The flair q&A

Melissa Dvozenja-Thomas

We could probably just let Melissa's megawatt smile do the talking. If there was ever an "in the moment" leader in the business (and non-profit) world, it's her. A trained performer with impressive degrees, she's now an arts administrator who brings the perfect mix of smarts and smiles to every project she touches.

Tell me about your business or specialty.

My specialty is my energy and positivity that I focus into helping people and non-profits. I'm currently the Director of Development and Marketing at Arts Mid-Hudson (* see below). AMH is the preeminent non-profit arts service organization serving the Mid-Hudson region (Dutchess, Orange and Ulster County). Since 1964, our initiatives have engaged and promoted the arts, benefiting our artists, arts organizations, and communities. Arts Mid-Hudson provides vision and leadership to support thriving and diverse arts in the region.

How'd you get to where you are now?

I started out as a musical theatre performer and, with that lifestyle, you get to move around a lot from contract to contract. During this time, I met incredible people who taught me various skills to add to my “tool box.” Little did I know at the time that all of those competencies would build into a flourishing non-profit career where I get to see the impact daily and continue to meet inspiring individuals who teach me every day. I never want to stop learning, whether it be a technical skill, about others’ journeys or about myself. There are infinite possibilities.

How has the Covid crisis affected your work or business? Any new ideas or approaches…or lessons learned so far?

Pre-pandemic, our programming was 100% in-person. This included all of our information sessions for our grants, entertainment, networking mixers, workshops etc. We were able to pivot very quickly to learn new platforms to help reach our community and continue to help others thrive during a time where we all felt isolated. By being open to new platforms, we were able to find new ways to connect and even open accessibility to a wider audience.

The past two years have continued to prove the organization’s resiliency, the importance of collaboration and creative thinking. What we learned throughout this is that our staff, board, members and community are able to rise through the adversity and continue with work that supports the flourishing art scene in the Mid-Hudson Valley.

What surprises you in your work, now or in the past?

I am constantly surprised, whether it's because of a software update and now I have to learn something new, or hearing about some incredible ideas from artists in our community. I am surprised and inspired daily by the challenges in our ever-changing world and the artists in our community who have such phenomenal platforms, skills and passion to change and educate others.

What drives you crazy?

A few things, but the majority of what drives me crazy is around time. Being late is a big one for me. I believe this stems from my Dad who would tell me if you weren’t 15 minutes early you were late. So when others don’t abide by that same courtesy, I can definitely sense my frustration. Also, time is our most important currency and I don’t like to feel like mine is being wasted or disrespected.

Who inspires you? (it can be anybody you know, or don't know)

People in general inspire me but recently I am inspired by my kids. When you go to school for acting, you are taught to strip down a lot of the “normalcies” you are taught your entire life. The goal is to see the world basically through a child’s perspective so that the options are limitless. Having kids of my own has brought back that playful, silly, incredibly curious nature that I have always had, but sometimes allow to take a back seat because there are “things to do.”

You're a trailblazer - what are some highlights in your career to date?

Starting in undergrad, graduating with two very intense majors in 5 years. Many in my program had tried to do it, but I was the only one who ever succeeded - and it felt pretty good. From there, I was a Managing Director of the Allenberry Playhouse (in central PA) by the age of 26. At the time, I didn’t realize that it was such a huge undertaking. I think back on the initial interview with the president of the company and how he must have thought I was crazy, and yet I was so confident and optimistic. During my time there, I felt like I made crucial connections, learned quickly and impacted a great deal of people. Moving back to the Hudson Valley, I was unsure where my journey was going to take me. All I knew was I wanted to change the world, and the arts changed my world. Getting the opportunity to work at an organization that breathes the importance of every art form in the community has been a gift.

Words of wisdom or thoughts?

Be kind, be curious and be present. There are 86,400 seconds in a day - spend that time doing something you are passionate about. Make an impact you are proud of.


Melissa Dvozenja-Thomas is the Director of Development & Marketing at Arts Mid-Hudson and has been a part of the arts scene for the majority of her life. She holds a BA in Acting for Theatre, a BA in Music Performance, a Masters in Public Administration, and a Masters Certificate from the International Institute of Event Management. Melissa was a singer, dancer, actor, photographer for 10 years following undergrad as well as the Managing Director at Allenberry Resort Inn & Playhouse in Pennsylvania. She serves as a board member for Theatre Untitled, and the Mid-Hudson Valley Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She is also on the advisory board of The Dutchess Community College Academy of Music. In her free time, Melissa loves to cook, bake, travel and spend time with her family.

(published 2022)

*UPDATE: Melissa keeps moving, and is now the Executive Director at Arts Mid-Hudson (2023)!