The Ohio State University Alumni Association

Special Report But for Ohio State Campaign

Blending art and business

‘At Ohio State, you have so many opportunities ...’ — Alumna Melissa Crum

Melissa Crum

For many of us, the teenage years were some of our most challenging. Now, imagine facing all that angst as a refugee new to American culture and norms. You would be grateful to have someone like Melissa Crum in your corner.

With a project that blended hip hop music and storytelling to inspire 12- to 16-year-old youths from Ethiopia, Somalia, Asia-Pacific countries and the Middle East, Crum encouraged the teens to express their feelings about social challenges and to connect as a community.

“I asked them what they would say to a friend who was dealing with difficulties or even teen depression,” said Crum ’10 MA, ’14 PhD. “How could they help them find solutions? What would be six words of advice?”

Their guidance was profound: You have to let others help. Don’t ever let your head down. New day means new beginning always. Be proud of who you are. Become what they say you can’t. Don’t give up on your dreams. Be the best version of you.

Crum spearheaded the project for a Columbus nonprofit through her Mosaic Education Network, a consulting company she founded and leads.

“We use the arts, research, storytelling and community-building to help schools and nonprofits effectively create inclusive groups,” she said. “We look at how art can be used to socialize us like no other tool can.”

Crum credits Ohio State and its Barnett Center for Integrated Arts and Enterprise — where students learn the business side of the arts to turn their artistic passions into careers — with nurturing her entrepreneurial spirit.

“It is always great to be surrounded by the creative individuals there and be part of a community that sought to support my move forward in my career,” Crum said. “They helped shape my energy to use art to create a new business.”

The Mosaic Network uses art to help teachers better connect with diverse groups and shed preconceived notions they may have about different populations. She is now working with local museum educators on staff development and diversity training. And in the spring, she’ll collaborate with Ohio State and local middle-schoolers in a creative effort aimed at exposing the youth to the sciences via a community garden.

Mosaic has even had an impact thousands of miles away.

“I went to Ghana to work with a nonprofit and realized that young students there were often given books that didn’t deal at all with their culture,” she said. “The characters in the books did not look like them or deal with the same things they were dealing with.”

So Crum reached out to publishers for book donations, collecting more than 2,000 books that reflect black culture.

Crum credits her university for galvanizing the creativity she channels into such endeavors.

“At Ohio State, you have so many opportunities available to you — the curriculum, the many organizations, the larger national partnerships. That all helped me find my niche and follow my passion,” she said. “Very few universities are bridging the arts and business in a creative way. At Ohio State, we are.”