In the year 2020, Marion County has gained national recognition as one of America’s best small cities for the arts due in large part to the leadership of Marion Cultural Alliance (MCA). The organization’s impact has resulted in increased support and participation in the arts. The organization’s mission is clearly recognized throughout the community as being the champion, convener, and creator of opportunities for the artists and arts in Marion County. MCA has ignited the arts throughout the community.
Art is integrated into the fabric of the community through increased art in public places, a more vibrant Brick City Center for the Arts, and public art at major county gateways. Collaboration among the city, county, state, and federal arts entities is strong. Area arts organizations are thriving. A county-wide cultural master plan created in 2018 provided the blueprint for increased communication, collaboration and sharing of resources among arts organizations. This public/private collaboration will define specific goals and strategies for implementation to sustain Ocala/Marion County as a magnet for arts, culture, and creativity.
In partnership with Americans for the Arts, the City of Ocala, Ocala Municipal Arts Commission, Ocala Symphony Orchestra, Fine Arts for Ocala, The College of Central Florida, The Ocala Civic Theatre, and the Appleton Museum of Art, an economic study of the arts released in 2017 rallied community and corporate support for the arts by demonstrating the economic impact of the arts industry on our local economy. Through bi-annual or quarterly community art roundtables, important issues, challenges, and solutions are discussed. Arts representatives serve on many essential county and city boards, helping to ensure the health of the arts community and keeping culture a key focus for the community.
MCA has a strong, diverse, and committed board of directors that have taken the organization to the next level. Research and development work executed by staff, board members, and volunteers has expanded dedicated funding for arts organizations and artists. By better structuring and defining the value proposition, memberships and donors/sponsors have grown from 300 in 2016 to 1500 in 2020. Assets have grown to $5 million allowing the organization to issue $250,000 annually in grants including 250 micro-grants through the Four Friends Grant Fund. Donors are leaving an arts legacy and perpetuating the arts story through planned giving and endowments.
Brick City Center for the Arts (‘The Brick’) is truly the central hub for arts in Ocala/Marion County. A Gallery Advisory Committee has helped define, create and promote activities that serve as a magnet for the Center. Artists are involved and supported through performance and exhibit opportunities, an artists’ online directory, small grants, and workshops to help them build their business acumen.
As visitors arrive, they see an open studio area used for showcasing all the visual and performing arts. ‘The Brick’ has a constant stream of arts activities showcasing a variety of visual and performing arts and adding to a vibrant downtown. Arts “happy hour” and live performances draw in new and diverse audiences. ‘The Brick’ is a “can’t miss” destination for local and visitors and a highly sought after venue for special events. Some are even talking about a roof top deck for expanded performance space.
Stepped up outreach efforts including a speaker’s bureau, optimized use of social media and digital and other marketing and media assets, increased and improved relations with artists and the community, continued growth of Applaud the Arts as the annual arts showcase event, and growth of Ride for the Arts Gran Fondo events keep the organization’s brand in front of the community, also gaining attention regionally and nationally. MCA’s brand is recognized wherever it is encountered as one that positions Marion County to be as an aspirational community on a national stage.
Developed and Approved by the MCA Board of Directors-August 2016