How It All Started
The Chiaroscuro International Film Series was founded in 2005 by Grand Rapids based artist
and philanthropist Gretchen Minnhaar, Zulema Moret, Professor of Spanish at Grand Valley
State University, and Margaret Vega, Professor of Painting at Kendall College of Art and Design.
They aspired to create a community-based international film series modeled on the Toronto
International Film Festival. Since its inception, Chiaroscuro has been run by a small volunteer
board made up of educators, artists and others with a passion for film who share a
commitment to community enrichment combined with international perspectives.
Chiaroscuro began at the UICA auditorium on Sheldon Boulevard and moved with UICA to its
new facility on Fulton St. in 2011. The partnership with UICA was integral to the success of the
series and continued through the 2020 season. Chiaroscuro was suspended for 2021 and 2022
due to the COVID pandemic and during that time, UICA moved to a new location that does not
have a theater space. Although the collaboration with UICA will be missed, Chiaroscuro is
excited to move to its new venue, the historic Wealthy Theatre, for its Winter 2023 season.
The successful format has not changed much over the years. Every other Sunday afternoon
starting in mid-January, Chiaroscuro offers a series of five films, followed by food and
conversation for FREE. Chiaroscuro can offer this free program to the community due to the
generous support of local universities and colleges (GVSU, Aquinas, Calvin, Compass, GRCC)
several loyal corporate sponsors (Steelcase, Meijer) and local businesses (Swift Printing, Little
Bird, Languages Alive) among others. The films are selected for their artistic qualities and to
represent geographic diversity. A short discussion led by a local film scholar and a person with
knowledge of the country’s culture and history follows the screening. The program ends with a
reception that includes food and free-flowing conversation.