Amherst Cinema’s new director looks to build on legacy

Amherst Cinema member and town resident Yasmin Chin Eisenhauer has enjoyed many great films there, and while in pandemic mode, she watched works from the Virtual Cinema offerings. Recent favorites include documentaries, Zappa (a film about the life and legacy of Frank Zappa), and Coded Bias (a selection from the Science on Screen film series).

But since becoming Amherst Cinema’s new executive director earlier this month, she is on what she called “a listening tour.”

As the newest member of the team, she is taking time to understand the organization and its institutional history; she also is getting to know the cinema’s extended list of friends and partners who have been and are instrumental to its success.

“I’m deeply honored to be joining Amherst Cinema as its next executive director and especially appreciative of the warm welcome I’ve received from the community,” she said. “Amherst Cinema is a cultural cornerstone, and I look forward to building upon the legacy of Carol M. Johnson and team.”

Johnson is the founding executive director; she retired in May after a 13-year tenure. Since her departure, Amherst Cinema staff members Holly Greeley and Rachel Hart served as interim executive director.

Amherst Cinema is an independent, nonprofit arts and education center.

According to a release from the cinema, Eisenhauer was selected after a six-month, nationwide search; she “stood out in a pool of qualified candidates for her visionary and inclusive leadership, commitment to media education and expertise in new technology.”

“Yasmin brings incredible experience, skill and character, exceeding the expectations we had before entering into this search,” said Amherst Cinema Outreach Manager Rachel Hart.

A native New Yorker, Eisenhauer earned a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and her master’s degree in educational communications and technology from New York University.

Previously, Eisenhauer was the associate director for Learning, Research and Technology at Smith College where she led a team of instructional technologists and media producers in strategic planning and innovation around the institution’s technology. She co-created programming to support remote learning in response to COVID-19 and launched pilot projects providing community access to emerging ideas and high-tech resources.

Eisenhauer, an avid film enthusiast, also brings film distribution and film festival experience to her new role.

Prior to working at Smith College, she served as the director of acquisitions and distribution for ABFF Ventures, a New York-based entertainment company focusing on African American culture, where she led the creation of BlackFilmFestAMERICA, a multi-city Black independent film festival.

“The challenges of the pandemic have hit the cultural sector especially hard, Amherst Cinema notwithstanding. Fully restoring operations will be an uphill climb,” Eisenhauer said. “While we certainly miss the in-person experience, we have found a silver lining in virtual programming.”

In response to the pandemic, the cinema pivoted to streaming films virtually, offering private theater rentals and hosting live events, keeping audiences connected and engaged with programs.

When she’s not watching films, Eisenhauer enjoys traveling, tinkering with technology and spending time with her family.

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