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Vision Maker Media

A Warm Welcome to Francene Blythe-Lewis

Vision Maker Media's new executive director
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Welcome to the team!

Francene Blythe-Lewis
Francene Blythe-Lewis. Photo by Barbara Soulè.

Vision Maker Media (VMM) welcomes Francene Blythe-Lewis as our new Executive Director. Francene’s experience includes an extensive background in project management, arts and culture. Her leadership and passion for our mission will be an excellent addition to our team.

“I have longed to return to Indigenous storytelling through film and media. Our stories are so crucial–always have been–to the vast history of world knowledge, as well as to posterity,” Francene Blythe-Lewis said. “I am absolutely thrilled to be supporting and promoting Native American films at Vision Maker Media. ”

Francene specializes in cultural education, cultural arts programming and executive management in the arts by building sustainable grant programs, curating cultural art programming, creating philanthropic partnerships and advocating for cultural voices in the arts and media. Her passion to inspire others with knowledge and discovery has helped expand learning and understanding of Native peoples in the Western Hemisphere, and worldwide.

“VMM is undergoing exciting leadership changes. We are honored for Francene joining our team,” said Rebekka Schlichting, Assistant Director. “She brings a plethora of experiences in media and in Indian Country.”

Francene Blythe-Lewis will be following the footsteps of her father, Frank Blythe, the founding Executive Director of Vision Maker Media.

“We are abounding with great contemporary and socially relevant stories in today’s world,” Francene said. ”My father, Frank Blythe, knew this when he established Vision Maker Media, then called Native American Public Telecommunications. I want to further his legacy by distributing more stories into media platforms that pertain to the relevancy of our lives and topics, as Native peoples, in this modern era.”

With twenty years cumulative experience in media making and the arts, Francene recently led programmatic strategic planning and developed grant making opportunities as the Director of Programs at the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, located in Vancouver, Washington/Portland, Oregon. There, she fostered and implemented successful grant programs for individual artists, community artist mentorships and community projects that centered around social issues and partnerships in and around Native communities.

“We are thrilled that Francene will be leading Vision Maker Media at this time,” said Mary Kathryn Nagle, Board Chair. “Her depth of experience and authentic connection to Indian Country, as well as her inherent gifts as a creative and compelling storyteller, are exactly what we need at this moment, as we continue to strive to support Native filmmakers and storytellers in the midst of a global pandemic that has impacted Indian Country in a profound and disproportionate way.”

Prior to this, Francene had served eight years as the Director of the All Roads Film Project at the National Geographic Society located in Washington, D.C. She steered this international program into an award-winning portfolio of grants that funded meaningful stories in film and photo-journalism. These stories were created and produced by Indigenous and minority-culture artists from communities around the world.

Previously, and also in Washington, D.C., Francene served as the Program Manager at the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and as a Cultural Arts Specialist at the National Museum of the American Indian. In these two roles, she curated exceptional public programming whereby, she contributed, produced or managed cultural content for the inauguration of the World War II Memorial, the annual Folklife Festival, and the “First Americans Festival”—part of the opening celebration of the National Museum of the American Indian, as well as programmed Native theater and dance performances, in partnerships with local and regional theaters, universities and museums, for the inaugural NMAI stage.

Most recently, she has served on the Washington State Arts Commission board, and continues to serve on the Advisory Committee for AGE (Advance Gender Equity) in the Arts, a Portland, Oregon social justice nonprofit created to advance intersectional gender equity in the arts; and, remains on the Native American Arts Advisory Board for the Native Curator at the Portland Art Museum.

In years past and in her hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, she served on the Lincoln Housing Authority Board and as an AmeriCorps worker in a social service nonprofit agency. During her early career, she initially started her cultural education efforts by presenting workshops, titled “Unlearning Indian Stereotypes,” in the Lincoln public school system.

Francene continues to receive awards and recognition for championing cultural diversity and equity in arts and community leadership. As a proud Native woman, she is Eastern Band Cherokee and Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota from her father and Navajo from her mother. She recently married Keevin Lewis, who is retired from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and where the two met in Washington, D.C. She raised her four children as a single-mother and is proud of each of them.

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