Charles Lewis is most often recognized for his leadership surrounding arts administration. While still a graduate student at Harvard University, Charles began creating the infrastructure for Ethos Music Center, a small nonprofit that became the largest music school in Oregon under Charles’ leadership. Over the next 13 years, Charles led Ethos’ grassroots efforts that focused on making music education opportunities accessible to low income and underserved youth. When Charles decided to leave Ethos in 2011, Ethos’ nationally recognized programs served a total of 7,000 students through classes, workshops and presentations all around the State of Oregon. Over the years, the President’s Commission on the Arts and the Humanities has selected Ethos 6 times as one of the top afterschool arts organizations in the entire United States.
In 2012, Charles was hired by the Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation (the Columbia Sportswear family) to create an entirely new program for them called the Youth Music Project. Using skills developed at Harvard University and honed at Ethos, Charles jumped in and very quickly created a vibrant new arts education program from scratch. Charles directed every aspect of the program development including creating the organizational website and registration system, developing professional grade catalogs and brochures, establishing internal rules and regulations, hiring additional staff, implementing financial policies and procedures, drafting the nonprofit’s application for 501(c)(3) status and much more. As part of his duties (and as a licensed general contractor), Charles led the $4 million search, acquisition and internal renovation of the organizations’ 12,500 square foot headquarters. When Charles completed his commitment to create the organization in 2014, the Youth Music Project was easily the fastest growing music school in Oregon with over 500 students taking classes every week.
In addition to his work developing arts programs for underserved youth, Charles has held a number of other leadership positions related to the arts. Specifically, Charles served as a board member of the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) that represents artists and state art agencies in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Charles also frequently served on grant panels for the Oregon Arts Commission, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.