ArtPrize begins September 18, but it's been a busy couple of weeks for the art competition.

Christian Gaines, the new executive director of ArtPrize, has a strong background working with films.

Is his hiring an indication that film is about to become a much bigger part of ArtPrize?

Before ArtPrize even began, ArtPrize Founder Rick DeVos showed an interest in bringing films to Grand Rapids.

DeVos talked to

For a local art festival, his original idea was to mount a film festival. “What we liked about film festivals is their conversational nature, the fact that people talk to each other while standing in line,” he says. Conversational engagement fosters learning, the point of art, he believes.

DeVos also talked about the drawbacks of film festivals, but maybe now is the time to give film another chance.

Film is such a large part of the arts.  It makes sense to make it a bigger part of ArtPrize.  A juried film award would spark interest from filmmakers and the public.

ArtPrize 2013's juried awards currently include:

  • Juried Grand Prize – $100,000
  • 2-D Work – $20,000
  • 3-D Work – $20,000
  • Time/Performance-Based Work – $20,000
  • Best Use of Urban Space – $20,000
  • Outstanding Venue – $20,000 (awarded to the curator of a venue, not an artist)

Films are already eligible as Time/Performance based work and in other categories, but a traditional feature or short film category would generate additional interest.

Accepting films through an expansion of ArtPrize Pitch Night is another option.

ArtPrize 2013 is the first year for ArtPrize Pitch Night.  ArtPrize Pitch Night is designed to help bring outside artists and cities into Grand Rapids for ArtPrize.  It begins in Minneapolis this May.

Rick DeVos explained the reason for ArtPrize Pitch Night at

“ArtPrize is Grand Rapids, unequivocally, but we want to develop a program that will help cities and organizations engage and activate their artist communities, as well as explore new ways that will help artists bring their ideas to ArtPrize,” said DeVos.

No medium of art would be easier or more cost efficient to bring to Grand Rapids than film.

But, if you're going to make film a bigger part of ArtPrize, you need a place to show the films.

UICA has a fantastic new theater which has already been used for ArtPrize.  Other small venues could be used or temporary venues could be created.  Either way, more screens would be needed downtown...and might be on the way.

On April 11, 2012, Celebration Cinema announced an agreement with the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority to potentially bring a theater to downtown Grand Rapids.  It's a two-year option.  It was initially thought development could begin this summer. has more:

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority approved a two-year option to sell property at the southwest corner of Ionia Avenue and Oakes Street to potential buyer Jackson Entertainment LLC.

The site that’s currently a parking lot could potentially be the home of a new, next generation theater for Celebration Cinema. Beyond the scope of a traditional theater, the company proposes a new facility as part of a multifunctional development with business conference and meeting place and restaurants, said Steve VanWagoner, VP of marketing for Celebration Cinema.

The screens and the desire to make film a larger part of ArtPrize both seem to be there.  Next, ArtPrize would need someone with film festival experience to help bring film at ArtPrize to a whole new level.

ArtPrize found exactly that when they hired Christian Gaines as their new executive director.

Christian Gaines most recently worked with IMDb. reports Gaines has also worked at the American Film Institute, Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, and more.

Films could also help ArtPrize work towards the goal of making the festival more self-sustaining if some films require a paid ticket.  Making ArtPrize self-sustaining is a goal ArtPrize, Rick DeVos, and Gaines have all talked about.

Gaines spoke with

Gaines emphasizes that his role at ArtPrize is strictly organizational, that he has no desire to influence the art exhibited at the fair.

Gaines is careful to stress that any plans to grow ArtPrize, which currently draws at least 80% of its funding from private sources, would be oriented toward making the nonprofit “stronger rather than bigger.”

Well...maybe growing films isn't a goal.

But if there is interest, room for growth, and the resources are available, why not?

It's hard to imagine many ways that ArtPrize can continue to grow bigger and better, but making film a larger part of the annual competition is one such opportunity.

Follow Matt Milhouse (ArtPrize SuperFan) on Facebook and Twitter.