Longtime Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival staffer Brian Ditchfield will take over as the organization’s artistic and executive director, leaders announced Monday, as part of a broader changing of the guard for the up-Island arts nonprofit.

Mr. Ditchfield, who most recently served as the film festival’s programming director, will succeed founder Thomas Bena, who is departing the organization to pursue another project, according to a press release. Executive director Hilary Dreyer is also leaving the organization to pursue a career in philanthropy, the release said.

Founded by Mr. Bena 20 years ago as a personal endeavor with friends to bring arthouse, independent and international movies to the Island for a weekend film event, the organization has grown into a year-round arts nonprofit that hosts an annual March film festival in Chilmark, summer educational programing and numerous community events both in Chimark and across the Island.

Mr. Ditchfield takes the helm after 12 years at the film festival, during which he has served in a variety of capacities, including as program director, finance director and ring master during the festival’s summer educational programming for kids, Cinema Circus.

Mr. Ditchfield's many roles have included ring master at the popular Cinema Circus, a summer program for children and families. — Ray Ewing

“I feel honored Thomas has handed off the reins,” Mr. Ditchfield told the Gazette in a phone interview Monday. “I definitely want to build on the legacy. But I’m really excited to see what the staff and I can create that is brand new as well.”

The leadership turnover comes at a portentous moment for the film festival and arts nonprofits across the country, as they look to emerge from a pandemic that has decimated programming opportunities and forced organizations to adapt in ways they never expected.

When the pandemic began in early 2020, the film festival’s annual March festival was one of the first Island events canceled. It has been rescheduled for fall of 2021, Mr. Ditchfield said, with planning still underway.

But in the meantime, the film festival — like other arts organizations — found creative ways to salvage its pandemic year, partnering with the YMCA in Oak Bluffs to host a drive-in movie screenings and live music behind the Martha’s Vineyard Arena, among other things. The venture was highly popular, and will continue with expanded film offerings through the summer and fall — pandemic or no pandemic — according to the press release.

Mr. Ditchfield said his transition to executive and artistic director was recently approved by the MVFF board. He hoped to continue shepherding the organization through Island’s challenging, and changing, nonprofit and arts landscape.

“I’m really appreciative of the efforts of our staff and our partnership with the YMCA, and appreciate that we were able to pivot and create a drive-in for the community,” he said.

Mr. Ditchfield grew up on the Island and was active in community children’s theater and high school theatre before attending Boston University’s College of Fine Art. He then cut his teeth in Chicago, managing bars and working in a panoply of roles in the city’s burgeoning arts scene, including an all-night arts festival that activated the downtown with arts through the dark. He moved back to the Island in 2007, working as the business director for the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse before finding his home at the film festival.

Mr. Ditchfield is married to high school theater director Brooke Hardman-Ditchfield; they have two children. In the past decade and a half he has played a role in expanding the festival, its summer film series, the drive-in and the education and filmmaking departments.

“Really, at heart, I’m the same 16-year-old arts nerd that was doing improv . . . and making movies with my VHS camcorder with my buddies. It’s really an incredible honor,” he said of the new role.

The leadership team and staff at MVFF will include Mr. Ditchfield, Ollie Becker, the organization’s productions director who recently received a Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship to continue work on a film project chronicling the Island Great Ponds, with filmmakers Danielle Mulcahy and Tom Ellis, and Jenna Robichau, the education director.

“If you had told me years ago that I would be running an arts organization on the Vineyard . . . I would have been like, oh my god, I’m living the dream,” Mr. Ditchfield said. “That’s very much how I feel.”