Status of the arts

The Marion Cultural Alliance’s annual meeting celebrated new programming and funding over the past year, with anticipation of bigger things to come.

Saul Reyes [Supplied]

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted February 3, 2023 | By Julie Garisto

An ever-increasing slate of events, innovative collaborations, and the anticipation of more to come (and then some) highlighted the annual membership meeting of the Marion Cultural Alliance (MCA) on Jan. 26.

During a closed meeting that followed the members’ event at the Brick City Center for the Arts, the MCA board named Saul Reyes, a amateur photographer and vice president of enrollment management and student affairs at the College of Central Florida, as chairman of the board.

He expressed enthusiasm about the state of the arts and arts organizations in the community in his first statement.

“We have experienced so many ‘art moments’ that we can celebrate,” he said, reminding members that the mission of the alliance is to champion, convene, and create opportunities for artists and arts organizations.

“There are numerous ways you can partner and engage in this work with us,” he added.

MCA President Jaye Baillie expressed enthusiasm about Reyes’ appointment and the group’s accomplishments over the past year.

“We vastly increased our programming each month and expanded to include multicultural exhibits, such as our events centered on Indian art,” she said. “We had sari wrapping and henna. So, with every event moving forward, we’re trying to do some related programming. We also have added artist workshops in the mix.”

As reported in the Gazette earlier this year, the MCA has been designated with a Local Arts Agency status by the city of Ocala. Increased programming at The Brick has included artists’ workshops, live performances, and “Lunch and Learn” events. The Florida Department of Cultural Affairs awarded the alliance $25,000 in cultural grants, bringing the total awarded since MCA’s founding in 2001 to $435,000.

Increased diversity on MCA’s board of directors, staff and representation from artists participating in exhibits has marked some progress in an ongoing goal of inclusivity. New artists in attendance at the annual meeting included Pamela Fletcher, whose works are featured in MCA’s gift shop.

The organization staged three arts-professionals “Happy Hour” gatherings and the 15th annual Applaud the Arts, which presented awards for Service (Joanne Ohlman), Vision (Jessica McCune), Arts Education (Brittany Schofield), and Lifetime Achievement (Laurie Reeder). An uptick in membership, sponsorships, art, and gift shop sales also marked the organization’s progress.

According to the report, MCA’s board adopted “a very ambitious strategic plan” in 2021 and 2022 that “continues to drive our direction through 2023.”

As for the coming year, Baillie said the MCA is awaiting word from the National Endowment of the Arts on some additional funding that’s in the works.

“We received notice from the NEA for a sub-grant, which means we would get a grant from them and match it with our dollars, and that would virtually double the amount that we’d be able to give out in 2023 and 2024,” she said.

For more information about Marion Cultural Alliance events and membership opportunities, visit

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