On Aug. 30 more than 10,000 cat lovers and their feline companions converged on an open field adjacent to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis for the inaugural Internet Cat Video Film Festival.

Katie Czarniecki Hill, ’12 M.A. in Art History, program fellow at mnartists.org and program associate for the Walker Open Field summer program, dreamed up (and helped organize) the event on “a bit of a lark.”

Katie Czarniecki Hill, ’12 M.A., dreamed up and helped organize the Internet Cat Video Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Walker Art Center.

“I wanted to contribute to Open Field by sharing something that brings joy (yes, I’m talking about cat videos) but also do so in a way that would test the boundaries of social practice by attempting to bring an online community off line and into real life,” she said. “What started as a bit of a lark soon became an interesting experiment, and I don’t think I would have even suggested it without this public platform for experimental programming provided by Open Field.”

The festival immediately garnered national coverage, which included Time, the Los Angeles Times, the Hollywood Reporter, the Huffington Post and the Seattle Times, among many other print and broadcast media. The New York Times flew a reporter to Minneapolis to cover the event, and the Village Voice lamented in a headline, “We All Wish We Attended the Internet Cat Video Festival in Minnesota.”

Will Braden, a Seattle filmmaker, bested more than 10,000 nominees to win the “Golden Kitty” award in the People’s Choice “CATegory” for “Henri 2: Paw de Deux.” His film has been viewed nearly 4.5 million times on YouTube. Honorable mentions included “Cat Vs. Printer,” “Katzenfussball,” “Canned Food: A True Story” and many others.

Czarniecki Hill, who shares two cats, Max and Ron, with her husband, said her favorite part of the festival was “actually watching the videos and seeing the huge crowd react in unison. I was sitting behind the screen, so the light from the projection lit up a lot of faces in the audience, and I could see people laughing together, which was the original intention of the program.”

View the Golden Kitty award-winning film, “Henri 2: Paw de Deux,” below.