Written by OTL Staff Editor on May 02 2023

Outside the Lens Welcomes Sarah Beckman as Its New Executive Director

Longtime local nonprofit leader brings wealth of experience to advance organization’s mission

San Diego, CA, May 2, 2023 — Outside the Lens (OTL), one of San Diego’s most dynamic media arts education nonprofits for youth, announces the hiring of Sarah Beckman as its new Executive Director. Beckman most recently served as Vice President of Institutional Advancement for Forever Balboa Park as part of a two-plus-decade career in development and marketing leadership roles at local arts and cultural nonprofits. In her new role, Beckman will advance the development and use of a new state-of-the-art media space, The Wonder Lab, at OTL’s new headquarters in downtown San Diego’s East Village.

"Sarah brings a fresh perspective and strategic approach to our organization," said Caroline Nordquist, Outside the Lens Board Member and Chair of the Executive Director Search Committee. “During the search, it was clear her experience leading successful nonprofits, combined with a passion for our mission, make her an ideal choice to guide us in the years ahead.”

Supported by OTL’s board and staff, Beckman will build on the organization’s solid foundation of impact-driven arts education programs to further its mission to amplify youth voices through photography, film, and digital media literacy. In particular, she will work with staff educators to enhance and increase the accessibility of the organization’s new high-tech media lab for high school students, young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and community and educational partners. The lab occupies 7,000 square feet and offers industry-standard production equipment, emerging tech, and editing studios—all fueled by Apple technology.

Beckman has extensive experience sustaining and growing high-profile organizations. An effective communicator, fundraiser, and community advocate, she has collaborated with a diverse array of professionals and organizations, and she brings a deep understanding of how to lead and manage all aspects of a cultural nonprofit organization. Before serving as Vice President of Institutional Advancement for Forever Balboa Park, she worked for UC-San Diego, The New Children’s Museum, and The San Diego Museum of Art. Sarah earned her JBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where her coursework in journalism, advertising, and gender studies provided a strong foundation for work in advocacy, critical thinking and creative expression.

"Sarah is a proven nonprofit executive with a track record of leading organizations, creating new programs and revenue streams, and engaging the community. She will be an exceptional asset in advancing our mission to activate and amplify youth voices," added Ivy Gordon, Outside the Lens Board Chair.

“I’m incredibly excited to work at the intersection of youth, media literacy, and arts education. With such talented board and staff, and a legacy of youth-driven programming, we can leverage the region’s binational creative economy to develop our next leaders, not only in the arts and digital media space but in our community at large,” said Beckman.

Beckman succeeds Executive Director Elisa Thomson who cofounded the organization more than 20 years ago and oversaw its growth to partnering with 1,500 youth annually on filmmaking and photography across San Diego County and internationally. The new East Village location was spurred by growing demand for OTL’s programming in youth media arts education across Title 1 schools in the San Diego Unified School District, Juvenile Court, and community schools and the success of OTL’s San Diego Media Makers initiative, a digital arts program designed for transition-aged youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 


Outside the Lens (OTL) activates and amplifies voices of youth through photography, filmmaking, and media literacy, catalyzing change within themselves and their communities. For over 20 years, OTL has brought arts-integrated programming to over 23,500 students in weekly classes, after-school programs, summer sessions, workshops, and teacher training. Their project-based approach is designed to engage students with core academic subjects, creative thinking, and issues important to them to envision and build a more equitable and inclusive world. For more information, visit