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My Space: Melissa Kaiser

Melissa Kaiser
Photography by Lucky Wenzel

The Discovery Children’s Museum CEO fills her workspace with reminders of the past that inspire the future

Last spring, after a career that included fundraising for the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and nine years as an executive vice president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (with stints of yoga and Pilates instruction thrown in there, too) Melissa Kaiser moved to Las Vegas to meet up with her husband, Roy Kaiser, artistic director of the Nevada Ballet Theater. She also began her new life as CEO of the Discovery Children’s Museum. The places she’s worked and the people she surrounds herself with have inspired her to get out of her comfort zone and become the boss lady she is. “We think about the things that shape us and grow us,” she says. “So, I surround myself with them.”

Hand-drawn quote from staff at PAFA (1) From a letter written by PAFA founder Benjamin West, it was a parting gift when Kaiser left for Vegas. “I was so moved by (the quote) that I started crying,” she says. “It inspires me to grow the cultural community in Las Vegas and provide opportunities for children to flourish in the expression of their imagination and creativity.”

Valentine (2) The shadow box holds a precious valentine from her niece Ashley, then 8. The note above it reads, “I <3 u. M + A= May I kiss u. I used my art box from you.” Kaiser is Ashley’s “artsy” aunt. They’ve spent countless of hours drawing portraits of her favorite dolls and cartoon characters. “I do believe creativity is like a muscle that if you don’t use, it will atrophy.”

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Tin cup (3)  This pays homage to Jane, her boss at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. When fundraising together, Jane would turn to Kaiser to “shake the tin cup” as a way to break the ice and stage the ask. “It’s kind of a reminder of our purpose as a nonprofit that we always have to ask,” Kaiser says. “We can’t be afraid to pick up the phone and just make that call.”

Mini Cooper toy cars (4) “I think they are reflective of my personality in a lot of ways. They’re zippy but also solid and fun.” The red Mini was her stepson’s while the yellow one was gifted by her dad. She hopes to drive her own Mini Cooper along Route 66.

Picture of “light and love” rock (5) During a trying time in her life, Kaiser’s best friend gave her this rock, which reads “light and love,” paired with a Sanskrit symbol. By reflecting on it every day, she was able to manifest “light and love” into her life again. She keeps a picture of it at her desk. “It’s kind of always a reminder to keep it light,” Kaiser says. “Remember it’s your choice to be light, to be love, and to attract that around you.”

Big scissors (6) Used for the museum’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, they’re engraved with the date of the opening; March 9, 2013. They’re tilted upward for the direction Discovery wants to keep going.

Magnifying glass (7) The magnifying glass has become a part of the museum’s logo, and is symbolic — it’s the idea of youth examining, exploring, and paying attention to the things around them. Kaiser has jokingly used the magnifying glass to look at documents.

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Photos (8) The picture of the Buddha was given to Kaiser by a former coworker. On the left is an image by Jamie Alvarez. It showcases objects found at the Philadelphia dump, showcasing ideas of sustainability, recycling, and the need to find art and beauty in anything.