Melissa is an artist, educator and art therapist living and working in the Chicago-Evanston area. She is an Associate Professor, Adj. at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), and her social practice is expressed under the umbrella of Third Space Arts. She provides professional development and consulting services to schools, businesses, and organizations interested in the myriad ways in which art can connect people and build community. She also 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 professionals.
Melissa is the founding director of Kids Create Change, a nonprofit organization that creates art-based, culturally responsive social-emotional opportunities for young people through collective art making, participatory art, public exhibition, and community engagement. This work centers on encouraging young people to use art and narrative to 1) explore history, culture and identity, 2) develop positive, meaningful peer relationships, 3) engage with their community and participate in activities for social change. She also serves as a founding board member of Evanston Made where she works to increase support for Evanston artists to exhibit and sell their work, and develops opportunities to engage young people and families in the arts.
Melissa's areas of specialization lie in nonprofit arts development, and the design and implementation of arts programs, special projects, and community initiatives. From 2000-2007 Melissa 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, and community partnerships. She has developed and implemented school and community-based arts programs, conducted trainings and workshops with a focus on DEI and antiracism, planned and orchestrated annual fundraising benefits and events, and curated a number of youth and adult exhibitions.
Melissa is also a mixed media artist who uses ritual and sensory memory to explore intercultural and intergenerational themes, creating meaning in both personal and collective identity through assemblage and mixed media narratives. 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.