Marion Cultural Alliance Applaud The Arts at the Appleton Museum of Art

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted October 15, 2023 | By Lisa McGinnes
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

There was more applause than ever at the 16th annual Applaud the Arts event—and for good reason: This year, the Marion Cultural Alliance (MCA) was able to award twice as much grant funding to local artists and art organizations as last year. Thanks to matching funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, MCA distributed $80,000 to support 11 local nonprofit organizations.

More than 225 guests gathered at the Appleton Museum of Art on Oct. 14 for a festive celebration themed “Soirée de Lumière” that kicked off with a champagne toast followed by the presentation of three arts awards and the announcement of the cultural grant recipients.

“As we celebrate these achievements, let us also reflect on the responsibility that success bestows upon us,” said Angi Grabbe, MCA board member and event chair. “We must not forget that greatness comes with the duty to inspire and uplift others to pave the way for those who follow in our footsteps.”

MCA grant co-chairs Trish Kilgore and Wendy Kebrdle presented the 2023-2024 Cultural Grants:

  • Appleton Museum of Art, $6,500 for Free First Fridays
  • Boys and Girls Club, $7,500 for a mural
  • Dance Alive National Ballet, $10,000 for performances and outreach in Marion County
  • Florida Defenders of the Environment, $7,500 for the documentary “Oklawaha: Tales My Father Told”
  • Historic Ocala Preservation Society, $2,500 for a wireless headset communication system
  • Kingdom of the Sun Concert Band, $5,000 for season 34
  • Marion All-County Choir, $5,000 for the Marion All-County Secondary Choral Festival
  • Marion Theatre, $8,000 for the Classics and Cocktails series
  • Ocala Symphony Orchestra, $10,000 for the 2024 Young Artists Competition and Concert
  • The Ocala Civic Theatre, $10,000 for Ratttlebox at The Reilly
  • The Reilly Arts Center, $8,000 for the 2023-2024 Reilly Noir Series

Winners of the three 2023 MCA Art Awards, kept secret until their presentation, were taken by surprise. Each earned a standing ovation from the exuberant crowd.

Leslie Hammond, Ph.D., was honored with the Service Award for her efforts as an art exhibit juror, Magnolia Art Xchange board member and mentor to many artists.

Tyrus Clutter, associate professor at the College of Central Florida, was presented with the Arts Education Award for his emphasis on the arts as a tool for achieving educational excellence.

“I was shocked when they called my name,” Clutter said. “It’s nice to know that people appreciate the work you’re doing.”

When beloved local artist Margaret “Peggy” Watts was announced as the recipient of the Vision Award, the audience members leaped to their feet with a thunderous round of applause.

Following the ceremony, guests were invited to enjoy a sumptuous array of charcuterie, chicken cordon bleu bites, mini eclairs, chocolate Eiffel Towers and other French-themed hors d’oeuvres by La Casella.

The picturesque Appleton courtyard was transformed into a scene reminiscent of the City of Light, with Becky Baby crooning in French and English, accompanied by The Oak Trio, lighted Eiffel Tower centerpieces, and projections of famous Parisian cultural scenes. Local artist Justin Alsedek set up his easel to draw what he called “some wildly expressive portraits.”

The event kicked off an online auction to benefit Marion Cultural Alliance, which runs through Oct. 24. The items up for bid include 17 curated local cultural experiences plus original artworks and travel packages, online at

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