GRAM to host meeting of artistic minds

Cory Finkbeiner

A group of advocates from across the art spectrum are starting a dialogue in downtown Grand Rapids, asking the question, “Hey Michigan, who do you think you are?”

The Michigan Film, Art and Literature Symposium will mesh the voices of artists and participants in an attempt to identify and understand the Michigan perspective in creative expression at a free two-day event, starting Saturday at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

Kerri Vanderhoff, co-creator of the symposium and representative of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, said the event is about finding common threads that run throughout creative expression.

“People have been having conversations about the creative expression in Michigan for a long time,” she said. “This is the first one that brings all of these together under one roof.”

The symposium is a catalyst for creative thinking in a time when the world is more connected than ever, Vanderhoff said.

“It’s about creating a framework and seeing where the discussion goes,” she added.

Grand Valley State University’s School of Communications is one of the main partners involved in supporting the symposium. SOC interim director Toni Perrine said the event is about how the state of Michigan is represented in film, literature, photography and the visual arts.

“We are excited to join with artists, scholars and community leaders from around the state to discuss what it is that makes Michigan a distinct and vibrant place to live and create,” Vanderhoff said. “Attending the event is important to anyone who cares about the future of the state and how it is perceived both by its own citizens and by people from outside Michigan.”

Co-creator and established writer Caitlin Horrocks, who is also a GVSU wrting professor, will moderate a session called “Michigan Writers Roundtable” for the symposium, in which two writers and an editor will discuss their work and how it fits into a larger idea of Michigan writing.

“I grew up in Michigan, and I was always interested in writing, but I didn’t really understand that there were successful writers who had come from here, or set their work in the same places I’d experienced,” Horrocks said. “I thought of writers and artists as always coming from somewhere else, and that the things they wrote about must somehow be more interesting than the things I had experienced.”

Horrocks said she believes Michigan is gaining momentum in the art world because of the room allowed for individuals to have an idea and make it happen, evidenced by events like ArtPrize and SiteLab in Grand Rapids.

“I think the symposium really invites people to think in an organized, collective way about issues we’ve only grappled with as individuals,” Horrocks said, “And hopefully some new wisdom and perspective will emerge from that conversation.”

The Michigan Film, Art and Literature Symposium will take place Saturday and Sunday. To learn more, visit

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