Melinda Hannah has served her neighbors in the 425 area for decades. First, as a circulation manager for the The Seattle Times, and then as an independent artist.

After her career at The Times, Hannah decided it was time to follow her calling. She enrolled at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, graduating with honors and a Design Illustration degree.

Painting by Melinda Hannah

Painting by Melinda Hannah

While her need to create had inspired the formal education, Hannah also was determined to use her talents in business. Nevertheless, success did not come easily, and she quickly learned how difficult it is for new artists to break into the niche industry of fine art.

“Painfully, I realized the world of fine art was more complicated than I’d imagined,” said Hannah. “I had no support in the industry, so the lifestyle was difficult, and I began to question why I’d pursued it.”

Explaining this time as a “crisis of faith that led me to a new place and inspired a great urgency inside me to make a difference,” Hannah was moved to launch a venture that utilized her talents to promote awareness for people she felt were marginalized.

Using crowdfunding platforms, Hannah launched social-awareness campaigns. The first raised more than $12,000 in 30 days, its proceeds funding an art collection and tour in 2014 that featured portraits of women struggling with terminal illness. The campaign, known as “Illuminating Essence,” gained widespread attention.

Painting by Melinda Hannah

Painting by Melinda Hannah

“I wanted to recognize the innate dignity and beauty we all share,” Hannah said. “The campaign was about strengthening an inner sense of dignity, especially when there is a lack of support from the outside and a personal sense of value is in question.”

Hannah’s second campaign raised $29,000, honoring the LGBT community, and the rising incidence of suicide among Mormon LGBT members. The collection, still in progress, currently features 34 portraits, including suicide victims. Hannah has been invited to show the art locally in Everett, and in four other cities, including Salt Lake City during the International Affirmation Conference.

Hannah feels all entrepreneurs should find a project that will add value to others and then create a platform for it. She counsels them to consider why someone would want to invest in their idea and use that to inspire a team of people to help. “Make a list of 500 potential donors/contributors, and be prepared on launch day,” Hannah advised. “Remember, it’s you —not Kickstarter — that will be raising the money, so be ready to make those sales calls.”

“If it’s important, you can make it happen, and crowdfunding provides you with an excellent opportunity to make a meaningful difference,” Hannah said, smiling confidently, and nodding toward her artwork.