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April 30, 2024

Cleveland Institute of Art names Bilgesu Sisman as next Cinematheque director

Bilgesu Sisman

Sisman will replace Cinematheque co-founder John Ewing, who will retire as director on June 30


April 30, 2024

CLEVELAND—Bilgesu Sisman—an experienced film programmer, educator and writer with a background in philosophy and deep love for cinema—has been named the next director of the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque.

Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, Sisman is passionate about supporting the creation, distribution and exhibition of visionary art—and fostering inclusive and connected communities around it. Her background encompasses research, curation, creative development and critical praxis in higher education, film exhibition, grassroots organizations, and media and entertainment.

“I am very excited to be the next director of CIA’s highly esteemed Cinematheque,” Sisman says. “I am honored to be selected to be John Ewing’s successor and look forward to boosting and broadening the Cinematheque’s reputation and influence. I cannot wait to connect with the CIA students, faculty and broader film-loving community in Cleveland.”

Sisman most recently served as director of programming at Maryland Hall in Annapolis, where she oversaw the cultural center’s efforts related to tuition-based programs, free community programs, exhibitions and workshops. She also helped gain funding for a comprehensive film program to launch in 2024. Prior to that, she served as director of programming at Film Streams in the Omaha-Council Bluffs, Nebraska area, where she conceptualized and curated diverse programming of new releases, repertory titles, community-led collaborations and all other film-based engagements.

Sisman will begin her new role on June 17. She will replace Cinematheque co-founder John Ewing, who will retire June 30 after screening more than 9,000 films over nearly four decades at Cleveland’s marquee venue for historic and avant-garde film.

“Given her impressive academic credentials and background in film programming and community engagement, I believe the Cinematheque is in good hands with Bilgesu,” Ewing says. “I’m excited to see where she takes the program.”

As Cinematheque director, Sisman will be responsible for operations and programming, presenting a global selection of specialty films to the public and the CIA community. Building on Cinematheque’s rich legacy of introducing trailblazing films, and CIA’s rich history of art and design education, she will work to expand and enhance Cinematheque’s influence on its communities.

“I look forward to Bilgesu continuing to offer top-notch film programs and experiences for our patrons, and building bridges for new partnerships,” says CIA President + CEO Kathryn J. Heidemann. “She brings incredible expertise in film and film programming at the national level and offers unique ideas to ‘grow the pie’ in terms of new audiences, which will help solidify the Cinematheque’s status as one of Cleveland’s greatest cultural gems for future generations.”

As Cinematheque director, Sisman plans to create educational and interactive opportunities to engage with film through innovative and diverse repertory arthouse programming—which she believes will help make cinema accessible to all audiences.

“I am a strong believer in the transformative potential of cinema, of it having a specific power to make us think in novel ways. As French philosopher Alain Badiou states, it is the artform that is able to contain within itself the building blocks of all other arts, giving it the ability to move us in many different ways,” Sisman says. “Moreover, cinema spectatorship encourages convening and opens up a path for people to connect, whether at the theater lobby or on social media. My hope is for the Cinematheque to be a sanctuary for contemplation, creativity and connection for all current and future audiences at CIA and in the greater Cleveland community.”

Sismanis a PhD candidate in ABD status in Philosophy from DePaul University in Chicago, where she also taught “Philosophy and Film” courses. She earned a master’s degree in Philosophy from Galatasaray University in Istanbul, Turkey and a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Sociology (double major) from Bogazici University in Istanbul.

Michael C. Butz
Cleveland Institute of Art
Director of College Communications + External Relations
216.421.7404 /

Cleveland Institute of Art is a private, nonprofit college of art and design that has been the training ground for countless students who have gone on to make important contributions to the fields of creativity and innovation since it opened in 1882 as the Western Reserve School of Design for Women. Its students have designed internationally recognized products, their artwork has been exhibited in major museums and private collections around the world, and their entertainment media has been enjoyed by audiences and game players for generations. It enrolls about 600 students nationally and internationally and has a faculty of about 100 full-time and adjunct members, all of whom are practicing artists, designers and scholars.

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