It was a magazine that enticed Melinda Haines to return to Fort Wayne.
“My parents were (here) starting their own publishing venture, a magazine called ‘Welcome to Fort Wayne', she recalls, “and I moved back to help them publish it.”
That was in 1987.
Haines is still here, now woven into the fabric of the community and recently named director of IPFW's Community Arts Academy (CAA). CAA promotes the arts by offering classes and camps in art, dance, music and theater for students in pre-K through Grade 12.
“My job is to work with the instructors to create and schedule the classes and then to market (them) to students,” she explains. Registration for 2012 summer camps is currently underway, with two new piano camps and the debut of the IPFW Gene Marcus Piano Competition added to this year's roster of opportunities.
“We are thrilled to ... offer the IPFW Gene Marcus Piano Camp for intermediate and advanced students this year,” she says. “This is a weeklong camp for Grades 7-12 that will allow students to experience a week of intensive piano study with IPFW piano faculty and guests.”
Both resident and commuter options are available.
A moving experience
Haines was born in Memphis, lived in several Midwestern states, graduated from Ohio's Kenyon College, and worked in Chicago before returning to the Summit City.
“I think moving a lot growing up made me more accepting and embracing of change,” she says. “My mother was always very positive about our moves — ‘think of all the friends you'll meet', and ‘you'll get to decorate a new bedroom!' — and I never minded.”
Her family had lived here in the 1960s, and Haines lays claim to being one of the earliest graduates of St. Joseph United Methodist Preschool. After her return here as an adult, she began attending the church, where she met and married her husband, Bruce, the general manager of WFWA-TV39. They have two daughters — Hannah, an IPFW freshman, and Rachel, a sophomore at Snider High School.
The entrepreneurial spirit
Haines's self-effacing manner belies her creativity and determination — qualities that have bolstered her career efforts.
“I've been self-employed for most of my career,” she explains, “especially when our daughters were younger because it gave me a lot of flexibility. You really can't put a price on having a schedule that is totally your own.”
While working with her parents on the magazine, Haines developed skills in desktop publishing. Experience in graphic design, marketing, special events, ad campaigns, and public relations were gradually added to her resume.
“I worked as a freelancer for many years,” she says, “providing graphic design services, mostly to nonprofit organizations who didn't have the staff to write and prepare their own marketing pieces.”
In the mid-1990's Haines and a partner rode the wave of interest in scrapbooking. Their Destination Scrapbook Designs' rubber stamps and stickers — all made in Fort Wayne — eventually appeared in more than 3,000 independently-owned scrapbook stores.
A new chapter
“When I was offered the position as director ... of CAA, it seemed like the perfect job to use these skills in an area where I have a lot of interest — cultural and arts programming and education,” Haines says of her marketing background.
In addition to her role at CAA, Haines is also assistant to the dean for community engagement through the College of Visual and Performing Arts. The position, which is in the formative stages, will involve working with the community on collaborative projects and some fundraising, she says.
Haines is adamant about the value of the arts in a community.
“It's a proven fact that students who learn the visual and performing arts enhance their other studies by using different parts of the brain,” she explains. Those skills translate into more creative thinking.
“CAA exists to provide a solid foundation at a young age that can be nurtured throughout a person's life to provide a creative outlet for the individual,” she says.