San Francisco, CA, December 9, 2010— The Board of Directors of the Performing Arts Workshop has named Jessica Mele the organization’s new Executive Director. Mele, currently Deputy Director, will replace Tom DeCaigny, who has served in that role for the past eight years.

“I am honored that the Workshop’s Board of Directors has entrusted me to lead one of the nation’s premier arts education organizations,” said Mele, who first joined the workshop in 2006 as a member of the Program staff, “I firmly believe that after 45 years of excellence in direct service, we are just beginning to reach our full potential as a social change organization. I am thrilled to lead Performing Arts Workshop during this exciting period.”

DeCaigny, who joined the organization eleven years ago as the Program Manager for the Robeson & Rivera Academy, said he was leaving to pursue new career opportunities.

“It’s time for me to explore something new,” he said, “It’s bittersweet to transition from a role that has afforded me the privilege of working with such talented colleagues and dedicated community partners, but I will remain a part of the Workshop’s extended family for years to come.  It’s an honor to pass the reins to my close colleague, Jessica. I look forward to supporting her and the Board of Directors during this exciting transition.”

Board President Monique Olivier praised DeCaigny for his accomplishments during the years he led the workshop.

“Under Tom’s leadership the organization grew by leaps and bounds, gaining national recognition for its work, and impacting the lives of thousands of young people,” Olivier said. “The Workshop is fortunate to have a talented leader in Jessica Mele. The Board has the utmost confidence in her ability to guide the organization into the future.”

During DeCaigny’s time as executive director the organization provided quality arts education to over 82,000 young people, demonstrating the power of the arts to transform public education.

Mele, 31, joined the Workshop in April 2006. Under her leadership, its programs have increased the number of youth served by 15 percent.

In the community, she currently serves as the Advocacy Co-Chair for the Arts Provider’s Alliance of San Francisco and as a member of the steering committees of Teaching Artists Organized and the Alameda County Office of Education’s Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership.

From 2002-2005, Mele managed the academic research projects of Marshall Ganz at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She also developed her own negotiation and community building skills as an organizer for the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (AFSCME, AFL-CIO).

She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and French Studies from Smith College and an Ed. Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Mele’s appointment as Executive Director is effective February 14, 2011. DeCaigny’s last day in the role will be February 25, 2011.  A comprehensive transition plan will begin in December to ensure a smooth transition.

Gloria Unti established Performing Arts Workshop in 1965 to provide a creative outlet for inner-city youth in the conviction that the creative process is a dynamic vehicle for learning, problem-solving and social change.

Today, the Workshop continues the commitment to serve young people with a high-quality, complete education that includes arts learning and opens pathways to a resourceful and productive life. The Workshop’s mission is to help young people develop critical thinking, creative expression, and basic learning skills through the arts.


Performing Arts Workshop is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young people develop critical thinking, creative expression, and basic learning skills through the arts. Founded in San Francisco in 1965, last year the organization reached over 9,600 young people across the Bay Area.


Brian Wiedenmeier, Development Director 415-673-2634 x205 or