MCA gains momentum as a ‘local arts agency’


Paula King, center, who was a co-chairperson of the first Horse Fever, speaks as Jaye Baillie, the executive director of the Marion Cultural Alliance, left, and Lisa Midgett, the chairman of MCA, right, listen during the raffle drawing for The Giving Collection at the Brick City Center For The Arts in Ocala, Fla. on Friday, June 4, 2021. Three Horse Fever 20/20 horses, Home Sweet Home by artist Carlynne Hershberger, Sunny Daze by artist Ronda Richley and Critters by artist Bonnie Eads, were raffled off for The Giving Collection to honor Dick Hancock, who passed away on Jan. 20, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted April 8, 2022 | By Julie Garisto
Special to the Gazette

In a move that comes to no surprise to local arts constituents, the Ocala City Council approved a resolution naming MCA as a local arts agency on March 1.

What is a local arts agency? “Simply put, designation as an LAA provides MCA with the opportunity to pursue federal and state funding in support of arts organizations and artists,” the organization’s website explains. (Read more at mcaocala.org. Select the Directories tab and then Local Arts Agencies).

The recent City Council resolution officially acknowledges MCA’s role as an advocate for the arts and allows the organization to apply for funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and other funding sources specifically requiring this designation.

City of Ocala’s 2021-2023 Community Cultural Arts Master Plan prioritized improving the long-term sustainability of arts and culture in Ocala by addressing the limited funding capacity of donors and lack of local public funding sources. MCA plays a pivotal role in that plan in hopes that it can significantly increase its endowment to support local arts.

If you’re new to the Ocala area, the Marion Cultural Alliance is a nonprofit that Laurie Zink of the Ocala Film Foundation and Agapanthus owner Paula King formed in 2001 in tandem with the Horse Fever public art project (the artist-painted horse statues around town).

With proceeds raised from the public art project, a cultural endowment fund was established in 2001. To date, the endowment has awarded $415,000 to more than 35 different nonprofit art organizations.

20 years later, King said that she was pleased about MCA’s LAA designation “it will increase opportunities tremendously.”

“In its 20 years, MCA has disbursed money to local arts organizations every single year,” shared King, the organization’s first chairman of the board. “One of the main founding purposes of MCA was to be a place where arts organizations could go without going through a complicated grant application process. They’ve funded everything from portable ballet floors to Ocala Civic Theatre’s special education programs. Every single year for many years they made it possible to go out into the schools and do outreach with children who otherwise wouldn’t get to go to the theater.”

“We are lucky to share the LAA designation with Ocala Municipal Arts Organization,” said MCA’s Baille at the March 16 State of the Arts event that brought together art leaders and enthusiasts. “They’ve been a local art agency since the 1980s, which allowed them to receive money from the state’s license plate program.”

According to Americans for the Arts, “LAAs build healthy, vibrant and equitable communities.” They “enable diverse forms of arts and culture to thrive and “help ensure broad accessibility and public engagement with the arts culturally, socially, educationally, and economically.

Over the last 10 years, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded more than $2.1 million to lead art agencies for educational outreach efforts.