Long flights and branded carpets: Art House Convergence, Utah #Blog 1

The first instalment of Sally Folkard’s blog from Art House Convergence 2015

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How do US venues collaborate and what can the UK exhibition sector learn from Art House Convergence?

These are questions I was ready to explore on arriving in Salt Lake City, Utah for the US independent cinema conference Art House Convergence. The first thing to strike me, obvious I know, is how far the US venues have to travel to come together on a yearly basis. I met some US venues that had travelled for almost as long as I had from the UK to come to the conference, they also receive no financial support to attend and many had paid out of their own pocket.

I’m here with Anna Kime (Film Hub North) as part of the management team for This Way Up: Exhibition Innovation conference that took place for the first time in December 2014 at Tyneside Cinema. The original ethos for This Way Up was very similar to that of Art House Convergence, now in it’s tenth year, with the aim to bring exhibitors together to share ideas and examine key industry topics. We have 4 days to immerse ourselves in panels, sessions and networking to learn from not only the speakers, but the overall content and format of the conference to take to #ThisWayUp15 at HOME, Manchester.

We were hosted on the first day by Salt Lake City Film Society who presented a number of case studies around collaboration in their community. The film societies in the US are much larger organisations than in the UK, SLFC has a 6 screen venue including branded carpets! One interesting observation appears to be a lack of collaboration across art forms, a panelist even said it wasn’t at all a priority for them due to the different priorities of the organisations involved and time this would take. This is a key area of development for TWU and one we believe is not only worthwhile but essential given the rise of alternative content and the direction the industry is moving in.

After a long drive through snowy valleys up to Midway we checked into the Zermatt Resort which is our venue for the next few days. The conference starts officially tomorrow but this evening saw networking drinks with a slideshow of all the venues in attendance (a nice tool that we’re thinking of ways to adapt for TWU). The American exhibitors are hugely welcoming and we left exhausted with pockets brimming with business cards ready for a much needed rest.