Melissa Richardson Banks specializes in creating strategic marketing partnerships for corporate and nonprofit clients. She is known for designing innovative, cost-effective solutions that produce results — from raising funds to raising awareness. Since 1989, she has raised over $45 million for nonprofits.
In 1999, Melissa co-founded an unprecedented network with John H. Good, Angela Easton, and Hyepin Christine Im called Sponsorship Professionals Association (SPA), which uniquely connected corporate and nonprofit executives responsible for sponsorship, cause marketing, and corporate giving. After 9/11, Melissa launched CauseConnect® to provide professional services to companies, charities, and celebrities, including Toyota, Target Corporation, Cheech Marin, Los Angeles Education Partnership, Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center for the Arts & Education, and many more.
Previously, she worked for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles where she successfully started an inaugural corporate partnership program in support of the Los Angeles Public Library. She also launched a major exhibitions program at Central Library, resulting in almost 30 major gallery shows for which she managed project teams, raised funding, and provided professional services such as sponsorship, marketing, community outreach, special events, volunteer engagement, contract negotiation, and budget management. She formerly worked at the Autry National Center where she launched a groundbreaking integrated marketing/sponsorship program to support exhibitions, festivals, and other cultural events. At Texas A&M University, she managed an international executive education program as well as administered and funded programs affiliated with statewide business-school partnerships. Prior to the nonprofit arena, she worked in corporate sales, marketing, and Hispanic market research. She holds a B.A. in journalism and communication studies from Texas State University and a master’s degree (and Ph.D. coursework) in educational administration with an emphasis on business and finance from Texas A&M University.
Since 1999, Melissa has taught nonprofit training workshops independently or for clients such as the National Arts Project, Center for Cultural Innovation, and InfoPeople. She has presented at national conferences such as the American Alliance of Museums, American Libraries Association, Mountain-Plains Museums Association, and Hispanic PR & Social Marketing Association. She has also served as a grant reviewer for many companies and government agencies.
As Downtown Muse, Melissa is also an independent cultural producer and a seasoned marketing professional. She plans, creates, funds and executes events, programs and projects such as museum exhibits, community festivals, speaker series, classical music concerts, influencer dinners, artist studio visits, outdoor art tours, and art salons. To date, she has produced, marketed, managed, and/or funded over 100 museum exhibits, and managed several national tours of traveling exhibits and art shows. She is also a lifestyle photographer who blogs about the arts at www.DowntownMuse.com.
In addition, Melissa is an author, book editor, and art publisher who has independently funded, edited and published five art books; among them, her book of her own photography, “MUSE-ings: Snapshots of the Arts District, Downtown Los Angeles,” which is sold on Amazon.
Specialties: cause marketing; corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives; nonprofit-corporate partnerships; cultural productions such as museum exhibitions, speaker programs, and community festivals; special events; volunteer programs; nonprofit training; social media; art services
Edgar Varela has worked is an independent cultural producer specializing in art, music, and cultural happenings with an emphasis on brand-driven events and event production. Art events produced by Varela include several with Art Weekend LA, which connected local art galleries with national art fairs; The Analog Salon art series sponsored by Epson in Culver City; and Phantom Galleries, which revitalizes and energizes communities and pedestrian thoroughfares by transforming unoccupied properties into art venues. Music events produced by Varela include the Homage concert series featuring artists such as Roy Ayers, Peter Rock, Robert Glasper Experiment, Quantic, Thundercat, Alice Russell, and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble; World Music Series featuring acts such as Jeremy Sole and his Musaics, Very Be Careful, La Santa Cecilia, Las Cafeteras, Buyepongo, Mr. Vallenato, Maleco Collective, and Mucho Music. As a music consultant, he has programmed the stages and managed production for numerous large-scale events such as BloomfestLA, Target Feria de la Familia, and Downtown Dark Nights at L.A. LIVE. For seven years, he owned and operated EVFA, a fine art gallery specializing in contemporary American art based in Downtown Los Angeles. Prior to working in the arts, he was a commercial real estate analyst for seven years. He has been working with CauseConnect since 2011.
Eva Crawford of The Axis of Eva has over 15 years of experience in producing successful branding initiatives, print, product packaging and front-end development for a wide array of clients – including museums, art collectors and art organizations. Providing strategic design solutions based in research and implementing forward-thinking solutions, the goal is always to communicate a focused brand message and image. From branding design to websites to print collateral and all assets in between she’s passionate about the vital role of the arts in culture. She relishes any opportunity to translate those creative visions into art publications. From the cover details like the perfect metallic spot color for an embossed cover to developing the grids for the inner pages, everything matters to do justice to the dedicated artists represented in those pages who have often sacrificed so much to pursue their craft.
Typography and color theory are the bedrock of anything Eva does. She firmly believes that you must build a brand, book or website on solid ground. There are many variables that go into consideration of a brand including type. When you work with Eva, you know that she has carefully researched what typefaces serve the needs of the project. When possible, Eva works with type designers who create hand lettering or typefaces specifically for a project. Particularly with the artst, color choices are paramount. They must to work seamlessly both printed assets and digital applications. When an existing logo or style guide already exists for project, strict adherence is critical for ancillary projects to ensure continuity and brand identity.
Eva works best when clients provide a detailed creative brief, including the range of assets and channels in which their brand will be deployed. She prefers developing a client relationship wit open and engaged conversations with the not just the creative team but also the key players in organizations. Learning about the challenges and needs is critical to develop successful brands and assets.
Nicolas Wendl is an award-winning filmmaker with experience in narrative, music videos, commercials, and events. His works have premiered on Billboard, MTV, and AXS; and his films have screened in festivals around the world. He has an eclectic portfolio of work that embodies the style of each project. He has worked with AEG and LA LIVE since 2013, capturing all of their events and promotional video needs during this time. Wendl collaborated with CauseConnect on numerous LA LIVE community events such as Downtown Dark Nights, Round Up, and Pop Up Market. His eye for detail and his pace in building the finished project always guarantee an engaging and compelling video.
Tina Demirdjian is a dedicated artist, educator, business leader and founder of Poetry Consults, a business that develops and facilitates workshops to build leadership, collaboration, literacy and writing skills for all age groups and for a range of clients … from companies and nonprofits, to schools and museums, to libraries and community centers. Founded in 1991, Poetry Consults also uses creative strategies to create innovative content that helps sustain partnerships, promote organizational missions, engage board members and community stakeholders, and empower workshop participants through new skills. A poet for 30 years, Demirdjian thinks of poetry as a conduit of courage, vulnerability, and connectivity. Her published works include the award-winning book IMPRINT, poems in Birthmark: A Bilingual Anthology of Armenian American Poetry, and poetry in the journals High Performance, MORIA Literary Magazine, Aspora, Midwest Poetry Review, and the Texas Observer. In support of her work, she has received grants from the Durfee Foundation, the California Arts Council, Glendale Arts Commission, and the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. Demirdjian has performed her poetry in Los Angeles and at The Bowery in New York. She is also the founder and a co-director of the Armenian Dress & Textile Project (ADTP). ADTP serves as a study and exhibition of materials to introduce to Armenian and non-Armenian public to the dowry items, textiles, and apparel of Armenian women during the Ottoman Empire.