In an April 10 press release, Northwest Film Forum Executive Director Courtney Sheehan and the Northwest Film Forum Board of Directors mutually announced Sheehan’s end of tenure with the organization.
“It is a decision that comes with a combination of personal timing,” said Sheehan during an interview in one of the two theaters at NWFF. In a vibrant yellow necklace and lively cheetah-print pants, Sheehan gave off a cheerful confidence throughout our conversation. “For me, it will be five years at the Forum [upon leaving], [and it is] definitely the most significant, substantive, lengthy chapter of my career so far.”
Sheehan began as a college intern with the Forum, later joining the staff in 2013 as program director before progressing to artistic director (2015) and executive director (2016). The Criterion Channel’s Art-House America series (it profiles major US art-houses) has a short documentary that captures Sheehan's contributions to NWFF's character and evolution in the age of ever-expanding live-streaming and video-on-demand networks like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and, indeed, Film Struck. Sheehan's defining program was to keep the movie theater relevant and oriented to community activism and current issues. When Trump imposed a Muslim ban in 2017, Sheehan and film marketer/distributor Richard Abramowitz formed the Seventh Art Stand to combat Islamophobia.
“Because of these three roles I had during my time with the Forum,” Sheehan said, “I have a long, deep relationship with the organization. Also from being here for this amount of time, you can kind of look ahead and identify that point in the annual life cycle of the organization, when it is a good time for change, and the amount of time needed for that kind of change.”
Sheehan also plans to make her departure memorable. “I knew I wanted to give a long notice so that the Forum had a really nice runway to plan for transition,” she said. "For us, October is right when our fiscal year ends and begins, it is right after our Local Sightings Film Festival, which is one of our biggest programs of the year, so I am planning to co-opt the closing night party of the festival for my send-off and have it be the two-week’s notice party.”
We’ll keep an eye out for that party, Courtney.