Demetrius Fuller is up to challenge of juggling MKAF and Sinfonia, having fun while doing it
There’s a lot coming down the pike in the next few months, but for now, Demetrius Fuller, the new CEO of the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, is having fun.
“It’s been a great transition,” said Fuller, who was named CEO right before Christmas after long-time CEO and face of MKAF Marcia Hull retired. Hull’s last day was Dec. 31, with Fuller bringing MKAF into 2021.
Not only is Fuller the new CEO of MKAF, but he’s the founding conductor of Sinfonia Gulf Coast and continues to head up both organizations.
Has it been difficult to balance the two jobs?
“No, it’s fun,” Fuller said.
“I’m actually getting more done to be honest,” he said as he sat in the Sinfonia office at Destin Commons last week.
“When you do this type of job there’s no time clock, so it’s basically your life. It's been fun learning the ropes over there and how they do things,” Fuller said.
He spoke very highly of Deb Nissley, director of operations at MKAF, and Melanie Moore, who serves as education director.
And without the support of both boards, from Sinfonia and MKAF, Fuller said he would not be able to do the job.
“But it’s rolling along … it’s been fun.”
Nissley has been in her position for 23 years.
“So, I wasn’t going to walk in and say this is how we’re going to do things now,” he said.
Fuller said he got to know her and how she did things.
“You know the old saying that if it's not broke, don’t fix it? She’s a great asset,” he said.
However, Fuller did say they have made a few tweaks here and there and are doing a little “rebranding refresh” that will be coming out soon.
“Things are moving along and there are things in the works,” he said, noting he would be able to be more forthcoming in April or May.
But for now, keeping in mind that COVID-19 is still around, MKAF will try to maintain what was done last year.
“We’re hoping to continue with the outdoor events,” Fuller said, mentioning the Concerts in the Village and the Festival of the Arts events.
Right now, they have 10 spring concerts and five fall concerts planned, as well as a few wine walkabouts and wine dinners to help with fundraising and outreach.
Fuller said they hope to put more of a spotlight on their outreaches in the school districts as well as with the Warriors Arts, where MKAF partners with military units and veteran organizations to provide hands-on arts classes with therapeutic benefits.
Also coming down the pike are plans for the 52 acres that Mattie Kelly left to the foundation, located off Commons Drive.
“I was hired to propel the property … so we’re finding out what we can do,” Fuller said.
"It’s a beautiful landscape,” Fuller said, noting that 20 acres of it is wetlands.
“We’re looking at a 3- to 5-year build-out on the property,” he said. “But I can say it will be within the spirit of Mattie Kelly in terms of arts related.”
Fuller said Kelly had sketched out a 2,500-seat performing arts center back in the 1980s for her property in Indian Bayou, but it never came to fruition.
“I think the community is going to embrace what we ultimately want to go forward with and do. We want an indoor performing arts venue,” he said, noting the amphitheater also needs restructuring.
“We have some opportunities to revamp, rebrand and repurpose that entire property. As long as it takes Mattie's wishes into consideration … all we need to do is raise millions of dollars. And then we’re good,” he said.
“But I think the community will embrace it. And I hope they do. It’s time, it’s due. Mattie Kelly is in its 26th year and we really need to have something to show for. They don’t make land anymore … it’s a beautiful property,” he said.
Although MKAF and Sinfonia are two separate organizations, Fuller said to look for maybe a partnership in the concert area.
“I think people are expecting that,” he said.
“I never thought we were competing organizations because we provide similar things but totally different,” he said. MKAF focuses on art and theater, while Sinfonia is music. “But both organizations are excited.
“Overall, it’s been great … and it’s going to get busier,” Fuller said. “We’re all excited about the future and good things to come.”