We are thrilled to welcome our newest board member, Melissa Jones Briggs. Though she may be new to our board, Melissa has a long, successful history with Youth in Arts. She started as a YIA Mentor Artist in 2009, and over the next six years was instrumental in designing curriculum for our Artist in Schools and Arts Unite Us programs. She also co-developed our Intensive (visual) Arts Mentorship program, C Street Project with YIA Program Director, Suzanne Joyal.
Joining our board as a strong supporter of Youth in Arts’ mission, Melissa sees the imperative role that arts education plays in our children’s future. As she emphasizes, “Dialogue across difference, giving voice – through the arts, to the young, the marginalized and powerless – are core tenets at Youth in Arts. That is what inspired me to become involved again here, now. I am passionate about theatre, and multidisciplinary arts, as a tool for social change. I believe early childhood exposure to this work is especially powerful and has the most lasting effect.”
“We are at a critical point in American history for arts education – it is more important and less valued than ever,” she continues. “In the current climate of divisive rhetoric and action, the practices of empathy, expression and dialogue are weakening. These practices are crucial for healthy people and communities.”
“Arts education is the training ground for collaborative civic behavior.”
Outside of her work with Youth in Arts, Melissa travels internationally working as a consultant, executive coach, and program designer specializing in power and presence. She is also on the faculty at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business where she co-teaches a course called Acting with Power.
Growing up with access to strong arts education in both the UK and the Eastern US shaped who Melissa became. She explains, “It empowered a voice, courage and joy that I carry with me, in my work and personal life, to this day. In addition to visual art classes in-school and dance classes after-school, my mother, my siblings and I spent our summers rehearsing and performing with local community theatre companies, like Trilogy Repertory in New York, and Runnemede Drama Group outside London.”
In her minimal spare time, she can be found mountain biking on Marin’s single-track trails, a hobby she taught herself in recent years, or occasionally performing her comedy routines! We are very thankful to have Melissa’s passion and expertise on our board.