While parents everywhere know their own kids are creative geniuses, on Saturday Detroiters will have a chance to see just how talented young local artists can be.
The "75th annual Detroit Public Schools Student Exhibition" will open at the Detroit Institute of Arts Saturday for a five-week show, and the adjoining Detroit Film Theatre will host the "44th Michigan Student Film and Video Festival" starting at 10 a.m.
Executive Director of Learning and Interpretation for the DIA Jennifer Czajkowski said the DPS art show is one of the DIA's longest-running programs, and it has had a large impact on youth over the years.
"It's a moment of personal connection [for students] with this great cultural institution," Czajkowski explained. "I have a friend who's in her 40s now, and she was in the DPS show as a child. To her it's still just this magical moment ... she went on to a career in the arts."
The long-running film festival, which gives kids a chance to see their movies screened in the historic Detroit Film Theatre, is put on by Digital Arts Film & Television, a non-profit organization that fosters media education in Michigan. This year, students across the state submitted more than 350 short films to the juried film festival, in categories ranging from Public Service Announcement to music videos. The movies receiving the top "Best in Show" grades will be screened on Saturday.
Some students filmmakers will win big prizes. Of the 26 films at the high school level, one winner will receive a half scholarship to the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan production program, and another will receive the honor of a full ride to the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.
The festival's long-time director, Kathy Vander, said many students have come back and told them recognition they received for their films helped push them into careers in media arts.
"Some of the people who are submitting to the festival, they don't necessarily have all the best equipment ... but content is such a big part of it," Vander said. "I think it's a really strong urge in students; they want to make a movie."
Vander said that in recent years, DAFT has seen more and more students venturing out to make films on their own, as advancements like the widespread use of camera phones has made it easier to go out and shoot. While Vander says the ease of shooting sometimes makes students less thoughtful about their stories, she considers it an overall good thing that more people are able to make films.
"What's surprising sometimes is how detailed and how much depth can be in some of these projects," she explained. "You realize what they're capable of and how they can express themselves -- it's really touching."
Beyond prizes, all the "Best in Show" winners will get encouragement and advice in the field through one-on-one sessions with media professionals attending the event. All of the students who entered will get written feedback from the judges, a group of media professionals and teachers.
While Michigan's budding filmmakers are recognized at the DFT, Detroit's young visual artists will get the honor of seeing their work on display in the DIA. DPS students submitted more than 800 pieces to this year's exhibition, and 325 were chosen to grace the walls of the Walter Gibbs Gallery in the museum's education wing.
Above all, Czajkowski said, the jury for the show was looking to represent a diversity of media in the selected work, which includes video art, sculpture, design, photography and painting.
"They were looking for creativity and technique," Czajkowski said. "Students who are trying something new ... and eye-catching work that demonstrates a degree of skill."
Czajkowski also echoed Vander's praise of student work.
"People's jaws just drop [when they see the show]," she said. "They are so amazed at what kids can do, how many talented kids there are in the community who make really beautiful, surprising works of art."
The free and public "44th Michigan Student Film and Video Festival" will take place at the Detroit Film Theatre on Saturday, April 28, with the junior level of work showing from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and high school work and awards ceremony from 12:30 to 3 p.m.
The "75th Annual Detroit Public Schools Student Exhibition," free with admission, will run during normal museum hours opening Saturday, April 28, starting with a reception at the Walter Gibbs Gallery in the Wayne and Joan Webber Education Wing from 1 to 3 p.m., ending Sunday, June 3. The two events both take place at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit. For more information and daily hours, see the museum's website.
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