Photo of Rian Brown-Orso
  • Associate Professor of Cinema Studies
  • Codirector, Apollo Outreach Initiative
  • Codirector, Apollo Center for Media Education and Production
  • Apollo Center for Media Education & Production, 19 E. College St.
  • 440-775-5531
  • 10 a.m. to noon, Friday, and by appointment


  • BFA, Massachusetts College of Art, 1994
  • MFA, University of California San Diego, 2000


Born in Roanoke, Virginia, Rian Brown is a filmmaker, video artist, and associate professor of cinema studies and new media at Oberlin College. She grew up in a family of artists and as a child, lived in many different parts of the United States, studied art at the Massachusetts College of Art, and received a Master of Fine Arts in film from the University of California, San Diego.

Brown’s work spans a variety of film genres – including experimental, personal narrative, documentary and video installation – and explores notions of motherhood, identity, landscape, memory, and nostalgia in both narrative structure and visual style. 

Reflecting Brown’s background in painting, her films also deploy rich, visually dynamic imagery, hand-painted animation, and experimental techniques. Presence of Water, a short 16-mm film Brown shot in Northern Italy, is a visual diary and memory of the last few months of pregnancy that has shown widely in festivals, including the Independent Film Channel, the New York Shorts Festival, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the Nashville International Film Festival, and the Women in the Director's Chair. She completed Into the Scrum, a short documentary that takes an intimate look at the complex and physical world of women’s rugby.

She travelled to Antarctica in 2009 with filmmaker and frequent collaborator Geoff Pingree to film BLUE DESERT ~ Towards Antarctica, a multi-channel video installation that premiered at Boston’s Laconia Gallery and has since shown at Oberlin’s Richard D. Baron ’64 Gallery, Newseum in D.C. and at Cleveland’s Ingenuity Festival.

Her work has shown around the world at film festivals and museums including the Wexner Center, L.A. Hammer Museum of Art, the Harvard Film Archive, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, and the Milano-Athenia in Athens, Greece.

Brown was an artist in resident at the Headlands Center of the Arts, and, in 2011, she was awarded an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award. With Pingree she also founded and directs the Apollo Outreach Initiative, a media education and community outreach program housed in Oberlin’s historic Apollo Theater.  

In 2015, Brown and Pingree were awarded grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation’s JustFilms initiative for the production of The Foreigner’s Home, a feature-length documentary on the intellectual and artistic vision of Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison. The film was released in 2017. It explores the ideas and vision Toni Morrison articulated—and the public conversation she began—in the exhibition she guest-curated at the Louvre in 2006.


  • Rian Brown-Orso and Geoff Pingree Speak as Invited Guests

    February 28, 2019

    Associate Professor of Cinema Studies Rian Brown-Orso and Professor of Cinema Studies and English Geoff Pingree were invited guests to Columbia University's Institute for Research on African-American Studies on March 7, 2019 to speak about their documentary film, The Foreigner's Home.

  • Rian Brown-Orso and Geoff Pingree Screen Film

    January 3, 2019

    Associate Professor of Cinema Studies Rian Brown-Orso and Professor of Cinema Studies and English Geoff Pingree screened The Foreigner's Home on Saturday, January 5 in conjunction with the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power. The film also screens on January 16 in Los Angeles at the Hammer Museum's Billy Wilder Theater.

  • Rian Brown-Orso Featured in Solo Exhibition

    November 16, 2018

    Associate Professor of Cinema Studies and New Media Rian Brown-Orso was featured in a solo exhibition of animations and video at The Sculpture Center in Cleveland.

  • Rian Brown-Orso and Geoff Pingree Interviewed by International Film Festival Rotterdam

    February 6, 2018

    Associate Professor of Cinema Studies Rian Brown-Orso and Professor of Cinema Studies and English Geoff Pingree were interviewed about their film The Foreigner’s Home in a blog post for the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

  • Rian Brown-Orso receives Ohio Arts Council Award

    April 21, 2017

    Rian Brown-Orso received an Individual Excellence Award for media arts from the Ohio Arts Council.

    Individual Excellence Awards are peer recognition of creative artists for the exceptional merit of a body of work that advances or exemplifies the discipline and the larger artistic community. These awards support artists' growth and development and recognize work in Ohio and beyond.

  • Rian Brown-Orso Receives Award

    February 8, 2017

    Rian Brown-Orso, associate professor of cinema studies and new media, received a 2017 individual excellence award from the Ohio Arts Council.


Filmed on Location

July 15, 2013
The Apollo Outreach Initiative brings filmmaking to the community.