Melissa Carestia Shows an Award-Winning Passion for the Arts

by Kelly Clisham

As a child, Melissa Carestia displayed her passion for art through drawing, coloring and taking photos with disposable cameras. Through school and a career that included non-profit development and college marketing, Carestia realized she didn’t want to make art for a living, but wanted to help others make art. Now she displays her dedication to arts education as the assistant director for the Sordoni Art Gallery — and has an award to prove it.

Carestia was honored as the STEAM Professional of the Year at the 2023 Young Professionals Awards hosted by the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce. While the acronym STEM covers science, technology, engineering and math, the addition of the A to create STEAM shows a greater understanding of the importance of the arts.

“There’s so much value in the arts and humanities,” says Carestia. “The creative problem-solving I see kids do when I give them a project is amazing.”

The power of the arts isn’t just limited to classrooms. They can also benefit people of all ages through therapeutic applications and economic impact for communities, as well as creating a human connection that crosses time and distance. “We can talk all day about how art fulfills us,” says Carestia.   

Carestia’s ability to connect with people through the arts caught the attention of Shelby Monk. Monk, the event and marketing coordinator for Diamond City Partnership, nominated Carestia for the award. “She’s very creative and very intentional with her programs,” says Monk. “We’ve had a lot of events for Diamond City where we’ve collaborated with the Sordoni Art Gallery. Melissa’s out there with a table and a tent at every event.”

Though Carestia may be the one at the table, she’s grateful to Wilkes and the University’s administration for their support of the Sordoni Art Gallery’s work. She’s also thankful that the community’s taking notice. “I’ve been doing this work for so long and I’ve been really passionate about it,” says Carestia. “It’s nice to have other people see that.”

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