor adventure. 

The award-winning shorts are part of Mountainfilm on Tour, the traveling version of the Mountainfilm Festival based in Telluride, Colorado since 1979. The tour, which celebrates “adventure, activism, social justice, environment and indomitable spirit,” has made Saugatuck a regular stop as it canvasses the country.

“We are lucky to have been one of those locations for the last seven years,” Scheerhorn said. 

But what sets the SCA’s Art Out Loud festival apart from most other Mountainfilm stops is its commitment to sharing more than just the films with visitors.

Whitney Valentine
Whitney Valentine

Whitney Valentine, the SCA’s director of education and exhibitions, continues to add elements that complement the films and attract new audiences. Films, music, food, art and the outdoors collide and create an “immersive experience that engages all senses,” according to a festival news release.

“She’s been the driver of it since day one, adding to it and blossoming it into what it is now,” Scheerhorn said. “We are a multi-disciplinary art center. We are not just about film, and we are not just about art. People can have an experience that maybe they have never had before while they are here.”

Residents may be attracted to the films initially, but during the weekend they could also gain exposure to the visual arts and want to learn more.

“It opens up your mind a little more and introduces you to more people and more things,” said Scheerhorn. 

One of the newer “inspirational add-ons” is an outdoor adventure night at Saugatuck Dunes State Park. Since many of the films are about outdoor adventures, it only made sense to kick off the weekend with time along the lakeshore, Scheerhorn said. 

The free, family-friendly activity runs 6 – 8 p.m. on Friday, March 24. Visitors can make a paper lantern and hike along a lantern-lit path to the water. They also can grab a coffee or hot chocolate from the Outdoor Coffee Company and search for 15 tokens along the trail that can be redeemed for prizes at Woosah Outfitters.

Then, on March 25, Art Out Loud ticket holders can enjoy The Journal Project, the SCA’s spring exhibition by local artist Ruth Crowe. After the morning and afternoon screenings, Crowe will offer mini tours of her work and share about her creative inspiration.

Finally, during the 7 p.m. playlist screening, visitors will receive a special culinary experience from chef and SCA creative fellow Mindy Trafman. She will provide a snack during happy hour and, after the film, two small plates inspired by themes of the films. 

What keeps visitors coming back year after year? Scheerhorn said those who attend always comment about how Art Out Loud films spark conversation.

“People love coming together to watch these films that make them think. They congregate afterwards and discuss the things they saw,” she said. “It’s fun, while it also makes you think.”

Proceeds from Art Out Loud ticket sales fund the SCA’s Children’s Film Festival, which helps local K-12 students learn about cultures, traditions, stories and spirits. In 2022, nearly four thousand students participated at the SCA and via digital screenings.

“All the programming is completely free and is made possible by the Art Out Loud festival,” Scheerhorn said. 

Tickets can be purchased for individual March 25 Art Out Loud playlists; prices range from $12 to $35. Another option is the Art Out Loud all access pass for $75, which provides special perks, plus access to all three screenings. A separate screening of family friendly Mountainfilm shorts on the previous Saturday, March 18, will start at 10 a.m., and outdoor activities will follow; family tickets are $20, and admit four people.

Saugatuck Center for the Arts
400 Culver St., Saugatuck