A round of applause for local arts heroes

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Posted October 11, 2022 | Staff report

Those who attended the Marion Cultural Alliance’s (MCA) festive and colorful “Alice in Wonderland”-themed Applaud the Arts gala, which took over the Reilly Arts Center on Saturday night, did their best not to be late for an important date.

MCA’s 15th annual Applaud the Arts event gathered arts movers and shakers to recognize individuals who went above and beyond to strengthen the area’s arts community. This was the sixth year that awards were presented in the categories of service, arts education and vision.

Guests and arts leaders dressed up as characters such as Alice, the Red Queen and the Mad Hatter as they convened to celebrate and pay respects to the people who worked hard to build connections and reach people all ages.

  • Ryan Hairston, left, and Staci Bertrand pose for a photo during the MCA Applaud The Arts at the NOMA Black Box at the Reilly Arts Center in Ocala, Fla. on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.
  • Heather Batchelor, left, and Susan Grzesiuk, right, arrive with other people for the MCA Applaud The Arts at the NOMA Black Box at the Reilly Arts Center in Ocala, Fla. on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.
  • Lisa Midgett of the Marion Cultural Alliance, left, speaks to people as Jay Baillie, right, also of the Marion Cultural Alliance, looks on during the MCA Applaud The Arts at the NOMA Black Box at the Reilly Arts Center in Ocala, Fla. on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.
  • Mary Beth Neely, the Fort King Presbyterian Church Adult Ministries chair, left, who accepted the Service Award for Dr. Joanne Cornell-Ohlman, poses after receiving the award with Brian Hershberger of B-J Trophies, center, and Staci Bertrand of Duke Energy, right, during the Marion Cultural Alliance Applaud The Arts at the NOMA Black Box at the Reilly Arts Center in Ocala, Fla. on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. [Courtesy Photo Tammy Griffin] 2022.
  • Brittany Schofield, the Howard Middle School band director, poses with the Arts Educator Award during the Marion Cultural Alliance Applaud The Arts at the NOMA Black Box at the Reilly Arts Center in Ocala, Fla. on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. [Courtesy Photo Tammy Griffin] 2022.
  • Jessica McCune, second from right, who received the Vision Award, poses after receiving the award with Brian Hershberger of B-J Trophies, Jaye Baillie of the MCA and Staci Bertrand of Duke Energy, left to right, during the Marion Cultural Alliance Applaud The Arts at the NOMA Black Box at the Reilly Arts Center in Ocala, Fla. on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. [Courtesy Photo Tammy Griffin] 2022.
  • Laurie Reeder, the West Port High School Arts Coordinator, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award, center, poses after receiving the award with Brian Hershberger of B-J Trophies, left, and Staci Bertrand of Duke Energy, right, during the Marion Cultural Alliance Applaud The Arts at the NOMA Black Box at the Reilly Arts Center in Ocala, Fla. on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. [Courtesy Photo Tammy Griffin] 2022.
  • People gather together as they attend the Marion Cultural Alliance Applaud The Arts at the NOMA Black Box at the Reilly Arts Center in Ocala, Fla. on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.
  • People listen as Jaye Baillie speaks during the Marion Cultural Alliance Applaud The Arts at the NOMA Black Box at the Reilly Arts Center in Ocala, Fla. on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.

The following locals received awards of distinction for making a difference for those who need it most and improving lives through the arts.

SERVICE AWARD: Dr. Joanne Cornell-Ohlman

This award recognizes an exceptional individual for dedicated volunteerism in the arts and contribution to the arts community as a whole.

     Dr. Joanne Cornell-Ohlman is a psychologist who spends her professional and personal time fostering personal growth and strengthening bonds through creativity.

As the director of the Fort King Presbyterian Church H.O.P.E. House, she fosters an inclusive and accessible vibe while sparking connections through creativity, healing workshops, study and shared experience.

The H.O.P.E. House is currently home to the comprehensive monthlong arts, culture and history series, “The Water and Wildlife of the Ocklawaha River,” which offers free lectures and exhibits and the live creation of a new mural.

“We are paying homage and bringing awareness to the river, underscoring its colorful history and potential to nourish the ecosystem along with our local economy,” Ohlman said.

As a clinical psychologist, Cornell-Ohlman has served the Ocala Community for 34 years, specializing in working with children, adolescents and families. She has an undergraduate background in art and psychology, a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Kentucky and an internship and post-doctorate work at the University of Florida.

In her private practice and community work, Cornell-Ohlman strives to integrate evidence-based interventions with creative activities to strengthen resilience, improve self-esteem and strengthen family bonds.

Other community projects have included the permanent children’s tile exhibit at the Marion County Judicial Complex, a hands-on Art with Heart parenting skills program, monthly intergenerational ART 4 All workshops designed to connect families and community through creative opportunities and expansion of Art 4 All outreach to at-risk populations in Ocala and abroad.

“This third Sunday, Oct. 16, we welcome all ages, all faiths and all abilities to use their creativity to explore and express the beauty of our fragile rivers, especially the Ocklawaha,” Cornell-Ohlman said in a recent email.

ARTS EDUCATOR AWARD: Brittany Schofield
This award recognizes an arts educator who utilizes the arts as a tool for achieving excellence.
   For the past nine years, Schofield has been inspiring young musicians as director of the Howard Middle School band.
“She works extremely hard and has dedicated many hours to raising the performance of the band to ever higher levels,” said Jaye Baillie, executive director of the MCA, in a press statement.
The Howard Middle School Band, under Schofield’s leadership, has received dozens of superior ratings over the years.

“Brittany’s drive and determination to give children the chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves make for great success,” Baillie added.
Schofield also strives to create a fun and enjoyable learning environment for all of her students.
A Howard Middle School alumnus, Elizabeth Graff, nominated Schofield.

“She gave me so many opportunities for success and also taught me many life lessons,” Schofield said. “She held me and my peers to the highest standards, knowing that we could accomplish whatever we set our minds to. She also showed me how to be a leader and set an example for me and my fellow students. She believes in every one of her students, encouraging them to be the best they can be.”

2022 VISION AWARD: Jessica McCune

This award recognizes an individual in Ocala/Marion County for outstanding advocacy of the arts.

    Where some see problems, others see opportunities. Identifying places and opportunities where art can make a difference, including the healing modality of art in the medical world, helped earn McCune the Vision Award.

Examples of her efforts range from organizing Toastmasters groups at Florida Department of Corrections facilities and workshops at Hospice of Marion County that incorporate art, music, poetry, journaling and storytelling into bereavement sessions, in addition to other projects.

“Her vision as a founder of MCA and her stewardship of the organization, continuing as an emerita member, is just one example of her continued service to our cultural community,” Baillie said.

McCune uses the art of speaking and storytelling to create change.

“She is the ultimate storyteller, one of the oldest known forms of art,” Baillie added.

According to the MCA, she has embodied this through her passion and work to build, create, support and preserve the work that has been done and is being done in our community to create a vibrant cultural scene.

 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Laurie Reeder

This award is presented to an individual for selfless commitment to the arts

After beginning her career teaching theatre and directing musicals in her old high school, Laurie Reeder left Okaloosa County in 1987 and moved to Marion County, where she has been involved in some aspect of arts education ever since.

Her impact on arts programs has been noted from Dunnellon High School to the performing arts programs at Belleview High to West Port High, where she coordinated the Marion County Center for the Arts, Ocala/Marion County’s only high school arts magnet.

Her mission is to make arts more accessible to all students. According to the MCA, “Reeder knows the joy students experience when they bring a song, a dance, or a painting to life; she also understands that as students learn to express themselves through their art, they develop a perspective on life to better help them navigate the paths encountered beyond high school.”

This year is Reeder’s 41st year of encouraging students to embrace the creative process.

 

MCA also recognized the following cultural grants recipients and awarded funding to:

Kingdom of the Sun Concert Band: Veterans Light the Stars ($2,500)

The Appleton Museum of Art: Free First Fridays ($5,000)

The Reilly Arts Center: Chris Botte-Live in Concert ($5,000)

Ocala Symphony Orchestra: “Youthful Renderings” Performance Featuring the Winners of the 2023 Young Artists Competition ($5,000)

Ocala Civic Theatre: Lit Light-Illuminating Story Telling ($5,000)

Marion Civic Chorale: Veterans Day Programs ($2,000)

 

The MCA annually invites organizations to submit applications for funding. This is a competitive process for grants up to $5,000. Since its founding in 2001, MCA has funded $440,000 to local arts organizations for programming and equipment.

The Applaud the Arts Gala featured music by DJ Karim, dancing and tapas by La Casella, enjoyed at tables draped with black-and-white-striped cloths reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat.

A VIP party kicked things off with the Mad Hatter’s Bourbon & Tea VIP Pre-Party, early entry to the event, reserved seating, a special Alice necklace souvenir, signature VIP cocktails, special Wonderland characters and an inside look at the art of Alice, starting with Lewis Carroll and ending with Disney Studios, presented by Patricia Tomlinson, executive director of Arts in Health Ocala.