Partnering up to make storytelling a creative outlet for all in GR

The Mosaic Film Experience, in partnership with Artists Creating Together (ACT), is bringing local nonprofits together to empower and encourage students with cognitive disabilities in telling their own stories through filmmaking.

Expressing creative storytelling digitally

The Mosaic Film Experience’s educational platform inspires creativity through digital means and methods, while ACT motivates creativity with a focus on those with disabilities, encouraging their learning and growth through the arts.

Derk Baartman, vice president and COO of the Mosaic Film Experience, feels this opportunity further expands the mission as it gets closer to the goal of reaching underserved students through storytelling.

“Our focus this year is how do we offer those students we’re connecting with more opportunities to continue their journey to whatever platform they’re interested in where digital storytelling is key,” Baartman explains.

Mosaic Film Experience not only develops the creative thinking, experiential learning and storytelling skills of the young participants, but it also equips and trains them in building careers with 21st century work skills. Baartman adds that, ultimately, partnering with others will help build a workforce development pipeline for creative careers in West Michigan.

Hands-on approach in developing students’ skills and talent

Elizabeth “Liz” Merriman had a very hands-on role with the participants, having served as the education lead and instructor for the first class, which was part of the three-session Arts Explorations program through ACT.

“While working with the students, I was able to witness individuals who normally had a hard time expressing themselves, shine as filmmakers,” says Merriman. The students, besides using their voices to share their own unique stories, also had the opportunity to collaborate in new ways outside of their comfort zones.

Merriman also noticed the talents of the various students, expressing how the more nonverbal students leaned toward writing and camera operation, while students who had a tougher time focusing seemed to flourish as directors. The overall goal was met with the introduction of students to a different art form and new tool which allowed them to further express themselves.

The students worked on a variety of creative tasks, Merriman says, from writing their own films to directing and shooting them. They would then edit them together. 

“At our last session, we had a screening with everyone involved. It was a great experience, seeing them all celebrate their successes and encouraging each other in areas they want to improve in.”

Merriman, who has also partnered with ACT to find instructors to participate down the line for future classes, is looking forward to further creative partnerships.

Merriman was honored to work with the students and provide them the opportunity to tell their stories. “It was an overall wonderful experience and I look forward to partnering with ACT again in the future.” 

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