The Conversation: Melanie Hammer

Vice President of Strategy and Operations, Cathedral Arts Project

Photograph by laird

Congratulations on your new position with Cathedral Arts Project (CAP)! With your position being the first of its kind for this organization, you essentially have a blank slate. What is the first step in your vision?

Thank you! I am very excited about this new position with CAP. My first step is to learn the great things that are already happening so we can determine how to expand on those strategies that are working to make an even bigger impact. With everyone at CAP working together, we can reach our goals and positively impact arts education in Northeast Florida.  

You spent 16 years at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, most of which as its assistant principal and principal. What is key to leadership roles in arts-specific education?

I believe that there are a few essential components to leadership roles in arts-specific education. The first is truly understanding and valuing the enormous benefit arts education has on children. Students who study the arts in school are less likely to be absent, less likely to have discipline problems, and have higher grades and test scores. Another key to leadership within the arts is being flexible. You can never plan your day and think it will not change. You have to be prepared for anything that may happen and be able to change your plans at the last minute.  

You also have to be a problem solver and be able to think on your feet. No one solution fits all. In arts education, you often have to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions that consider students’ art and academic education. 

You were a dancer; do you still dance?

I stopped dancing after graduating from high school. When I watch dance classes now, I am sad that I stopped.  

Do you have a personal favorite visual and/or performing artist?  

I do not have a personal favorite visual or performing artist. I love going to any art event, no matter who is performing. However, if a Douglas Anderson alumnus is performing, that always ranks top in my book!

Can you summarize the benefits of the arts or share one especially powerful benefit?

There are so many benefits to the arts that I don’t know where to start. First, art is a powerful medium to share your thoughts and ideas and influence the way others think and feel. Expressing your emotions or thoughts can, at times, be challenging, and the arts help you share how you are feeling or what you are thinking. Second, the arts also create a connection between us in a way that nothing else can. Amazing conversations and changes often start with art. I have heard students say their art sometimes speaks for them when they cannot speak for themselves. It is truly a one-of-a-kind connection that reaches everyone differently.  

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Author: Arbus

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