Melanie Franklin Cohn is an arts executive who believes in the life-changing power of art. Born in rural Missouri, Melanie’s life has been shaped by her love of art and artmaking. It brought her to NYC, as an MFA student at SVA, where she began to understand the power of the arts community and its history in social activism, beginning with her exposure to the work of LGBTQ+ artists during the AIDS crisis of the early 90s.
The combination of art, community, and collective organizing energized her work at the New Museum, Staten Island Arts, and the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey. It has led to a legacy of founding programs that focus on directing resources to community art makers so that they can create, amplify their work, empower their communities, and enrich the lives of others. Examples include the Staten Island Arts’ Folk Arts program that offers resources to heritage bearers, the Visual Art Center’s art therapy program for veterans in partnership with NJ Veterans Affairs, and the Visual Art Center’s visual arts learning program for English language learners in partnership with the Elizabeth NJ School District.
Melanie has repeatedly earned senior leadership roles based on demonstrated success in diversifying income and funding streams, optimizing P&L, and reducing operating costs. She has garnered recognition for being an astute strategist with expertise in building and motivating top-performing teams, promoting community awareness & engagement, and leading non-profit organizations through critical transitions.
Melanie is active in arts advocacy and policy, and has served as a New York State Captain for National Arts Advocacy & on the Steering Committees of the NYC Arts Coalition & NY Culture AID (Active in Disaster). She serves as secretary on the board of the National Organization for Arts in Health and serves on the International Advisory Board of Wellness for Greatness Kenya. Melanie received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts & her BFA from Missouri State University.