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April 2011
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CityLink Seattle

In memory of Melissa Hines, devoted arts leader

UPDATE: The community is invited to celebrate the life and achievements of Melissa Hines at a public memorial service, 3 to 5 p.m., Monday, May 9 at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave.

It is with deep sorrow that we write to inform you of the loss of our beloved colleague Melissa Hines, a devoted arts champion and leader.

Melissa greeting guests at the 2006 Mayor’s Arts Awards. Photo by Chris Bennion.

For the past seven years, Melissa directed the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs’ funding programs and led our arts education initiative. Previously, she dedicated 23 years of her career to The Empty Space Theatre.

Melissa passed away April 8 from leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. She was 63. For nearly a year and a half, she continued working through her treatments, taking medical leave in mid-March.

Melissa’s passion, drive and willingness to freely share her expertise nurtured Seattle’s artists and arts organizations for decades. She was a powerhouse of good ideas and positive, creative energy.

In 1978, Melissa began work in the box office at The Empty Space and went on to guide the company, known for its bold and provocative productions, through 16 seasons as managing director. From 2002 to 2004, she served as director of development for the Seattle International Children’s Festival, now Giant Magnet.

At the city, Melissa streamlined our arts funding programs, increased access to the arts with focus on underserved communities, and led our arts education partnership with Seattle Public Schools. She was committed to ensuring that all students have access to an education rich in the arts.

A veteran arts administrator and devoted public servant, Melissa preferred to stay out of the spotlight, instead working tirelessly behind the scenes. She was a quiet matriarch of Seattle’s arts community. She was a mentor to many, a persuasive advocate and a faithful arts patron, with a passion for theater and a love for early music.

Melissa in Paris, April 2010.

Melissa served two, three-year terms on the King County Arts Commission from 1996 through 2001, and stayed a seventh year in 2002 to help guide the transition of the Arts Commission to 4Culture, a public development authority. She left the 4Culture board after three years. In total, she served 10 consecutive years guiding the county’s arts and culture agency—the last chair of the Arts Commission and the first chair of 4Culture.

She served on the boards of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce, Northwest Development Officers Association, Allied Arts and the Washington State Arts Alliance. She helped found and served on the steering committee for the Communities of Color Fund Raising Training Project (1990-1994). Her work in the arts was recognized with Theatre Puget Sound’s 2002 Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award; the Business Volunteers for the Arts’ 2000 Arts Administrator of the Year Award; the Association of Women in Communications’ 1998 Northwest Woman of Achievement Award; and the Corporate Council for the Arts’ 1994 Unsung Hero Award.

As we reflect on Melissa’s life and legacy, there aren’t words to express her impact on Seattle’s arts community. All who knew Melissa know she had a wonderful way with words! We will miss her voice, her generosity of spirit and sparkling intelligence.

We invite you to share remembrances of Melissa below. When we have information about Melissa’s service, we will post it to the blog and our website.

The Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs staff


Comment from Carol Mabbott
Time April 11, 2011 at 2:33 pm

I will very much miss this always kind, compassionate, and generous soul.

Comment from Rita Cipalla
Time April 11, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Melissa was one of the first arts administrators I met when I moved from Washington, D.C., to Seattle to start a communications consulting practice. As I worked to learn more about the area arts community, I volunteered at the Empty Space Theatre, assisting them with media outreach, promotion and publicity. She was very kind to a city newcomer, generously sharing her contacts and knowledge with me, and we stayed in touch over the years.

Comment from Darren Lay
Time April 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm

One of the most thoughtful and genuine persons to walk this earth. Melissa always made you feel recognized no matter how small, always took notice and care to appreciate your work and efforts. So full of grace and generosity, honesty, intelligence and humor. Her actions and thoughtfulness always left me feeling appreciated, inspired, heartened and ready to give more. Melissa will be deeply missed. We all will be lonelier for lack of her spirit and enormous warmth. From the kind welcome she gave at the Empty Space, to an utterly terrified 21 year old non-equity actor newly arrived in Seattle, to the last letter of recommendation she stayed up late writing at the first of this year, I will always be thankful. Her presence and example lives on in all of us she helped and encouraged.

Comment from Jenise Silva
Time April 11, 2011 at 2:59 pm

It feels like yesterday that I had my first sit down with Melissa and Eddie at The Empty Space. I was impressed with their passion and committment immediately.

After Empty Space closed I was always happy to see Melissa in the community continuing her work on behalf of the arts.

RIP Melissa Hines, Arts Advocate

Comment from Lara Littlefield
Time April 11, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I knew Melissa from serving on the Seattle Arts Commission and various arts projects. We had recently exchanged emails after having not been in contact for while. I didn’t know that she was ill, so this is quite a shock.

Melissa was all the things mentioned in earlier posts. She had a presence that embraced you. I found her to be warm, funny, caring and extremely thoughtful. Consistent to her character, her last email to me was filled with optimism and encouragement and not a word about her own challenges. She has left quite a legacy…

Comment from Michael Brockman
Time April 11, 2011 at 3:23 pm

WE HAVE LOST ONE OF THE GOOD ONES! Melissa was a true friend to all artists in our city. Beginning with the first time I met her, Melissa took every opportunity (via email, phone conversations & face-to-face) to let me know through the years that she whole-heatedly supported the work I do as a musician. She did everything possible to make my life and my interaction with the Mayor’s Office simple and efficient. There is no doubt that her legacy lives on in everyone she knew. She made our world a vastly better place, and we should all aspire to the same. Bravo for a life well lived! -mb

Comment from Jena Cane
Time April 11, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Cookies at the first rehearsal. The first at her desk and the last to leave. Big hugs and smiles at any gathering that always calmed and reassured. I’ll miss seeing her white tennis shoes walking down the aisle and her deep contributions to our community.

Comment from Cheryl dos Remedios
Time April 11, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Reading these messages is helpful, so I will add my own. Last Friday, I met with a friend to discuss arts education and of course Melissa’s name came up in conversation. We paused to wonder how she was doing. . . . Melissa took me on my first meeting to a legislator’s office to advocate for 4Culture becoming a PDA.. . I cannot say that I knew her well, but I respected her immensely. Her life is forever interwoven into my own experience of Seattle, because she devoted so much of herself to all of us.

Comment from Linda Bowers
Time April 11, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Melissa contributed so much to this community through her advocacy, friendship, and warm and unwavering commitment to people and art. Let us do something remarkable in her memory. Requiescat in pace, Melissa.

Comment from Lisa Jaret
Time April 11, 2011 at 5:49 pm

It is difficult to know what to add to all of these eloquent tributes, but I want to join the chorus of appreciation for her work and her heart; her leadership and her steady support of so many artists, arts educators, and arts administrators. I met Melissa in 1992, when I did an informational interview with her, just prior to moving to Seattle. I didn’t overlap with her much for a while after that, but had the honor of working with her on several committees and projects over the past 5 years, including collaborating on an event a few months ago. I had tremendous respect for her, and I learned a lot from her. She was very kind to me. I will miss her very much, and hope that the seeds of wisdom and inspiration she planted to continue to grow in all of the people and organizations she supported.

Comment from Sibyl Barnum
Time April 11, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Reading these wonderful comments about Melissa’s great passion for the arts, her kind and gentle spirit, her caring and dedication and tirelessness, underscores the impact she had on the community and testifies to her legacy. Thank you Melissa. You will be missed, but never forgotten.

Comment from Patricia Bradbury
Time April 11, 2011 at 7:06 pm

I was one of the lucky ones who got a chance to know Melissa. Every comment above is a testament to her incredible grace and generosity. There are very few like Melissa that one gets to meet in one’s life, and I feel honored and blessed to have known her. You will be so missed, by so many.

Comment from John
Time April 11, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Yesterday a question was answered and normally the answered question is a reason to celebrate or at least to be relieved that Ignorance has met its match temporarily. However, in this case, the question was: What makes Art possible in the modern United States? People will suggest artists themselves, obviously, working away for little material reward. Or patrons, those with wealth enough to spare some for their passions and sometimes those passions include theatre or painting or dance. The enthusiastic public, of course, why else do we do it? I have the double privilege of knowing the answer to the question and of having been the beneficiary of that answer. I also have the terrible misfortune to have been told that what, or who, makes Art possible in this country has gone from us. She was Melissa Hines, and I know that she made Art in this country possible because we will feel the lack of her drive and her determination immediately. When I first worked in theatre it was in the administration of a wonderful place by the name of The Empty Space, a legendary spot in Seattle that did what all good theatres do: tottered on the brink of extinction while producing work to make the gods weep. Partly because I was young and drank a lot the years at the Space were among the most joyous of my life. I took tickets, I swept floors, I ran the box office and then I did something truly stupid, I decided to cross the divide and become an artist, first as a dialect coach then as an actor and finally as a playwright. In all those years the rock upon which the Space survived was Melissa Hines who was the Development Director or, as I like to think of that position, beggar-in-chief. No one could write a grant the way Melissa could; no one thought so deeply about the reason theatre mattered to a community; no one made a potential patron understand why his or her donation mattered the way Melissa did.

She was much more than a grant writer and an intellectual presence. She baked cookies for the crew on all-nighters as opening approached, she hammered scenery, she swept the lobby, she changed light bulbs that were blown, she was always the last to leave and the first there. While I was faceless in the bar across the street (oh, the Comet, how I loved you) Melissa was tapping away at the very first of what were then known as word processors, the Selectric reserved for fancy letters, not quite obsolete but headed the way of the fountain pen. I rarely saw her flustered, almost never heard an angry word from her. This may have had something to do with her drinking prodigious amounts of coffee. I mean chain drinking coffee. When it was discovered that the Empty Space spent more money on coffee than on new play development I remember thinking, well, that’s Melissa dealt with but what is everyone else drinking? I do remember once when she finally demanded that her vast array of responsibilities be acknowledged in some way. Theatre has a simple way of rewarding people: there is never any money and so a new title has to be invented. This explains the vast number of associate thises and assistant thats. The managing director of the theatre, a great friend, couldn’t believe that even Melissa Hines was complaining, surely this was the end of civilization as we knew it? I suggested that Melissa be given the title, “Melissa Hines: Genghis Khan, Ruler of the Mongol Hordes”. He put this to Melissa, she laughed and left it at that. There was, though, more than a touch of respect in my suggestion because no one I knew then or have known since has ever done as much for the likes of me as Melissa Hines. My various jobs in theatre were subsidized by the money she raised, various buildings in which I worked were rebuilt and paid for by patrons persuaded to give by her dedication and relentlessness. She eventually took over the management of the Space and, in spaces around Seattle, the theatre continued to produce very fine work and I was lucky enough to be in a couple of productions under her leadership. There were still cookies being baked, Melissa still wielded a broom on occasion despite her having the title she had wanted and fully deserved. In her spare time (ha!) she translated and adapted Moliere and saw her work produced. Now, like the Empty Space Theatre, she is gone and our world is smaller and darker and more pedestrian than it was. I shall raise a glass in the Comet Tavern when next I am in Seattle and remember that once that glass was filled with beer partly paid for by Melissa Hines.

Comment from Martha Hines
Time April 11, 2011 at 9:04 pm

It is with awe that I read each of these posts regarding my beloved sister, Melissa. She is one of the two lovely sisters that I was blessed to share these past 61 years with. I am profoundly sad that my days with her on earth are over. Each of your posts has touched me deeply and I find I get to know her in ways I could not have known her otherwise. I am grateful for every word. With many thanks… Write on!

Comment from Sherianne Caldwell
Time April 11, 2011 at 9:08 pm

I worked at the Space from 1978 to 1983, first as a volunteer and then running the box office and concessions. Melissa and Burke WERE the space and she will be deeply missed.

Comment from Kathleen Allen
Time April 11, 2011 at 9:54 pm

I felt honored to have the chance to work with Melissa. She was an incredibly intelligent, inquistive and kind person. She seemed to always want what was best for everyone. In her work with the Seattle Public Schools partnership, she truly had the mindset of “it is all about the kids.” This is a great loss to Seattle’s arts and arts education communities.

Comment from Marcie Stone
Time April 11, 2011 at 10:06 pm

The ripples that Charlie Rathbun speaks of in his tribute posted above are Melissa’s legacy and the best way for the community to remember her will be to make sure that they continue to spread. Although no one of us will be able to match her accomplishments, grace, generosity and Melissa-ness, we can keep her work alive through our individual efforts. I met Melissa only three years ago in conjunction with her work with the arts programs in the Seattle Public Schools, but I immediately felt as if I had known her for years and I came to depend on her for a periodic sanity check and a good long chat about everything in general. I’ll miss those talks and just knowing that she was in the world, and was making it a more welcoming place for the things that are really important.

Comment from Brook Ellingwood
Time April 12, 2011 at 12:42 am

After the last season in its Pioneer Square location, there was a time when I was the only staff member at The Empty Space Theatre still getting paid. The theatre had been sublet for a short run and the terms included money for someone to open and close the house for each performance. Every night I sat in the booth watching the show and having strange conversations with the show’s Russian touring technicians. Every Friday I went to the Empty Space offices and Melissa Hines gave me the only paycheck in the desk drawer.

The Empty Space had, for all intents and purposes, completely ceased to exist. Yet Melissa was still there, drawing no salary, taking care of it. I didn’t appreciate how much she was taking care of it until a couple months after I picked up my last check when I got a phone call. The Empty Space had been revived and was moving to a new building in Fremont. If I still wanted my job, it would be my opportunity to put my stamp on the next chapter of an essential part of Seattle’s art story. I took the job and relished the next couple seasons of a rejuvenated theatre.

My story is just one story of what Melissa gave to Seattle. There are so many of us who did things to be proud of because she made it possible to do them. I’m at least of couple of careers removed from my theatre days, but I’ve always known that who I am now was shaped by them, and they in turn were shaped indelibly by Melissa Hines.

Melissa stayed behind the scenes, always making it possible for others to pursue their opportunities, to make art, and present it to a city that doesn’t always appreciate how much it gains from it. Communities create and recreate themselves through stories, and when the tellers of stories are supported by a tireless worker like Melissa, the communities become better places. In my time working with her, I saw Melissa as someone who could lead from behind the curtain, or perhaps even from behind the people behind the curtain. I learned from her that very often that’s where the real leadership that matters is. I learned not to confuse showmanship for leadership. It’s a lesson that has served me well in my life outside the theatre. I will always be grateful to Melissa for setting a fine example, for being kind, and for helping make sure our tellers of stories had a chance to be heard.

Comment from Maria Glanz
Time April 12, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I just read this news a moment ago – what a loss for us all. I cannot match the eloquence of all the comments above. I am so sad. Seattle, and the world, is darker now. I hope and trust Melissa knew what she meant to us all.

Comment from Elaine Spencer
Time April 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Melissa was a force of nature. She defined “indomitable,” and for her to be gone is too clear proof that we are all on a one-way street.

Many will comment on her unfailing graciousness, and her fierce devotion not only to art but to the well-being of those around her. In many years of working with her at The Empty Space, probably the thing she most taught me was the power of passion, tenacity and determination, even when it is exercised in the absence of other resources.

Melissa’s passion was the most ephemeral of arts. When a play closes, it is gone for ever. And yet its influence continues with those whose souls have been touched by the performance. So, Melissa’s spirit will continue in the many people she nurtured and mentored.

Comment from Carri Campbell
Time April 12, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Melissa was a dear friend and colleague and I am deeply saddened by her death. She was an embodiment of what public service can be at its best. She was unwavering in her commitment to the arts in our community and worked tirelessly to ensure that that all students, artists, and arts organizations felt valued and supported. Her dedication was perhaps most evident when her illness began to intensify.

She was one of those rare people who didn’t seek public credit and affirmation for her diligent work that was so foundational to countless arts organizations and projects in our community. When it came time for accolades, she was genuinely happy to step back and enjoyed watching the people, organizations, and art she had devoted her life to blossom. Melissa was an inspiration to so many of us, teaching and challenging us to be better than we are. I feel really blessed to have worked so closely with her these past four years. I will miss her tremendously.

Comment from Kris Jones
Time April 12, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Count mine among the many hearts touched by the wonders of Melissa. I was a young pup when first our paths crossed in the late 70s at The Empty Space (long live The Comet), and her warmth and grace shaped that space just as Melissa’s legacy will continue to shape the Seattle Arts scene and all who were fortunate enough to know her. Thank you, Melissa!!

Comment from Alan Harrison
Time April 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm

My life in the theater was put into focus by Melissa Hines. In her clear, comfortable view of the world, there was simply no reason that an arts organization could not succeed, as long as its vision was specific, differentiated, and bold. She was a brilliant woman of complete grace and honesty. I miss her, as do we all, and I feel fortunate to be among those she knew and touched, even though the number of people that describes probably falls into the thousands. We should all be as calm and collected as she. Melissa, thank you for everything you are. We’ll keep the machinery going for you.

Comment from Kerry Burg
Time April 12, 2011 at 5:22 pm

I’m missing Melissa. I first met her years ago – she needed a poster designed for the play Etta Jenks and our graphic design group at NBBJ needed a creative outlet. That first poster led to more posters, more plays, and more time with Melissa – a gentle critic, a warm and wise woman and a tireless advocate for the Empty Space Theatre. She talked me into serving on the Board too – she was that charming – and she mentored my fledgling efforts at philanthropy. Remembering her is like getting one of her great big hugs again…all the while I’m missing Melissa.

Comment from Ben
Time April 12, 2011 at 5:35 pm

The first moment I met Melissa, she told me she was looking for a marketing director and a partner, and I told her, if I lived through the cancer I was fighting, I’d jump at the chance to be part of her team. And what an honor it was! What followed were some of the best years of my life. Melissa turned out to be not only the best boss I ever worked for, but a better friend. In her most caring and patient way, she taught me much that I didn’t know about the arts, as well as the real business of a non-profit. She rightfully scolded me when I said that all her fund-raising efforts seemed like so much begging. Her response, “We are part of the fabric and soul of this landscape and patrons and donors will provide as they seek to nourish their souls – or not.” I was humiliated by my own negative and simple thoughts, and never again considered “development work” drudgery. Melissa also showed me with her love, caring and dedication – for which I am most grateful! When I brought my young daughter to work, Melissa jumped in to help and created a life-long connection between the two. When I left the Space to care for my father, she was my first supporter and called or visited often, creating a relationship with a lonely sick man. When she left the Space and was offered a job that she didn’t think fit her, Melissa called me and then convinced that Board I was the person for the job. When trouble times came, Melissa was the first to call, quick to support, deliberate with letters to present my side of the story. I will never forget our dinners, her birthday cards and homemade goodies for the holidays. Melissa wanted nothing in return. She never sought or needed the spotlight. She begged off of gifts, but how could I (and all of us) not at least try to repay her every kindness? Melissa was what humankind should be – what (we wish) we all strive to be. The woman gave and gave (as you can see from all these comments) and we accepted her gifts and shook our heads in wonderment. Always supportive and understanding, she never even spoke out when her precious Space was taken away from her by the unconscionable actions of another. Near the end she finally bestowed upon me the opportunity to give her a gift – letting me program her i-Pod to get her through the hard days of treatment. I play those same songs today at work and think of Melissa. Thanks for the memories. You were (always)what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Comment from Tom Mara, KEXP
Time April 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm

What a champion. What a source for wisdom. What a force of encouragement. What a difference she made.

I join my staff in navigating through the grief of losing Melissa while, at the same time, expressing our gratitude for Melissa’s positive impact on our public radio station. While it certainly didn’t appear on any ledgers, the value of Melissa’s encouraging consultations with me and our team more than nudged us toward becoming a more impactful arts organization. A great loss, yet she leaves behind so many gifts. For that, we are so very thankful.

Comment from Catherine Hillenbrand
Time April 12, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Arts leader sounds so dry and euphemistic! Melissa was there at the Empty Space when I was at the Comet and Melissa was there when I served on the Seattle Arts Commission. And she was there all those years in between: determined, dedicated, discreet, professional, smart, appreciative and gentle – part of the superglue holding together Seattle’s exuberant and delicate arts community. Melissa, I didn’t realize how ill you were – Thank You and Farewell.

Comment from Mike Eagan
Time April 12, 2011 at 9:38 pm

What a wonderful woman, an inspiring arts lover and friend to so many. It was so wonderful to know her. She was truly a believer.

Comment from Daniel Mayer
Time April 12, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Melissa was one of a kind and I am deeply saddened to hear of her passing. She took art very seriously and challenged everyone she worked with to rise to the standard that she set for her work ethic and dedication to the arts.
We would meet at the Frye Museum near her home and wander through the exhibit and then adjourn to the cafe and talk about arts policy for hours–usually until the cafe closed. She was a unique and wonderful woman and I will miss her.

Comment from Steve Lerian
Time April 13, 2011 at 12:28 am

It’s really overwhelming to read all of the accolades and fitting, heartfelt tributes to Melissa. I feel so honored to have been her colleague and compatriot for so many years.

Serving as her Vice Chair for five years when she was Chair of the King County Arts Commission helped me appreciate the true magnificence of her wisdom, her kindness and her passion, not just for the arts, but for people. Melissa understood people and cared so much about what others thought and felt.

We fought many wars together, not just battles, but whole wars, many of which are still in progress. I know she is at peace with all she has done, but I’m sure she misses mixing it up with legislators and council members and those who might deign to minimize the great work she undertook. She was fearsome and brilliant and I will miss her so much.

Though I have been gone for several years, I am so glad we stayed close through correspondence. It is so much like her that, even when things were heading downhill for her over the past year, she was invariably more concerned about how I was and what I was doing than in answering my queries about her and her health, always wanting to reassure me that she was doing well and getting better so that I wouldn’t worry about her.

Melissa was my friend and I just wish we had not canceled so many lunches and coffees along the way because we were too busy. Just one more chance to share a little time with her would be a great gift.

Comment from Carolyn Law
Time April 13, 2011 at 8:11 am

Melissa’s heart and mind were among the fullest and most balanced I have known. Because of that balance, she had the rare ability to reach out in a simultaneously simple and complex way that rippled amazingly far into our community. Yet she was always right there with you. I now realize that I rested in knowing that she was here, at work, on our behalf. I will miss her. We will miss her.

Comment from Daniel Windham
Time April 13, 2011 at 8:48 am

The priveledge of working at a national foundation such as Wallace is in meeting the many passionate and committed people who create the constellation of experiences collectively known as the arts sector. Mellisa’s voice – a clear contralto – gave possibility to the hope that the lives of people – children and adults – could be improved through their greater engagement in the arts. We shall miss her good counsel and clear vision.

Comment from Goodwin Deacon
Time April 13, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I met Melissa when I first arrived in Seattle in the summer of 1980. I was angling for a job in arts administration, and visited Melissa at the Empty Space to offer to volunteer. I remember she said, “Wow–a volunteer with a resumé!” That made me feel good. Later, when I was working for Seattle Opera, Melissa and I served together on an Allied Arts Committee. More recently, I’ve seen her at many Early Music Guild concerts, and she’s been very helpful with OACA grant proposals. Melissa was always such a solid, cheerful, helpful, encouraging person. I hadn’t known about her cancer, so I was really shocked by this news. We’ll all miss her a lot.

Comment from Lynn McMillan
Time April 13, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Melissa was a true friend to the Seattle Chinese musicians.

Comment from Jan
Time April 13, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Melissa was the definition of generosity and compassion. She provided me and many others with support, encouragement, and perspective even while she faced tremendous difficulties. The shear breadth of comments from every arts discipline attests to her reach and how very much she will be missed!

Comment from Adam Greenfield
Time April 14, 2011 at 9:04 am

In the summer of 1997, just after I graduated from acting school, I moved to Seattle hoping that it might be a home. On a Saturday morning, early, I stumbled past The Empty Space and was surprised to find the front door open. Up the steps, the office door was open, and I met Melissa Hines (who, naturally, was working on a weekend). When I asked if The Empty Space was hiring any interns, she set her pen down, pushed her glasses to her forehead, and spent the next two hours with me, showing a prospective intern in a dirty t-shirt all around the building, narrating the already-epic history of Empty Space, giving me a primer on Seattle theater, and actually seeming interested in my 22-year-old opinions. It was a generosity that made me feel like I could make Seattle a home. I wound up staying at Empty Space for ten seasons, having the honor of working alongside Melissa for many of those years. She never ceased to stick her neck out for her staff, encouraging the best work from every one of us, giving each of us the room and the reason to fall in love with the Space just as she had when she first began working there in the box office. Melissa gave me the inspiration, values and tools to make the advocacy for new writing and pioneering theater a lifetime commitment. The open-heartedness and total dedication to artists that she brought to every day’s work has remained a profound inspiration, practically a treatise on how to walk upright. And I’m struck, as I write this, by the fact that this little story of our impromptu meeting on a Saturday morning is just one in a lifetime. No doubt the number of people she impacted similarly is exponential. But nowhere near as far-reaching as the million tiny day-to-day decisions made by anyone lucky enough to have been in her orbit — decisions which might reflect the perfect, uncomplicated kindness of a woman who gave a kid just out of acting school two hours of her life on a Saturday when she had so much more to do.

Comment from Pete Gasparrelli
Time April 14, 2011 at 9:53 am

What a tribute to an amazing women… These posted messages say it all. Melissa was a real treasure and she touched so many lives.

For those of us who had a chance to meet and benefit from her dedicated service, she will always be remembered as a very special, talented, and caring person. But there are countless others who continue to benefit from the results of her work as she provided the kind of leadership that is too rare indeed.

Thank you Melissa.

Comment from Joe Smoke
Time April 14, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Last year at the national Grantmakers in the Arts Conference, I presented Melissa on a panel called Success in the City. Although it was clear that her body-energy was low, her mind was overflowing with past wisdom and strategic thinking. And her eyes. They still radiated that deep dedication to giving Seattle artists, residents and cultural tourists the best possible resources! The City of Seattle was indeed lucky to have such a dedicated champion.

Comment from Kay Kirkpatrick
Time April 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm

What a loss. Even while ill she brought a kind and humane voice and came to the aid of artists concerned about the loss of their working space at the 619 building, offering support as other agencies struggled to resolve the building’s fate in the path of the deep bore tunnel project.

Comment from Michael Harris
Time April 16, 2011 at 9:25 am

Melissa raised the bar professionally and personally. What a generous soul! She was the first theater person I met on arrival in 1979 and was welcoming ever since with her natural warmth and support. The standard she set will guide all of us fortunate enough to know her.

Comment from Rebecca Denk
Time April 25, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Like so many of the previous remembrances, I had the amazing good fortune of having Melissa as mentor and boss in my first Development Director job at The Empty Space. I too was in my mid-20’s and knew far less than I thought I did. Melissa not only patiently taught me the ropes, but invested in my professional development through NDOA, Terry Axelrod’s courses and her own shining example. I will always be grateful for her limitless generosity, shared passion and fierce commitment to the arts.

Comment from Victor Janusz
Time April 26, 2011 at 8:50 am

What a kind woman, I thought, when I first met Melissa two decades plus-ago….Her warmth and encouragement to a 27 year old launching what would become a 7 year Non-profit Theatre group, was formidable and one-of-a-kind….I loved her attention to details, but most of all: her unwavering friendliness through the years. What a great legacy and example for all of us who love and work in the arts.

Comment from Irene Stewart
Time April 27, 2011 at 11:49 am

Melissa was committed, calm and comforting … and so much more. We worked together on the arts partnership with Seattle Public Schools — a challenge that previously took its toll on some very stalwart arts education advocates. Melissa led with great patience and, with the support of her colleagues and a small band of community activists, a partnership with the school district was born. I miss Melissa’s warmth and camaraderie most of all.

Comment from Robert Lawson
Time April 27, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I had the honor of working with Melissa at The Empty Space Theater (the with a capital T, and theater with an er, if you please) and then later at Seattle International Children’s Festival.

I started working at The Empty Space simply because I needed a job, but I soon became passionately invested in the company, and this had so much to do with Melissa. She brought the theater’s past, present and future – its triumphs, tribulations and potential – to everything she said and did.

My friend and co-worker, Laurie, and I would roll our eyes when Melissa referred to The Empty Space as “the little theater that could,” but Melissa was realistic about the size of the company and the role a theater that size played in the artistic and economic climate of that time.

During a time when Seattle lost several important theaters of comparable size; The Group, The Bathhouse and Alice B., The Empty Space could, and did, keep going, in no small part because of Melissa’s tenacity, unwavering commitment and measured optimism.

I know that leaving The Empty Space was very, very hard for Melissa and, frankly, it was never the same after she left. But I hope that Melissa’s ensuing endeavors with Seattle International Children’s Festival and the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs were as rewarding for her personally as they were beneficial for those organizations and the artists they serve.

Melissa was, and will continue to be, an inspiration and a mentor, and she will be greatly missed. But her life was dedicated to building solid roads to allow artists and arts organizations to move forward and flourish, and I believe that we can best honor and remember her by maintaining those roads with responsibility, humility and, above all, passion.

Comment from Mary Pat Byrne
Time April 27, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I’m another one who met Melissa through a job at The Empty Space. I was still fairly new to Seattle and scrambling to find my place in the theatre community. Melissa was a calm center for me, as she was for so many others. For nearly 30 years our paths crossed again and again, working on regional arts issues. I marveled at and deeply appreciated her insight. Her low, calm voice is still with me. I’ll miss her great mind and heart.

Comment from Sheila Daniels
Time May 6, 2011 at 10:32 am

I honestly cannot remember when I met Melissa, because in my memory she simply was always THERE. Melissa was and will continue to be a reminder that we must fight both to preserve our artistic heritage and to blaze new trails, and that we must be leaders in our society rather than see ourselves as martyrs to it. She was an inspiration as a leader, as a woman and as a friend. She will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life.

Comment from joanne klein
Time May 7, 2011 at 12:10 am

Melissa is the kindest person i’ve ever known. She always made me feel included, creative and smart. Her titanic love of the arts, and her altruistic nature toward artists is rare. I miss her laugh, her advice, her gentleness…

Comment from Bonnie Blackley FRANCE
Time December 8, 2011 at 1:25 am

How I wish I’d looked Melissa up months ago. She was one of my first great friends when I came to the U. of Washington in Feb 1971. We lost track of one another soon after I moved to London to do my PhD, and then was hired by the U of Maryland, European Division. I hope that 2 of our other friends (or more!) will see this and contact me (I am now divorced, still have my 3 young adult children!), and have lived gain in France since 2005.
Hope to hear from Nancy Carlino and Cathy Hankins, Bruce Boris, too. George Schayler lives on Vashon or Whidbey Island. Bonnie FRANCE (Blackley)

Comment from mike
Time June 12, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Melissa still missing you.

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