Catherine Messina supports her community through design

Courtesy of Catherine Messina, Credit: Daylilies Photography
Messina is poised with her chest lifted to the ceiling. Her gaze is lifted high and her right arm is drawn to the shoulder as if holding a bow and arrow. Her expression is courageous. The camera is close to her face and only shows her torso up. She wears a tan tanktop in a sunny room.

June 1, 2020
Volume 1 Issue 2
By: Emma Bausback

Local artist Catherine “Katie” Messina bursts with bright, energetic creativity. One look at her website and the viewer gains a clear understanding of who Messina is. Messina leaves the impression of being relaxed and comfortable in her own skin with a wisdom behind her voice and tone. Messina said that she began web design as a hobby, something fun and easy that interested her. Now, she uses that hobby to help others build an online presence. 

Three years following her graduation from Emory University, Messina continues to prioritize her dance training, performing with local company Kit Modus. She has danced throughout the USA, but Atlanta is the place that gives her a sense of community and fellowship. To her, Atlanta is an interwoven community that she now strives to further support through her web design projects. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Messina had already established herself as a web designer for individuals and companies, but since the pandemic hit she has offered her services at an additional discount to the dance community. “The pandemic certainly has proven to myself, again and again,” said Messina, “that my relationship with dance will be forever.” As a dancer, Messina knows the importance of remaining present as an artist while unable to perform in public spaces, so she is giving others a presence through web design.

With her multifaceted life as a dancer, choreographer, teacher and performer, Messina understands that a dancer is more than simply a dancer. Messina uses an astute and prudent process to design the site for an individual dancer or company. She interviews each client and asks them to supply her with pictures, color preferences and fonts. Much like a vision board, she uses the client’s preferences to complete their site. “I want the website to capture the essence of the person it’s created for,” said Messina.

Messina prides herself in being highly selective in the photographs a dancer uses. As perfectionists and movers, the photograph is more than simply a way to expose a dancer’s face to an audience. Ultimately, it tells a story and portrays a moment in time that is captured with a purpose. Messina knows that clients handpick images that make themselves feel confident, proud and revealed in that moment. She builds from these images for her website design, as they give her a deeper understanding of the company or dancer and who they want the audience to see.


Courtesy of Catherine Messina, Credit: Jacquelyn Kay
Messina sits in a dance studio alone. Her right foot and leg is under her with left knee drawn into her chest. Her face is peaceful. She is still, but her hair is in motion, sweeping from the left to the right of her face.

Messina’s wide range of software knowledge includes programs such as WordPress, Mailchimp, Squarespace, Weebly and Adobe Photoshop to name a few. Her resume includes designs for Julio Medina, Laura Briggs, Jessica Bertram and Greg Catellier. Although most dancers and companies have a good site established, often clients hire Messina to simply clean or update the site as they themselves do not have the time or knowledge in some cases.  

Social media is a hot topic right now. While Katie has used it for workouts, dance classes and engaging in her community, she has a humbling perspective on it. “Throughout all of this, I have worked to not engage in the performative culture on social media. I move when I want to and how I want to, and don’t need to ‘post’ about it every time. This is an interesting trend that I have observed that I try to stay clear of. Social media with dance is a tricky boundary,” she said. Messina also explained that much like her web designs, she prefers to be purposeful with her posts. Especially in this time when some dancers are coping with not moving, Katie is sensitive to her peers’ mindset and realities. 

As a dance instructor, Messina continued teaching via online platforms. The experience frustrated her due to the 2D aspect of the screen. “With my students and all other moving bodies, I crave seeing them in 3D form — not 2D over a Zoom call. I miss seeing their physical ticks and reactions — it is much harder to gauge if they are invested over Zoom,” said Messina. This frustration sparked a collaboration with local independent artists and a musical score provided by Ptar Flamming. Her new work will focus on the personal narrative and storytelling enhanced with multi-angle video techniques. “Lately, I have been really interested in improv-ing and playing around with the camera angle. We often watch dance from the front, in the round if you are feeling fancy, but the opportunities of viewing are unlimited.” Requiring only cameras plus collaboration via email and phone, this project has fueled her mind and artistic soul while practicing social distancing. “Overall through this time specifically, arts provide both distraction and embodiment, entertainment and new ways to question and think.”

Emma Bausback holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology/ Dance and Bachelor of the Arts in Theatre and Drama from Indiana University.  After undergrad Emma danced as an apprentice with Jose Limon Dance Company before transitioning into the medical field. She found her way to Atlanta after receiving her Doctorate in physical therapy from The University of St Augustine. While working in outpatient therapy on a daily basis, she also works with Broadway tours and local theatres providing concierge PT to the artists and crews. 

More by Emma:
Recommended Reading: Dancer Wellness by M. Virginia Wilmerding and Donna H. Krasnow, IADMS