Kartemquin Welcomes Betsy Leonard as Executive Director

Kartemquin Films, the award-winning Chicago-based documentary nonprofit organization, today named Betsy Leonard as Executive Director. Leonard will begin on December 1st, overseeing all aspects of operations, programs, and serving as Executive Producer on all of Kartemquin’s documentaries.

Leonard joins Kartemquin on the heels of 29 years at Heartland Alliance, where she played a variety of mission-critical roles including Senior Director of People & Culture, Vice President of Business Services and Chief Culture Officer and Vice President of Engagement. While at the organization, Betsy designed and implemented a restorative, anti-racist learning and development strategy for its global workforce and transformed its culture through a multi-year, trauma-informed organizational development plan. She also played a key role in business and contributed revenue development, helming Heartland’s efforts to successfully expand fundraising by 40% to $8 million in diversified, private contributions, including a $1.9 million annual fund. She is 2016 University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy Fellow, connected to an engaged network of civic leaders across Chicago.

“I am excited to be joining the staff, filmmakers, board members, and supporters who have envisioned a radical new future for Kartemquin, one that builds off the significant legacy of the past and interrogates the possibility for the future,” said Betsy Leonard. “There is urgency in visualizing and voicing issues impacting civil society, and I feel confident in the commitment, conviction, and courage I see in the people who make Kartemquin great — and of those who have yet to make their imprint on the organization and its mission.”

Founded in 1966 as a documentary collective, Kartemquin helps develop filmmakers, produces films, and advocates for the field of documentary. The six-time Emmy® Award-winning organization has received three Oscar® nominations for Minding the Gap, Edith+Eddie, and Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, and was the first independent nonfiction production company to receive a Peabody Institutional Award “for its commitment to unflinching documentary filmmaking and telling an American history rooted in social justice and the stories of the marginalized.”

Here is preview of Kartemquin’s Oscar Nominated documentary Minding the Gap…

“The unparalleled variety and depth of Betsy’s experience at Heartland Alliance leave her well-equipped with the skills to lead a vibrant, diverse and growing community like Kartemquin,” said Sylvia Ewing, Chair of Kartemquin’s Board of Directors. “Her many talents, experience, and passion for Kartemquin’s mission will make a significant difference in the caliber of our work and bring out the best of those around her. I believe Betsy is the right person at the right time to help Kartemquin become a highly functioning, healthy, and prosperous organization of people who embody a culture of compassion, excellence in storytelling, and equity.

“Betsy Leonard is joining Kartemquin at an exciting and urgent moment in our history, where diverse, independent filmmaking is critical to maintaining our thriving democracy,” said Carrie Lozano, Chair of the Search Committee. “Her human rights background and her longtime commitment to equity and social justice powerfully align with our mission, and we will all benefit from her deep experience. As a forward-looking organization grounded in artful, impactful storytelling, I am beyond thrilled to have Betsy leading Kartemquin into the future.”

Kartemquin’s distinctive production process has guided over 65 award-winning, socially impactful films to completion. Its acclaimed filmmaker development programs serve over 40 filmmakers annually and have launched over 500 alumni into careers in documentary filmmaking. The films and filmmakers it supports are known for the social importance of their stories, the quality of their storytelling, the inclusive, respectful, and ethical ways in which they work with their subjects, and the impact of the films on communities, audiences, and policymakers.

If you’re new to Kartemquin’s iconic history, here is a quick rundown of their inspiring first 50 years of work:

“We are excited that Betsy Leonard is taking over as Kartemquin’s permanent executive director,” said Gordon Quinn, Artistic Director and Co-founder. “After our year of reflection we see her as the person to lead us forward in the context of our commitment to diverse voices and our emerging new vision and values, as we find new ways that storytelling can have consequences in our democratic process.” 

Leonard was selected by Kartemquin’s Board of Directors following a thorough national search conducted over a five-month period with Margie DeVine of DeVine Consulting Executive Search.

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