MACAA is a statewide service organization dedicated to strengthening community arts agencies throughout Missouri.
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Featured MACAA Arts Administrator - Michael Gaines
1. Name, organization(s), position and location?
Hannibal Arts Council, Executive Director – Hannibal, MO
MACAA, Executive Director – Statewide
2. How long have you been with your organization?
I have been the Executive Director of the Hannibal Arts Council since July 1, 1993 and on December 1, 2005 also assumed the position as Executive Director of the Missouri Association of Community Arts Agencies. Wow. How time flies! Leading two organizations simultaneously comes with both its rewards and challenges.
3. How did you start in the arts?
I vividly remember my first day as an arts administrator. As Sophia Patrillo from TVs Golden Girls would put it… "Picture it…Bethel Missouri, February 1992. I was 23 years old, had just returned from a year volunteering at an international conference center in Vienna, Austria following my graduation from MIZZOU and an internship with the Missouri Division of Tourism…and by some twist of fate had found myself back home in Shelby County going to my first day of work as the director of the Historic Bethel German Colony." A true "accidental arts administrator" as Sue Greenberg might put it! On the first day I was told there was a Missouri Arts Council grant due the next week! "What's the Missouri Arts Council?" "What is a CAP grant?"…and "How am I supposed to know how to write one?" "Call Nola" is all I was told. (Nola Ruth, MACAA Executive Director at the time.)
I would soon find out this grant from the Missouri Arts Council would provide the foundational funding for the organization, which in Bethel (population 108), meant a lot. In Bethel the Historic Bethel German Colony acts as an arts council, chamber of commerce, tourism bureau, historic preservation society, economic development authority, folk arts program…AND it just so happens to own a restaurant…and I got to eat there for free…a fringe benefit I wish I still had. Over the next year and a half I learned how a community arts agency and community arts programs can keep a community thriving and alive, how individuals can pull together for the benefit of all, and how the arts can instill within a community a sense of place.
4. What is the most rewarding part of your position or your most favorite program?
Through the Hannibal Arts Council I have learned that investing in a community, an organization and in individuals bring great fulfillment….and can over time actually change the face of a community. Those of us in arts administration quickly learn that the fulfillment sometimes comes at a cost…a busy calendar, time away from loved ones and sometimes some stress. However, the rewards can be great…but we have to see them. They are not always as the world would see them. We have to sit quietly and reflect on the weekend painter who is now a full-time artist, the widow who took up painting and began to heal, the parent welling up with tears while thanking us for helping instill confidence in her child, the consumer with disabilities looking bright-eyed as they see their artwork on the wall of a gallery, and the singer who found their voice and honed their skills at a local festival.
Through the Missouri Association of Community Arts Agencies I am rewarded by working with communities - large and small – and the MANY champions for the arts. Those leaders in the arts - individuals who give of themselves and whole-heartedly believe in the role the arts can, should and do play in their community – inspire me! From an all-volunteer artist guild in Southwest Missouri presenting their annual member's exhibit to a multi-staff metropolitan arts agency presenting a comprehensive public art program for residents and visitors alike. An important lesson here is that there is no mold for what a community arts agency has to be or the programs it has to present. Regardless of the location, scope of programs and the organizational structure…arts leaders learn to listen, to do a lot with a little, to be resilient and flexible.
Those of us involved in Missouri's arts agencies are not in the arts field for Fortune 500 CEO salaries or relaxing and slow-paced 9 to 5 workdays…and we certainly aren't in the arts to be recognized. We do what we do out of passion - for people, community, and the arts. We get to witness the creativity inside the artists who surround us…and nurture them. We get to see our community respond to the arts…and embrace them. We get to experience the arts in all of its forms…and showcase them. Sometimes we are out front to lead when no one else will and often we step aside to instill leadership in others…and support them. Sometimes we even get to go from being interviewed by a news reporter to cleaning the bathroom….though sometimes the order is unfortunately reversed.
My favorite program(s) though the Hannibal Arts Council is our children's programming. Our Children's Program Committee and staff do a great job providing local youth with quality arts experiences – Wild & Wacky Art Adventure, monthly First Friday Art Adventures, gallery visits, field trips, etc.
My favorite program(s) through MACAA has to be site visits where I get to see firsthand how the tireless volunteers and arts leaders in Missouri's communities fill their lives with rewarding work – enriching their communities through the arts.
5. Are you an artist yourself, and if so, what type of art?
I typically say that I am not an artist, but that I get to nurture the artist within others through my work. I say that because I rarely take the time to delve into the arts myself consistently. However, I do play the piano, have written tons of poetry in my past, photograph a few weddings each year and paint maybe one painting a year. I certainly take time to play the piano most often – it's the best therapy for me. A little-known secret…I would love to learn to play the cello and really wish I could sing outside the shower.