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Sandra L. Gibson

Sandra L. Gibson

Executive Director
Maryland Film Festival

When she took over as executive director of the Maryland Film Festival two-and-a-half years ago, Sandra L. Gibson already had plenty of experience in the arts.

Her resume included a stint as president and CEO of the Association of Performing Arts Professionals and as a founding board member and chief operating officer of Americans for the Arts. She also had worked as a consultant with such clients as the Smithsonian Institution and Baltimore’s Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture.

In March of last year, the pandemic forced Gibson to shutter the film festival’s theater and headquarters, the SNF Parkway, and to downsize operations significantly. But, she said, it also sparked an even greater sense of commitment to the people of Baltimore to continue sharing the power of film and story, this time virtually.

The intent, she said was to help people “combat social isolation, stay engaged with learning and ideas and find hope for the future.”

That commitment resulted in an array of innovations, including one of the first virtual cinemas that offered a diverse array of new releases, restorations of classic films and more. The organization also offered its first-ever virtual edition of the Maryland Film Festival, which included 150 films and attracted an audience from all 50 states.

Asked what management style worked best during the past year, Gibson recommended a mix. “it’s a combination of visionary, democratic, coaching, affiliative and collaborative styles, and knowing when best to utilize each style,” she said. “Importantly, it’s critical to lead with openness, transparency, integrity, honesty and agility.”

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