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Meet Lois Chisolm of The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation in Gwinnett

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lois Chisolm.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Lois. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My sister and I had a long history working with children. I married and had children but Melanie didn’t.

She focused on building a career in the music industry. Melanie Thornton was the lead singer of the famous dance duo LaBouche and I managed the group. My husband Todd was her song writing partner and a trusted road manager and technical director. Our mom, Delores Thornton, made all of Melanie’s stage wear. In 2001 while promoting her 1st solo album Melanie died in a plane crash. Our family was devastated.

In 2002, we decided to honor Melanie by carrying on combining her love of the arts and her love of working with children. First, we gave scholarships to children to participate in arts programs. By 2004 The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation had become an official nonprofit organization.

Today we assist other nonprofit organizations who serve children by developing and providing music, dance, art and theater arts programs customized for their organization.

We work with churches, daycare centers, and prevention groups on after school and summer camp programs for kids aged 2 to 18.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Finding funding is extremely difficult when you are not a large organization like United Way. There were also many struggles and a lot of stress managing buildings to house our programs. Eventually we found our sweet spot as a mobile organization. Rather besting the bushes to find funding and children who need our services we started working with already established nonprofits and businesses who already serve children.

We’ve been working successfully in this way since 2010.

The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our programs are designed to develop leadership skills and a commitment to community through the arts. We realize most of our kids won’t grow up to be professional performing stars but performing arts can bring out the star in you. Our kids learn that the only limits and obstacles they will ever have are the ones they place in their own way.

The program I’m most proud of is “The Moral of the Story.” This program encompasses every aspect of the arts. We take a classic piece of literature or film and present it in the beginning of the program. Then we facilitate the extraction of the moral themes that were presented. Our kids are then tasked with creating an original story with those same themes and creating a stay play from that their story. As they are pulling their production together they decide how they want to participate in it. Some kids want to act, sing, dance, gather and manage props, manage sound and lighting, gather and manage costumes, design and prepare set pieces, manage the photography and film aspects of the production. The possibilities are as endless as they are.

In the end, our kids learn about and from classics as they create something new from them and present it to their community. It is a pleasure to help kids discover how wonderfully limitless they truly are.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I define success as being able to live the life you want and making a living doing what you love.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.foundationforyoutharts.org
  • Phone: 6784620535
  • Email: loischisolm@foundationforyoutharts.org
  • Facebook: The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation


Image Credit:
Lois Chisolm for The Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation

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