about us

Melissa Raman Molitor, MA, ATR-BC, LCPC

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 a founding director of Kids Create Change.  Her work centers on encouraging young people to explore identity, engage with their community, and address personal challenges and social issues through art and story. 

Melissa currently serves on the Evanston City Arts Council prior to which she was a founding board member of Evanston Made where she facilitated their transition into a non-profit organization. During her time with Evanston made she worked to increase support for local artists to exhibit and sell their work, and developed opportunities to engage young people and families in the arts.  Melissa is a consultant to schools and organizations interested in the myriad ways in which art can connect people and build community. She is a collaborator in art-based community projects and initiatives such as ArtWorks, the Wandering Uterus Project, WORK art-based participatory action research project, Kindness in Action Evanston, Evanston Art Connects, and 2020 Year of Kindness and Nonviolent Action, and most recently she launched the first annual ASAPIA Heritage Arts Festival in Evanston.

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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 diversity, equity, inclusion and antiracism with young people, planned and orchestrated annual fundraising benefits and events, and curated a number of youth and adult exhibitions.

Melissa is 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.  Her work is centered around social art practice through which she creates and facilitates third spaces in the community.  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.

Angela Lyonsmith, DAT, ATR-BC, ATCS, LCPC

Dr. Angela Lyonsmith is the mom of three amazing humans, an artist, educator and art therapist. She is a founding director of Kids Create Change, an art therapist at the Mather, has worked as an art therapist and clinical supervisor for over two decades and taught in the graduate art therapy departments at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Assistant Professor, Adj., and Mount Mary University. She is passionate about the intersection of art making, community building and wellness. Follow her @artwithpeople.

 

Angela owned and directed the development of Gather, a community art studio, gallery and creativity-focused play space in downtown Evanston, designed for newborns through 6 year olds and their caregivers to meaningfully engage in the arts and play.  She has served on advisory boards for the DuPage Children's Museum, Visibility Arts ProgramChildren's Research Triangle and was a founding board member for Evanston Made and C3, promoting the intersections between community, creativity and commerce. Angela provides consultation for art therapy program development in residential facilities and innovative community based settings; leads process art and community art experiences for makers of all ages through partnerships with local organizations; supports therapeutic arts paraprofessional trainings in East Africa for the development of ethical, responsible, culturally relevant therapeutic arts programs through Global Alliance for Africa and provides clinical supervision to art therapists across the Midwest and Southwestern United States.

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Angela served as an associate director of WomanCraft and director of Creatively Empowered Women (CEW); two innovative, craft-based social enterprises in Chicago and was an artist-in-residence at the DuPage Children's Museum where she continues to contribute as a guest author on the Museum's blog. She is a collaborator in art-based community initiatives such as Art for PeaceArtWorks, the Wandering Uterus Project, WORK art-based participatory action research project, Kindness in Action Evanston, Evanston Art ConnectsRefettorio Chicago, the 2020 Year of Kindness and Nonviolent Action, the Community Peace Offering, and the Visible/Invisible project. Recently in conjunction with the Mather's art therapy team, she supported the launch of the first annual Creative Aging Arts Festival in downtown Evanston.  

 

Angela's doctoral research engaged art therapists around the world in articulating the phenomenon of life-enhancing space in art therapy. Her doctoral study and professional work is a reflection of her commitment to creating community art spaces that serve as ecosystems of resilience, promoting responsible, sustainable social entrepreneurship and engaging in art making as a means of social action and community care. Her mixed media art practice is focused on the exploration of metaphors from the natural world, fiber arts and slow craft as activism.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and Art from Muskingum University, a Master of Arts in Art Therapy from SAIC, and a Doctorate in Art Therapy from Mount Mary University.  She is a registered, board-certified art therapist, art therapy credentialed supervisor, and a licensed clinical professional counselor.