Thank you, Sky

Please join us in saying farewell and thank you to our Executive Director, Dr. Skyler J. Arndt-Briggs. Sky officially retired on May 1, 2022, but has graciously agreed to continue working part-time through October.


With outstanding organizational skills and acumen, Sky has served the DEFA Film Library (DFL) in different capacities since 1998. Before she became Executive Director, she was Assistant, Associate and then Acting Director under DFL’s Founding Director Barton Byg. Together with Barton and the team, Sky was a driving force behind establishing DFL’s reputation among scholars and educational and cultural institutions. 


Sky’s early passion for considering East German cinema in new ways that deconstructed Cold War assumptions and incorporated contemporary issues and debates helped broaden the understanding of filmmaking in the GDR. She was involved in critical interdisciplinary and transnational programming at UMass Amherst and the Five Colleges, as well as at conferences in the U.S. and abroad. She often obtained grants for these projects, including from the NEH, DAAD, the Max Kade Foundation and other granting agencies. Sky has also been responsible for the operations and finances of DFL, as well as for its community of student employees. 


Over almost 25 years of service and in collaboration with others, Sky established a record of innovative film and film-related projects, including: The German Department’s Visiting Professor program, in collaboration with UMass’s History Department and the Center for Contemporary History (ZZF) in Potsdam, Germany (2000-2005); biennial Summer Film Institutes from 2001 to 2021; NEH Summer Institutes in 2005 and 2018; a new Berghahn book series on Film and the Global Cold War (2013-present); and two major film series—WENDE FLICKS: Last Films from East Germany (2009) and Shadows & Sojourners: Images of Jews and Antifascism in East German Film (2002). With her collaborative leadership style and commitment to systematic planning and decision-making, she contributed greatly to DFL’s steady development and growth as an institution. 


Sky has thus made lasting interventions into both East German Studies and German Cinema Studies. As a member of the Program in German and Scandinavian Studies, her undergraduate teaching focused on Weimar Republic culture and society and the Junior Seminar and Senior Capstone classes. She has mentored undergraduate and graduate students alike and served on graduate MA and doctoral committees. In addition, she mentored, supervised and trained DFL student employees and interns and provided them with extra-academic experiences and support that helped them thrive and discover careers after graduation.


We are tremendously grateful for Sky’s service, as well as her generosity and team spirit, and hope that we may count on her expertise and advice in the future as well. Please join us in expressing our gratitude for Sky’s invaluable role in nurturing both the DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst and the study of East German cinema and culture over so many years.


With our best wishes for the exciting next stage of her life,


The DEFA Film Library Team

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