It has been a joy and an honor to serve the region’s arts & culture community on behalf of Spokane Arts. I have made the tough decision to leave my role as executive director of Spokane Arts for a new challenge. I’ll remain with Spokane Arts through July 31, then pass the baton to a new director. The Spokane Arts governing board is conducting a national search, and I have full confidence they will find a fantastic, experienced leader to guide Spokane Arts forward.
I am so proud of what our small but mighty team at Spokane Arts has achieved since 2016. Together we have:
- Awarded $1.3 million in grants to artists, organizations, collectives and more, with another $1 million secured to distribute between now and spring 2024. Grants have supported a wide spectrum of creative disciplines, including theater, film, culinary, traditional arts, literary, dance, visual arts and more.
- Paid artists and creatives over $1 million for their work & performances
- Administered 20 new public art projects, installing more than 50 individual sculptures in free, accessible spaces for community members to enjoy for decades to come.
- Sparked thousands of high school students across Eastern Washington to discover a love of poetry through Poetry Out Loud
- Added 17 new murals to the city’s public collection, including work by Jiemei Lin, Daniel Lopez, Ellen Picken, Susan Webber, Shelby Allison, and many more.
- In partnership with STCU, Spokane Arts has wrapped ~100 traffic signal boxes with art by local artists, across the city of Spokane. Keep an eye out for 30+ more new wraps being installed soon in Spokane and the City of Spokane Valley!
- Partnered with local creatives in music, film and theater to present a “Meet the Makers” short film documentary series, plus events like TheaterFest and Music Video Jams, celebrating local musicians, filmmakers and performers.
- Citywide poetry initiatives through the Poet Laureate program administered by Spokane Arts, including “Poetry at the Podium,” featuring poetry at city council meetings; “I Am A Town,” which installed place-based poems on city sidewalks; and “In the Neighborhood,” which encouraged residents across Spokane and beyond to write poems about where they live.
- Created a first-ever partnership with Spokane Transit, integrating art by local artists into ~33 new stations of the City Line, resulting in new public art installed across five different neighborhoods.
- In partnership with MultiCare and Hooptown, Spokane Arts created Spokane’s first-ever basketball court murals at five locations across the city, including Chief Garry Park, Peaceful Valley and Franklin Park.
- Supported 10 fledgling organizations through our Arts Incubator fiscal sponsorship program, providing key support as they pursued their own 501c3 status and sustainable models. Alums include One Heart Native Arts & Film Festival, Pivot Live Storytelling, Spokane Print & Publishing Center and others.
We know that arts unify communities, spark innovation, improve academic performance, strengthen mental health, improve healthcare outcomes, bolster the economy, and so much more. We also understand, on a gut level, how the arts are fundamental to our humanity: the ways we experience the world, understand it, make connections, develop empathy and so much more. We feel it—emotionally, intellectually, personally.
The work Spokane Arts does to empower you to be your best creative self has often felt like a radical act. It is a fact that Spokane, as a mid-sized city, lags far behind our peers in both public & private investment in arts and culture. To my knowledge, there is not (yet) a single budget line item in Spokane County government dedicated to arts, culture, film, or creative economy. Washington State ranks 46th in the nation for state funding for arts & culture. In recent years, the positive gains I listed above—achieved by Spokane Arts’ efforts to guide public & private investment into the local arts community—have been hard-won, but there is much work still to do toward ensuring equitable arts access for people of every age, race, ethnicity, gender, ability, socioeconomic background, geographic location, and more. I want to thank you for continuing to support this organization’s efforts to push forward arts & culture in the Spokane region.
I’ve been lucky to work alongside lovely, brilliant people over the last decade-plus—artists, advocates, and community leaders who have been generous, kind, and fearless teachers and collaborators. To each and every one: thank you. After my work at Spokane Arts is done, I’ll be cheering on the incredible staff, board and commission, and hope to remain involved in efforts like the push for increased access to culture for every resident in our city. I’m delighted that my next role will be to empower creative entrepreneurs across Washington as Whipsmart’s deputy director, which means I won’t be a stranger to Spokane.
With all my gratitude,
A note from Spokane Arts past board chair, Brooke Kiener
Looking at Spokane Arts today, it is hard to even remember our humble beginnings 10 years ago. We’ve grown so much under Melissa’s leadership, and you can see evidence of her work everywhere you look in Spokane. Hundreds of artists and organizations in Spokane have received cash funding to support their work (over $2 million dollars in the pockets of creatives.) We’ve added more than 50 new pieces of public art to our collection, and we have wrapped 100 electrical boxes in Spokane with original artwork from local artists. Melissa came in with both extraordinary vision and the skills to execute. We are a more fiscally sound, inclusive, and creative organization because of her incredible talent. We will miss her dearly, but we know that she’ll still be supporting the creative sector in Spokane through her statewide work with Whipsmart, and we look forward to collaborating with her in that role.
Melissa will be with Spokane Arts through July 31. A national search is being conducted for her replacement. Questions about the job posting can be directed to email@example.com. Contact information for all Spokane Arts staff can be found on our website: www.spokanearts.org/overview