The Nickelodeon Theatre, Main Street’s nonprofit arthouse cinema, has a new leader. Alison Kozberg — who most recently worked as program manager of the moving image for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, shaping all aspects of the contemporary art museum’s film programming — will serve as the theater’s director.
In December, Andy Smith and Seth Gadsden — then the Nick’s executive director and managing director, respectively — moved into new positions. Smith became CEO of the Columbia Film Society, which oversees both the Nick and its annual Indie Grits festival, a far-reaching media celebration that touches on visual art, video games and more in addition to film. Gadsden became the director of the newly formed Indie Grits Labs, an effort to extend both the Nick’s educational programs and the art projects and residencies offered by the festival.
With its two main leaders turning their attention to matters other than the theater’s day-to-day operation, the hunt began for a new director. The search committee — three members of the Nick’s board of directors and three staffers — selected Kozberg. Before her work at the Walker Art Center, she held positions in Los Angeles — at the Getty Research Institute and the University of Southern California — and in Massachusetts — at the Brattle Film Foundation/Brattle Theater.
“With Alison’s experience in film programming and in a range of really top, world-class arts organizations, bringing that experience to the Nick is going to make the customer experience better, it’s going to make the programming better,” Smith posits. “It’s a way for us to grow on both sides of the organization simultaneously.”
“She was a film programmer at an art museum,” Gadsden offers. “And we do art around a film theater. So it seemed like a very fortuitous marriage that way.”
For Kozberg, who was excited by the idea of taking over programming for a cinema as opposed to a museum, the Nick was a good fit.
“I really felt that the institution’s values and missions very much lined up with my own,” she says. “[I’m] interested in the way the cinema functions for the public. [The Nick is] deeply committed to civic engagement, to community involvement and to creating opportunities for media makers at all stages of their careers to be creatively engaged, to hold space, to speak for themselves about the creative process. [It’s] also really committed to creating opportunities for community members to engage, both in creating conversations and to really find space for them as presenters. And that was something I was really, really passionate about.”
“It was exciting to me that Columbia is the capital,” Kozberg adds. “A lot of my research and my work before has really focused on the relationship between arts institutions and civic engagement in local politics, so being right on Main Street by the capital at this organization is a really good fit for my personality.”
It will likely take a bit for visitors to truly feel her impact on the Nick’s programming. The theater hosts between six and eight curated series throughout the year, and the next 12 months are largely planned out. But Kozberg is raring to go. One idea she seems most excited about is pairing experimental filmmakers with purveyors of more traditional narrative features. She’ll do just that at a members-only event meant to introduce her to the Nick’s core audience, presenting Nicholas Ray’s 1956 movie Bigger Than Life and a more avant-garde piece from Mark Toscano that manipulates footage of “China Girls” — the images of women at the start of a reel once used for calibration when processing film.