Melissa is an artist, educator, and art therapist living and working in the Chicago area. She is the founding director of Kids Create Change, a non-profit organization that utilizes art to engage young people in self-advocacy and activism. Melissa is an Associate Professor, Adj. at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) where she has been teaching for over 15 years, and she provides professional development and consulting services to schools, businesses, and organizations interested in using the arts to build community and to explore creative approaches to conversations around diversity and equity with young people and families. She offers clinical supervision for post-graduate art therapists and counselors pursuing their art therapy registration (ATR) and/or clinical license (LPC, LCPC), and coordinates peer supervision for mental health professionals.
Melissa's art practice involves ritual and sensory memory to explore intercultural and intergenerational themes, creating meaning in both personal and collective identity through assemblage and mixed media narratives. Although she continues to participate in regional exhibitions, her work is largely focused on socially-engaged art with young people and creative community collaboration. She holds a BA degree in Psychology and a BFA with a concentration in ceramics and photography from the University of Michigan, and an MA in Art Therapy from SAIC. She is a registered, board-certified art therapist and licensed clinical professional counselor. She is a founding board member of Evanston Made, and is currently serving on the Evanston City Arts Council.
Melissa has extensive experience in nonprofit arts development, program design and implementation, orchestrating community events, and grassroots initiative engagement. From 2000-2007 she served as the Founding Director of Connection Arts Chicago, a nonprofit organization providing free therapeutic art programs for children and families who identify as recent immigrants and refugees, and from 2007-2018 she was the co-founding owner of the therapeutic practice Art & Soul, where she served as Director of School and Community Programs to develop social-emotional arts programming for youth. Through this work, she has honed her skills in non-profit arts management, grant writing, fundraising, community partnerships, and coalition building. Over the course of 20 years she has developed and implemented K-12 art & SEL programs designed for in school and after school engagement, designed and orchestrated multigenerational and multicultural community-based arts programs, planned and managed annual fundraising benefits and large-scale events, curated a number of youth, adult, and intergenerational exhibitions, and created and conducted workshops that utilize the arts to engage discourse around equity and antiracism.