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Marcia Hull to step down after 20-plus years with Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

For the last 22 years, the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation has been her "heart and soul," but now Marcia Hull is ready to step down as chief executive officer of MKAF.

"People always say those are tough shoes to fill. Everybody is replaceable ... besides, I'm not leaving my shoes behind," Hull said. "Even though Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation has been my heart and soul, I'm going to do some things for my soul and find out if I have any artistic ability."

Hull plans to take a drawing, sketching class, try out the pottery wheel as well as do some traveling.

After 22 years, Marcia Hull will retire as chief executive officer of the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation at the end of the year.

Hull's last day with MKAF will be Dec. 31.

This year MKAF, the not-for-profit charitable organization that operates the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village in Destin, is celebrating it's 25th year.

During those years, Hull has seen the interest and awareness for the cultural arts grow.

"It amazing how we started out really as a mom-and-pop operation," Hull said. "We've evolved to today, where we are the owner and operator of the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village (located off Commons Drive in Destin).

"We are starting to realize part of Mattie's dream and her legacy ...  was to develop this acreage for arts and education and make it a cultural hub," she added.

More:MKAF seeking artists for collaborative exhibit

"We've been very blessed and fortunate to have many businesses and individuals that have served this organization, on the board or in a volunteer capacity. I've had the pleasure of working with 168 different community leaders of all walks of life," she said. 

Hull said she treated the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation as her ministry.

"Mattie, her legacy was she founded the foundation on her cultural and educational beliefs but also her spiritual beliefs," Hull said. "It's been an honor to carry that torch and to see what the next 25 years will bring and how we develop this property for a cultural hub, not only for our local residents but our visitors."

Marcia Hull, chief executive officer of the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, stands in front of the foundation's iconic stainless steel statue created by artist Frank Ledbetter titled "Welcoming Arms." After 22 years, Hull will hand over the reins of the foundation to a successor.

Biggest changes

Hull said when MKAF started there wasn't much art activity going on in the area.

"Look at today, where the art and culture has come into restaurants and venues. We need it for quality of life and quality of place. It's amazing how cultural events can be so beneficial and provide economic impact to the community," she said.

MKAF was one of the first groups in Okaloosa County to do outdoor concerts.

"We started in the Kelly Plantation in the outdoor theater ... when we were in the woods with mosquitos, no parking, and we would have maybe 200 people," she said.

Today, MKAF can host outdoor concerts on the nearly 7 acres off Commons Drive.

Related:Destin Forward project helping MKAF

"We're not only seeing that Mattie Kelly is presenting here, but we've seen an increase, especially during COVID ... in leasing our venue with the Awakening events," she said.

Awakenings brought in groups such as Casting Crowns and Big Daddy Weave.

"So the Cultural Arts Village is starting to get recognized from people in our community that never knew it existed," Hull said.

Even one of the local churches back in the summer rented out the village for the month of June to hold services and be able to social distance.

After 22 years, Marcia Hull will retire as chief executive officer of the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation at the end of the year.

Rewarding

Hull is not only thankful for the people she has worked with during the last 20-plus years, but how the work has helped to establish outreaches.

"When I look back on the last 25 years, it's like we started with a handful of women, visionaries that helped to establish a children's educational outreach program," she said.

"We've been known for our cultural events like Concerts in the Village, Sounds of the Season and the art festival ... but you know those events provide valuable proceeds that can help and sustain our operations, but we can then supplement where grants fall short with outreach programs."

MKAF provides curated programs for K-12 students, mainly for at-risk youth in Okaloosa and Walton schools.

"We expanded five years ago outside of the special needs for children to add adults," Hull said.

She also said the Warriors Arts initiative that helps those who suffer with PTSD and dramatic brain injuries has been rewarding.

Moving forward

"Philanthropic giving Is very selective. I feel in today's world you are either giving to education or arts or medicine or animals," Hull said. 

"I want to pass that baton and make it a seamless transition for my successor to take it to the next 25 years and develop what Mattie's dream was: a lasting legacy to have a cultural multi-purpose building here," she said.

Hull said there are several nonprofits that are already looking for performance space.

Building on the property was part of the early vision for the Cultural Arts Village, but fundraising remains very important to help maintain the organization.

"It has such great potential to bringing the arts to full circle, for both visual and performing arts," she said.

Next chapter

Although Hull is set to retire Dec. 31, she is not throwing in the towel on Destin.

"I might pick up a hammer and go help my good friend Teresa with Habitat for Humanity," Hull said. "I've already told Deb (Nissley, MKAF's director of operations) I'd probably be here for the festival next year.

"I'm not leaving the community. I just want to live my life. I want to have no commitment and a calendar that is bringing creativity and experience," she added.

More:MKAF Festival of the Arts is ready to roll Oct. 24-25, with precautions

As for her successor at MKAF, Hull said, "I want to step aside and let this new vision come in. I think the community will embrace this. I think it's  going to make the arts richer in our community.

"I never did this job alone; it was a true collaboration. It is the people that served and joined us in making it a sustainable organization," she said. "It's not just the members and sponsors, and I'm grateful they have taken my phone calls all these years because they know I'm asking for money.

"But once you believe in a cause, you have to ask ...  you have to ask for them to invest in the cause and the mission."