PERSONAL STATEMENT: In August 2014, I had an opportunity to move my residence to the South Bay after spending 21 years living AND working within the SAME four walls in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles. While I now maintain my loft as a professional working studio and gallery space, I am proudly now living in the infamous “Bubble” of Southern California. Who would’ve known?!!? I grew up on the beach (Padre Island) in South Texas, and when I moved to Los Angeles in 1993, I proudly stated that my love had shifted to the mountains. I became infatuated with hiking, trekking most evenings from my DTLA loft to Griffith Park and beyond for my fix of hitting the trails. I also became an avid bicyclist — an urban one who sought solace in riding the then-quiet streets of Downtown Los Angeles. Things started changing in 2004; at first, there were subtle differences in what was happening in my quiet urban neighborhood for those first few years, then around 2011, the pace suddenly escalated so quickly that eventually the changes became a blur … I knew last year that I needed some respite from the now-too-fast dizzily paced environment that replaced my former “small-town” neighborhood, my self-described “twisted Mayberry R.F.D.” I wasn’t sure what to expect in Redondo Beach, or any of the South Bay Beach Cities, so I quietly settled in, waiting to see what inspirations evolved from the peacefulness and solitude of beach living. What happened was that I fell in love; so much, that I felt I was cheating on the Arts District, but I consoled myself by knowing that I still had a foothold in my DTLA neighborhood through my now-work-only loft space. I now find myself back and forth, easily transitioning between two very different worlds as needed, finally at peace now with my restless Gemini soul salved by two incredible places that satisfy my yin and my yang.
What I have discovered is that my life — and my work — in the South Bay is based on a sense of discovery and appreciation for each day, while my life — and my work — in the Arts District is based on an insider’s rich knowledge of the past, an appreciation of its present, and a strong passion for its future.
PROFESSIONAL BIO: Melissa Richardson Banks is a cause marketing and corporate partnership specialist who founded the firm CauseConnect® in October 2000 (its humble beginnings actually started in January 1999 and later went full-time after 9/11 in 2001). CauseConnect LLC is a Los Angeles-based firm that offers consulting services related to the marketing, sponsorship and corporate social responsibility (CSR) needs of companies, nonprofit organizations, and community projects, primarily in the areas of the arts, culture, environment, education, and volunteer engagement. As an independent cultural producer, she also manages and markets large-scale community festivals, concerts, art salons, museum exhibitions and other cultural happenings through her marketing collaboration @WeAreDTLA with her business partner Edgar Varela.
Her client roster includes companies such as City National Bank, L.A. LIVE, Target Corporation, and Toyota Financial Services; nonprofit organizations such as the Braille Institute of America, League of Women Voters of Los Angeles Education Fund, and Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center for the Arts & Education; community projects such as the Abbot Kinney Festival, Arts District Co-Op, BloomfestLA, and Echo Park Cuban Music Festival; and individuals in the arts such as Chicano collector Cheech Marin and artist Joe Bravo. For the latter two, she produced, marketed, managed, and toured museum exhibitions (six exhibitions to date for Cheech at more than 25 venues nationwide to date and two for Joe at four venues, including one in Hong Kong).
Prior to establishing CauseConnect, Ms. Richardson Banks initiated an inaugural corporate partnership program for the Los Angeles Public Library through the Library Foundation of Los Angeles in her role as the Sponsorship & Marketing Director. There, she also spearheaded a comprehensive exhibitions program, which included securing sponsors and grants, managing project teams, coordinating volunteers, and marketing of almost 30 museum-quality exhibitions; primarily art, history, and photography shows. At what is now the Autry National Center of the American West, as the Director of Development, she launched a marketing-based sponsorship program that supported over 30 exhibitions plus educational programs, concerts, and art fairs during 1993 to 1999, and shepherded the museum’s transition from a private operating foundation to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1995.
Ms. Richardson Banks has coached and taught training workshops for numerous nonprofits and clients such as the Center for Cultural Innovation; InfoPeople; The Gas Company, a Sempra Energy utility; and the National Arts Marketing Project. She has presented at national conferences for organizations such as the American Association of Museums, American Libraries Association, Hispanic PR & Social Marketing, Public Libraries Association, and Urban Libraries Council. She has also served as a grant reviewer for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Hitachi, Toyota’s Making Life Easier® program, CNB’s Reading is The way up® program, and Bank of America’s Neighborhood Excellence® initiative. Currently, she serves on the LAC+USC Medical Center Arts Council as an Advisory Committee member.
The editor of Papel Chicano: Works on Paper from the Cheech Marin Collection and an art book called Chicanitas: Small Paintings from the Cheech Marin Collection, Ms. Richardson Banks is also a producer of the documentary, The Chicano Collection/La Coleccion Chicana. In addition to Papel Chicano, Chicanitas, and The Chicano Collection, exhibitions independently produced by her firm CauseConnect include Siqueiros in Los Angeles: Censorship Defied (attracting record attendance at the Autry National Center), Puro Muerto: Contemporary Imagery of Day of the Dead (produced for the Los Angeles Public Library in its Central Library’s Getty Gallery), Bravo: The Tortilla Paintings of Joe Bravo (which also included funding and managing an international tour), and Menudo: Chicano Art from the Cheech Marin Collection. She also produced the publication of Real City: Downtown Los Angeles – Inside/Out featuring photographs by Marissa Roth.
Her education includes degrees from Texas State University (B.A., journalism and communications) and Texas A&M University (M.S., educational administration). An avid urban cyclist, Richardson Banks currently serves on the official rider teams for Tern Bicycles and Nutcase Helmets. She is also a photographer who documents her changing Arts District neighborhood through her online Downtown Muse presence that includes Instagram and Twitter, and showcases her daily discoveries of her new residence in the South Bay through her blog and social media outlets like Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr.
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