FYACS celebrates its first five years and launches capital campaign

On Friday, June 7, more than 160 people turned out to celebrate Follow Your Art Community Studios’ (FYACS) 5th year as Melrose’s nonprofit arts center. Unexpected rainstorms bookended the event, but the show went on and raised more than $14,000 in support of FYACS’ capital campaign to purchase the Big Yellow House.

The evening was emcee’d by Christopher Robinson, who hosted a full lineup of local entertainment. The Peanut Gallery, with Oren Santillo, Sammy McQuaid and Jonah Peters, provided music for the first part of the evening as guests arrived, admired the new outdoor patio and performance space, and enjoyed food by local vendors The Kitchen and Sweet and Spices by Glo and drinks by Sips with Liv.

This was the first time using the backyard patio, which saw the old garage transformed into a stage, and an uneven, overgrown backyard turned into a welcoming patio space surrounded by a garden and filled with personalized bricks from individuals and families in the FYACS community. A silent auction was held in the Follow Your Art Gallery, with paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and multimedia pieces generously donated by more than 20 local artists.

How FYACS’ offerings make a difference

Throughout the evening, several members of our creative community shared what FYACS has meant to them.

Sheri Leo shared her family’s experience at Follow Your Art, reflecting on how a multigenerational ceramics workshop helped her family realize the value in creating, even if you don’t consider yourself an artist. Kris Rodolico, FYACS’ Founder and Executive Director, later echoed this sentiment, saying to laughter that ‘I’m not an artist’ are fighting words at FYACS. “We are stewards of a culture who honor the artist in everyone.” Read more of Kris’ speech here.

Rilda Kissel shared her path as a storyteller and how FYACS has created valuable space for people to explore and share their own stories through the In Real Life storytelling series and workshops. The gathered audience listened with rapt attention to her skillful, poignant, and at times hilarious story.

Kerry Kurdziel read a sample of her poetry and noted how the quiet space of the FYACS Writers Studio has been invaluable to her writing, and helped her pursue her goal of attending an MFA program for poetry.

Mark Erelli, a nationally-touring professional musician and Melrose resident, closed out the party with a set that saw him joined on stage by his son Owen. A rocking finale with The Peanut Gallery had guests joyfully dancing in the rain.

Government representatives and Board present honors

In a moving surprise, Mayor Jennifer Grigoraitis presented Kris Rodolico, FYACS’ Founder and Executive Director, with a citation from the City of Melrose honoring her contributions to the arts in Melrose. Members of the Board of Directors also presented citations on behalf of Massachusetts State Representatives Kate Lipper-Garabedian and Jason Lewis.

Capital campaign will move FYACS forward

The evening was also a chance to look forward. We have ideas (so many ideas!) of how to make this place even more special and reach even more people with creative experiences. FYACS is undertaking a capital campaign through 2026 to purchase the property at 647 Main Street, which it has occupied since launching as a nonprofit community art center in 2019. At the time, a group of our founding supporters generously purchased the house to “hold” it until FYACS was in a position to take on ownership. The time is now. This is our home, in the heart of Melrose, and we’re not going anywhere.

To learn more about the capital campaign and additional events for everyone to celebrate FYACS’ first five years in the community, visit bit.ly/Home4FYA

Celebration Photos

Enjoy these photos from the evening by Anelise Tubinis Photography!