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 the 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.


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, MA, ATR-BC, LCPC

Angela is the mother of three, an artist, educator, art therapist and community builder. She is the co-director of Kids Create Change, a doctoral student at Mount Mary University, and a former founding board member for Evanston Made.  She currently serves on advisory boards for the DuPage Children's Museum, Refettorio Chicago, and the Visibility Arts Program.  Angela has worked as an art therapist, consultant and clinical supervisor since 2001 with very young children through older adults within non-profit, social enterprise and for-profit models of care.  She provides consultation for art therapy program development in residential facilities and innovative community based settings, leads process art experiences for young children through Third Space, 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 Southwest United States.

Angela served as an Assistant Professor, adj. in the Graduate Art Therapy Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for 12 years, an adjunct faculty member at Mount Mary University, an artist-in-residence at the DuPage Children's Museum, and the director and owner of Gather, a community art studio and creativity-focused play space in Evanston, IL, designed for newborns

through 6 year olds and their caregivers to meaningfully engage together in the arts and play. As a local arts-based business owner and artist, she was a founding member of C3 an organization promoting the intersections between community, creativity and commerce.  She is a collaborator in the 2020 Year of Kindness and Nonviolent Action, a public art and community engagement initiative, which uses the transformative power of the arts to bring people together around the common goal of fostering an inclusive and peaceful community.

Her research interests include articulating the elements of life enhancing space in art therapy; community art spaces as ecosystems of resilience; responsible entrepreneurship that generates social capital; art making as social action expressed in the following collaborative projects: Art for Peace, Artworks, the Wandering Uterus Project, @artwithpeople, WORK art-based participatory action research project, Creatively Empowered Women (CEW), @kindnessinactionevanston, Evanston Art Connects and Refetorrio Chicago. Her current art practice is focused on the exploration of metaphors from the natural world and slow craft as activism.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and Art from Muskingum University and a Master of Arts in Art Therapy from SAIC.  She is a registered, board-certified art therapist and licensed clinical professional counselor.