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State's Arts Council, RI Health Department name public health Artist in Residence

RHODE ISLAND, July 13 - The RI State Council on the Arts (RISCA) and the RI Department of Health (RIDOH) announced today Melody Gamba, Providence, as an Artist in Residence to be embedded in RI's Executive Office of Health and Human Services (RI EOHHS). Gamba, who started on Monday (July 11), will bring arts-based approaches to public health priorities.

Gamba, a dance artist, educator, licensed mental health counselor and board-certified dance-movement psychotherapist, is a long-time advocate for inclusive, equitable and just educational outreach and therapeutic interventions. She believes that consistent access to quality health and wellness services combined with the arts will help foster healing, long-term systemic change, and ultimately build a stronger Rhode Island.

During her six-month residency, Gamba will use her artistic practice, and counseling and teaching experience to develop creative health solutions and outcomes for the Health and Human Services Agency. She will focus on the Children's Behavioral Health System of Care and/or Overdose, Addiction and Adult Behavioral Health.

"Partnerships such as the Artist in Residence program advance our goal to integrate arts and arts-based therapies into healthcare as well as build sustainable health-arts policy, practice and research," said Lynne McCormack, Executive Director of RISCA. "We will be supporting Melody throughout her residency as she applies her incredible talents to advancing health equity through the arts."

"We look forward to working with Melody on creative ways to raise awareness on behavioral health and overall health equity within the communities we serve," said Executive Office of Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Ana Novais. "We appreciate this exciting opportunity to make an impact on our colleagues and the greater community through artistic collaboration."

"The arts can serve as a public health intervention providing a connection to social services, mental wellbeing, and individual and community health. Rhode Island has a unique opportunity to build on this growing field because of the one-of-a-kind partnership that exists between RIDOH and RISCA and our rich connection to the arts," said Steven Boudreau, Chief Administrative Officer and Co-chair Arts and Health, RI Department of Health.

Within the context of EOHHS, Gamba will combine artistic practice, and explore and develop creative health solutions. She said, "I look forward to gaining a better understanding of how these agencies alongside community voices collaborate to identify and achieve health equity and mental health goals through art-based initiatives. Success would include building authentic relationships, collaborative community partners, and sustainable action that can continue beyond this residency."

About Melody Gamba Gamba received her Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling with a specialization in Dance-Movement Therapy from Lesley University, and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from Marymount Manhattan College (MMC) in addition to being awarded the Silver M for outstanding leadership and involvement in the MMC community. Melody was the recipient of the Davis Fellowship from Salve Regina University for her thesis research utilizing dance-movement therapy as a tool to dismantle racism and injustice in service learning. She delivered the keynote address at the annual conference on Youth Mental Health (2019). As a member of the Diversity in Motion Research Collective, she has co-presented workshops nationally.

In 2022, Gamba created Lighthouse Creative Collaborative, which offers expressive arts learning communities for individuals and organizations ready to implement social justice values; explore sustainable change; and create more open and compassionate communities. Alongside community partners, she facilitates professional development workshops and retreats focused on team building, arts-based solution sessions, embodied diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, and somatic processing.

She is the past assistant Artistic Director and company member of Fusionworks Dance Company and was invited to perform with ESS/Dance Works, SOKOLOW NOW Anna Sokolow Contemporary Dance Company, Dancing Legacy, and Bill Evans Dance Company in addition to teaching and choreographing throughout the United States. She holds deep appreciation for her first dance teacher and mentor, Miss Carolyn Dutra. Currently, she is a program therapist at Butler Hospital in Providence, and an adjunct professor at Salve Regina University and Lesley University. She is a member of the ADTA Multicultural and Diversity Committee, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, and was awarded the Leader of Tomorrow (2019) by the organization. She was humbled to receive the presidential scholarship to further her research using the arts to evoke equitable and just social change in Lesley University's Ph.D. Counseling and Psychology: Transformation Leadership, Education and Applied Research Program.