Columbus Black International Film Festival 2019

Columbus Black International Film Festival will highlight a spectrum of stories told by artists of the African Diaspora.

COLUMBUS, OH – 2019 CBIFF Founder Cristyn Steward will host the third annual Columbus Black International Film Festival (CBIFF) August 22-25 2019 at the Hyatt Regency Columbus. The film festival will showcase local, national, and international stories from the African diaspora in the city of Columbus.

The Columbus Black International Film Festival will open at the Wexner Center for the Arts and feature a Keynote address from filmmaker CJ Johnson, as well as guest speaker Kyle Meeks of Meeks Media. The festival will continue the following three days at the Hyatt Regency Columbus. The entire festival schedule will include a networking event at the Columbus Museum of Art, film screenings, an acting workshop a screenwriting pitch competition, and a panel discussion featuring various media and representation professionals.

Cristyn Steward is a Columbus native and seasoned filmmaker with over ten years of experience in the industry. Steward’s expertise and vision gave her the inspiration to host an event for the city of Columbus to give a platform to artists in her hometown who truly give a meaning to the phrase ‘visionary art’. With the success of both the 2017 and 2018 festivals, this year’s theme is ‘Black Infinity’. Said Steward, “‘Black Infinity’” is about delving deeper into the layers of the Diaspora and Black Experience. Our Blackness is infinite through space and time. We are influenced by the past, the work we’re doing in the present, and continuously creating our future.”

The Columbus Black International Film Festival has received support from well-renowned arts, corporate, community, and non-profit organizations including the Wexner Center for the Arts, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Black Chick Media, Stonewall Columbus, Black Out and Proud, Equality Ohio, TransOhio, Meeks Media, Inktip, Reese Productions, Artis Creative, and Artistic Freedom LTD. There are plans to invite multiple local businesses and organizations to be a part of this event as a way to showcase to attendees all that Columbus has to offer.

The primary objective of the festival is to showcase Black filmmakers locally, nationally, and internationally while creating an opportunity to network with various artists in the filmmaking community. The Columbus Black International Film Festival is the first and only film festival in the Midwest solely created and run by an African-American woman.

For more information, contact Cristyn Steward at


Calling All Arts Administrators of Color!

If you’re an arts administrator of color from Chicago, Cleveland, or Indianapolis, check out this awesome opportunity from Americans for the Arts!

Virtual Information Session March 18, 2:00 p.m. EST Watch the Replay Here
Priority Application Deadline    March 20, 2019 11:59 p.m.
Final Application Deadline    March 27, 2019 11:59 p.m.
Interviews + Decisions  no later than April 26
Fellowship Dates  June 11, 2019 – June 12, 2020


Americans for the Arts (AFTA) has partnered with The Joyce Foundation and American Express Foundation to introduce the Arts & Culture Leaders of Color Fellowship (ACLC Fellowship).

AFTA’s research, echoing research by the Hewlett Foundation, suggests that emerging and mid-career leaders of color are not advancing to senior leadership positions or are migrating out of the field rather than up through it. Possible drivers, based on listening charettes hosted in each city included: structural and institutional racism, limited access to senior-level arts administrators of color, feelings that exceptional work is undervalued or unrecognized by powerbrokers, a disconnected professional community of peers, the perceptions that opportunity and welcome will be better elsewhere, among others.

The ACLC Fellowship is a one-year professional development experience for emerging and mid-career arts leaders of color across arts disciplines. The 2019 – 2020 cohort includes fellows from Chicago, Cleveland, and Indianapolis and the 2020 – 2021 cohort will include fellows from Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and St. Paul. The two-year pilot aims to be a model for systemic national arts leadership change by coupling advanced leadership development for ACLC Fellows with targeted learning opportunities for their close professional mentors and regional arts leaders who, all together work to advance their approaches to management towards greater racial and cultural equity in the Great Lakes region.


  • Provide fellows with ongoing professional development, support, and networking that promotes learning and growth, a sense of leadership, career vision, equity orientation, and business skills.
  • Highlight pathways to leadership for a diverse set of arts management professionals in the Great Lakes region, particularly those who feel their race or ethnicity has negatively affected their leadership prospects.
  • Promote and foster a culture of racial diversity, equity, and inclusion in the arts management field, within arts organizations, and in the community.


A total of 12 fellows from Chicago, Cleveland, and Indianapolis (four fellows from each city) will be accepted into the 2019 – 2020 cohort through a competitive application process.

Each applicant MUST:

  • be available for all scheduled in-person and virtual events (see schedule on additional information page);
  • self-identify as a person of color and/or ALAANA: African, Latino, Asian, Arab, Native American;
  • be an emerging or mid-career arts professional [between one (1) and 15 years in arts, culture, or heritage management];
  • be employed full-time at an organization with at least two full-time staff;
  • live in Chicago, Cleveland, or Indianapolis at the time of application.

Highly competitive applicants INCLUDE:

  • evidence of a commitment to cultivating personal and professional skills needed to ascend in arts leadership;
  • a demonstrated interested in promoting cultural equity;
  • promise as a risk-taker and innovator of programs, policies, or practices that advance an organization or community.


The fellowship curriculum follows five core themes and is delivered in component parts that support fellows in their work to advance arts institutional missions as well as their individual career trajectories. Core themes include:

  1. Learning and Growth
  2. Career Vision
  3. Management and Business Skills for Leaders
  4. Leadership as Strategy for Individual and Organizational Growth
  5. Leadership as Instrument for Equity

Program Partners + Sponsors

The Joyce Foundation
American Express Foundation

More information:

90’s Black Film Renaissance: From New Jack City to Black Panther

The Columbus Black International Film Festival will celebrate Black History Month by curating a panel event discussing some of the pivotal films made in the early 90s (‘Crooklyn,’ ‘Inkwell’ and ‘New Jack City,’ etc), paving the way for Black independent cinema through to the 21st Century.

This panel will feature: Keya Crenshaw, Founder + Creator of Black Chick Media; Michael Artis, Actor, Director, Producer and Screenwriter; and Director Chris Bournea.

Moderated by: CBIFF Founder Cristyn A. Steward, M.F.A

The Ohio State University
Psychology Building Room 006
1835 Neil Ave.
Columbus, OH 43210

Partially co-presented by The Ohio State University and Department Film Studies.

Equity in the Arts: Can Local Arts Councils Do Better?

“To whom much is given, much is required.” A stalwart in the Black creative community here in Columbus, Ohio said that to me when I started a job at a local arts council in 2015. It was a place I had always dreamed of working. Who wouldn’t want to support artists while simultaneously effecting change in their community? I was honored, and beyond excited. The support I received from my immediate creative community was immeasurable, and I carried with me their dreams, as well as my own. I could not let them down, lest I be seen as a failure.

That same excitement quickly turned to dread. It wasn’t the work—far from it; I absolutely loved my job and what it meant for me personally as well as the community. However, I soon realized I was one of only two Black arts administrators in the entire city. Let that sink in for a moment … I’ll wait … Two arts administrators of color in a major metropolitan city of approximately 880,000. A population that, by the way, makes Columbus the 15th largest city in the United States. A fact of which we are very proud. Regardless, that old adage, “Pride comes before a fall,” often holds true; and as far as I’m concerned—as an arts administrator with over 15 years in the sector—Columbus was failing its art communities.

While the past five years have seen a major influx of creatives and the development of grassroots and community-centered arts-based organizations, many of which were developed and run by Black and Brown artists, the only two arts councils in the city cannot seem to keep up. I continuously witnessed Black and Brown artists be passed up for funding or representation, while white creatives remained at the forefront. Yet, come every Black History Month, the council was sure to reach out to a Black creative or two. You know, just for appearance’s sake. Their ideas of support are outdated, and let’s not even begin to talk about the conflicts of interests that occur. In my office of 10 employees, six staff members resigned during my time there; that’s 60% of the staff, which is both an astounding and troubling percentage for employee retention for such a small organization.

I was the only non-white administrator, and with that came much backlash from my white supervisors. For example, having led a community centered workshop, I was approached by artists who were concerned with the lack of funding and representation for diverse groups of creatives. I wholeheartedly agreed. We could do better, and I would make sure “better” happened. However, when I took the news back to my office, the only reply I received was, “You’ll just have to let them know it can’t be about Black and white artists all the time.” Not convinced? Here’s another example. A statewide meeting for all arts administrators was held where we could talk about strategic plans for the coming years. Out of over 100 professionals, again, there were just two of us Black administrators, the same two, in the room. If your stomach didn’t drop when you read that as mine did, I’m afraid to say you are part of the problem. Add to that constantly being overlooked for promotion despite my years of experience, coupled with senior administration’s inability to associate with, understand, or care about peoples outside of their own ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or immediate community, and they’re guaranteed to fail eventually.

I became hyper-aware of my front facing role in the community and was ashamed to be part of the “ivory tower.” My time was mostly spent appeasing my peers whilst remaining loyal to my employers. No matter what I did, I could not make the other nine people in my office realize that the ways in which they were approaching arts funding and support were antiquated and ineffectual. I suppose that’s because out of 27 board members, a vast majority of them are city council members, one even being the daughter-in-law of the arts council president. Additionally, as if it couldn’t get any worse, the arts council does not officially report to any governing body apart from the board, making it impossible for me to bring about change.

If you do not happen to be a Black or Brown woman, you’ll never understand the strife we face in the workplace, and yes, that also includes arts-based jobs. Those of us in the creative sector have a tendency to pat ourselves on the back and think we’re not susceptible to the same prejudices and hiring shortcomings as the rest of the world. This is simply not true. Having been in the field for more than half of my career, and working with numerous national and international arts councils, I can say that the arts are severely lacking in diversity, which in and of itself seems to be a contradiction.

Inequity needs to cease being the status quo, but remaining ignorant to difference, diversity, and inclusion on all levels seems to have become industry standard. So, how do we change these practices? I task arts leaders to look at their hiring practices, including their human resources personnel; dismantle their state of privileged seclusion; abolish the wage gap; be more accessible; be purposeful in hiring and community outreach; hire experienced employees; and participate in annual implicit bias training. It’s 2019—at this point, there’s really no excuse to lack a diverse workforce; and for companies that still don’t understand, check out these 50+ Ideas for Cultivating Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace. I promise you’ll thank me later.