Dear JCC Community,

My name is Amy Weiner Weiss, and I’m your Festival Director. Through our Mizel Arts and Culture Center, I run both our annual Neustadt JAAMM Festival (Jewish Arts, Authors, Movies and Music), which we have expanded into a year-round season of events, and our Denver Jewish Film Festival, which this year streamed as a ten-day virtual program, powered by The Chotin Foundation, and just wrapped earlier this week. Historically, these programs serve upwards of 10,000 patrons annually, and my job is to identify engaging, relevant, entertaining programming across arts and culture disciplines and present them through our festival brands. I won’t bore or even excite you with the “how” of making our festivals happen; I think it’s much more important for us to identify the “why.”

We are in the business of bringing people together to collectively enjoy and appreciate, be inspired by and learn from, the arts. Our programming is mission-driven, which to me means that we are trying to say something about our values and the world we live in with each event we put on. Our values of tikkun olam inspire us to elevate stories of social justice, like the DJFF documentary HEALING FROM HATE or JAAMM’s upcoming Passover lecture from Black food historian Michael W. Twitty. Our values of b’tzelem elohim inspire us to create inclusive and accessible programming, like our forthcoming ReelAbilities Film Festival: Denver. The “why” behind what we do is such a driving force that we couldn’t imagine not tackling the “how” of adapting our events to become virtual programs.

And we have discovered something amazing: our audiences, whom we anticipated still had as hearty an appetite for cultural arts programming as ever, are rising to the technological challenge of virtual programs. Take our recent Denver Jewish Film Festival as a prime example. Not only were we able to curate a fabulously diverse and enjoyable lineup of films, but we were able to share these films with viewers all across our home state of Colorado (and in many cases, with our friends and family all across the country). For the first time ever, audiences were able to view at their convenience (“on demand”), without having to schlep across icy roads with winter jackets in tow. And, we were able to host Q&As with directors, producers, and actors for 12 festival films (which are still available to view on our @jccartsandculture Facebook page). Talk about making lemonade out of lemons! As long as our patrons still crave connection through the arts, we’ll continue to find ways to bring our programming to them.

Warmly,

Amy Weiner Weiss
Director of Festivals