Aperture Cinema - Winston Salem, NC | The Story of street side cinema: Launching a New Public Art Initiative
In July of 2019 we launched street side cinema, a free, public micro cinema outside the a/perture storefront on 4th street. street side cinema is housed in the window to the right of our front door. The inspiration for street side came from Lawren Desai’s interest in public art in Winston-Salem.
short film, downtown Winston-Salem, public art,
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The Story of street side cinema

The Story of street side cinema

In July of 2019 we launched street side cinema, a free, public micro cinema outside the a/perture storefront on 4th street. street side cinema is housed in the window to the right of our front door. The inspiration for street side came from Lawren Desai’s interest in public art in Winston-Salem.

“There has been a move both nationally and locally to create more opportunities and space in our communities for public art. When I’d hear those conversations, it would always get me thinking about how film could be a part and more specifically how a/perture might be able to participate and contribute. For years we’d run “coming soon” trailers in our exterior window and when it came time to upgrade and replace our equipment, it just naturally seemed like a good time to consider how we could transform our window and create a piece of public art – and street side cinema was born.”

Lawren Desai, Executive Director

Bringing this micro cinema to life was a collaborative effort involving the entire a/perture management team. The first step was to learn what hardware we would need to accomplish the vision.

“My first priority was figuring out what we would need to accomplish street side. I was responsible for installing the new TV, the Bluetooth speaker, the curtains around the TV, and I worked with a local designer and printing company to get the logo created and installed.”

Tyler Nail, Theater Manager

After having the physical pieces in place, the big question was how to best go about programming. We considered featuring only public domain films, but ultimately wanted to do something more eclectic and contemporary. We listed street side cinema on Film Freeway, a website for film festival networking, and invited filmmakers from all over the world to submit their short films. Our criteria were simple – we wanted street side to be open to all of the public, so we asked that all the submissions be family friendly, subtitled for foreign language, and void of graphic images. We received over 1,000 submissions before our first deadline (many of which didn’t quite meet our guidelines), so we quickly figured out a method for culling the number down. The management staff teamed up to watch all the titles and eventually winnowed them down to the most fitting and outstanding submissions, resulting in our first selection of featured short films.

One of our street side programs, Stories Beyond Borders: 5 Films to Spark Action for Immigrant Justice

“I helped with the selection process; gathering all of the films together and watching them so we could narrow down the huge intake of submissions. It was tough determining what films deserved to move ahead because of how many genuinely great films we received.”

Gray Gordon, Education and Special Programming Coordinator

Once we had the selections, we were able to move on to other aspects of film presentation and operations.

“My role in this project was assisting in its development, ranging from communicating with filmmakers, designing marketing elements and slides for the programs, creating website pages, editing film media, and curating programs. Compiling specific films together allowed us to elevate storylines and relate films based on universal motifs that were not previously connected. The product of these decisions is eight different programs that include up to six films by different filmmakers, all of which have been threaded together to complement one another.”

Leah Rodman, Summer Intern

“I think the toughest part was the scale of the project, seeing how many submissions we received and realizing all the work that actually had to be done. Luckily, it was a great opportunity to work together as a team.”

Alex Muller, Patron, Volunteer, & Community Outreach Manager

Now that street side cinema is up and running, our hope is for the selection process to become a collaboration among all of a/perture staff as a standard aspect of our operation. We want our entire team to be able to take part in curating international cinema for our community. But as it stands, street side cinema is up and running, and accessible to everyone on the street. We have small stools outside so that community members can have a seat and enjoy the show. We also have small $1 popcorns available inside a/perture, which are perfect for a quick viewing. Most importantly, we have fantastic programs featuring short films from all over the world that are enlightening, entertaining, and available to the entire community.

“I think the most important thing about street side is that it brings a/perture outside of our brick walls and introduces the art of film to all those who pass by our storefront. According to data collected from the City of Winston-Salem, 1.3 to 1.4 million trips are made in front of a/perture annually (there is a person-counter located a few feet away from the street side screen). street side cinema also brings films from around the world and to see them all you have to do is pull up a stool and take a seat.”

Lawren Desai, Executive Director

“My favorite part of street side is that it’s a different way to experience film. You can sit and watch the full 30-minute program from start to finish, or you can experience it in passing, catching bits and pieces as you come and go from the theater. Either way, there’s value in that, and there’s something for everyone to appreciate, no matter how much they may appreciate film.”

Alex Muller, Patron, Volunteer, & Community Outreach Manager

“Working on street side cinema has been an incredible experience. I was able to see a project that started with the submissions of 1,286 short films develop into the addition of a cinema accessible to everyone. I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to work on multiple steps of this process, which has shown me how time-consuming and challenging it is to work on a project that intersects with so many individuals and elements. It has been incredibly rewarding to be work on such a large project and to now be able to admire its success in creating exposure and entertainment throughout the community.”

Leah Rodman, Summer Intern