Demetrius Fuller to head MKAF in the years to come
He's not new to the Emerald Coast or even the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, but energetic conductor Demetrius Fuller does have a new title, chief executive officer of the foundation.
After 22 years of service, Marcia Hull will retire Dec. 31 as CEO and pass the baton to Fuller.
Fuller has served as conductor of Florida's Sinfonia Gulf Coast for 14 years and will continue to do so, but he will have two hats to wear.
"It's truly an honor to be able to continue this legacy and go into the future with the talented staff and board of directors of Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation," Fuller told the group of about 50 people who gathered at The Henderson on Thursday for the announcement.
He also thanked the staff and board of Sinfonia for their "tireless support" over the years. Without their support, "this endeavor would not be possible for both organizations to work in tandem to create what will be the performing cultural and arts education nucleus of Northwest Florida and hopefully the Southeastern United States," he said.
"And in early 2021, there will be no pandemic ... and I will see everybody's faces again," he said as the group gathered laughed.
Fuller actually has known for a couple months about the new task, and has spent time working alongside Hull for a smooth transition.
"I've been downloading a lot of information about how to run an entirely different organization than I'm used to," he said. "It has a totally different physical year, a different accounting and administrative procedure."
Fuller said he also has been learning the staff and the daily routine of the program as well as learning what their outreaches are.
"I didn't realize ... until I got into it," he said, noting he's looking forward to the challenge and the year ahead. "I'm just looking forward to what the foundation has already started and building upon the foundation, building upon the concerts in the park, building upon the Festival of the Arts and showcasing even more so on the education outreach ... which is the product of the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation.
"Mattie Kelly's outreach is their product, and so it really needs to be positioned in the spotlight as much as possible," he added.
Before Hull handing off the baton, so to speak, she thanked those who have worked with her during the years.
She thanked Deb Nissley, director of operations, who has served with her for the past 22 years, and Melanie Moore for the work she has done with the education outreach program during the past six years.
In her time at MKAF, Hull said she has been part of 506 board meetings and has been the face and voice of the foundation at 380 events.
Hull said her "biggest advocate" has been Dale, her husband of almost 40 years.
"I'm excited about the next phase and vision of Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation and how it will evolve under the leadership of our board of directors and my successor," she said.
"It was Mattie's dream to preserve the 52-acre parcel of Kelly land as a cultural destination" and to develop a multi-purpose indoor performing arts center for residents and visitors, Hull said.
"And there couldn't be a better candidate to carry that out," she said of Fuller.
But before she announced her successor to the crowd, Hull first described him.
"How do I describe my successor? When I first met him, he looked like a 12-year-old kid," she said, noting she has the pictures to prove it as the group laughed.
She finally described him as "inspiring, energetic, innovative and a highly talented artistic director ... and he delivers only first-class events and entertainment to his audiences."
"We are thrilled to have Demetrius lead the foundation," Kevin Bowyer, chairman of the MKAF board, said in a news release. "His local ties to the community and with other arts and culture organizations in the area as well as around the country made this decision very easy for the board."
"We did conduct a nationwide search for a new CEO and received over 25 applicants," he added. "Little did we know that our new leader was sitting in our own backyard."
"We will keep our same brands," Hull told the crowd at The Henderson.
"We're not merging (MKAF and Sinfonia) ... but we can collectively make Mattie's dream happen because we are doing it together and combining resources," she said.
"And we're going to be building a village ... but that will be after the first of the year," Fuller said.