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In memory of Melissa Hines, devoted arts leader

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.

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